North West 200: Glenn Irwin eager for more Superbike track time

Irwin's average lap time was 113.452mph in the truncated Superbike practice session on Tuesday
Irwin's average lap time was 113.452mph in the truncated Superbike practice session on Tuesday
North West 200 international road races
Dates: Tuesday 15 May-Saturday 19 May Venue: Triangle circuit, Portstewart, Coleraine, Portrush
Coverage: All practices and races live on the BBC sport website and BBC Radio Ulster; Highlights on BBC One NI Friday 18 May, Sunday 20 May and Monday 21 May

Glenn Irwin wants more track time on Thursday after a "frustrating" first practice session damaged his bid for a second North West 200 career win.

The Carrickfergus man is only competing in the Superbike class and managed just three qualifying laps on Tuesday.

The opening 'big bike' session was brought to a premature end because of a crash, which left Dutchman Johan Fredriks with ankle injuries.

It has left Irwin with significantly less practice time than his rivals.

"You can't do anything about incidents and it's nobody's fault but when you ride a Superbike round here you need laps under your belt," said Irwin.

"Some classes got more track time than others on Tuesday and I went to speak to Mervyn Whyte (Event Director) about it. I wasn't too happy but at the same time I wouldn't like his job.

"The Superbikes are fast round here and can be unstable - that's always an issue.

"You have to respect that it's road racing and you just want to feel safe. I only had seven laps of practice last year and this year I haven't even sweated in my leathers yet. I'd just like a little bit more time on the bike.

"The Superbikes are the last scheduled session on Thursday which is fine if all goes to plan prior to that and then hopefully we can get a bit more time allocated to us.

"People expect me to put on a good show but I won't do that unless I feel that I have had the relevant practice."

Unlike the majority of his rivals, Irwin is only competing in the Superbike race at the North West 200 this year
Unlike the majority of his rivals, Irwin is only competing in the Superbike race at the North West 200 this year

Whyte confirmed on Wednesday that the practice order would proceed as scheduled on Thursday, but with the Superbikes to receive some extra time on the circuit "if at all possible".

"In light of how things unfolded on Tuesday, we will give the big bikes the maximum time that we possibly can," said the Event Director.

Irwin made his debut at the North West in 2015, achieving a podium in the Supersport class, and after a year's absence secured a stunning last-lap victory over Alastair Seeley in last year's feature Superbike race.

The Be Wiser Ducati rider currently lies fifth in the British Superbike standings, having taken a best finish of second at Brands Hatch as he aims to improve on his 12th place overall position in both of the last few seasons.

"I see the North West as more of a holiday race for me as BSB is more intense from the point of view that you are always analysing data and trying to look for a tenth of a second here or there.

"Here you can afford to be a couple of seconds slower than other riders and still stay in contention by using slipstreaming.

"It's a nice part of the world too and I am enjoying myself and having a bit of craic around the paddock."

Fermanagh rider Lee Johnston occupies provisional pole for Saturday's two Superbike races following Tuesday's practice but with better weather forecast for Thursday, his benchmark of 116.701 is expected to be surpassed by many of the leading competitors.

Twenty-one times winner Alastair Seeley is joined by Michael Dunlop and Manxman Dan Kneen in a three-pronged Tyco BMW challenge, while Ian Hutchinson joins Johnston in the official Honda colours.

Conor Cummins represents Padgett's Honda, with James Hillier, Gary Johnson and Dean Harrison the likely Kawasaki frontrunners and William Dunlop spearheading the Yamaha challenge.

Peter Hickman, Australian David Johnson, Martin Jessopp and Michael Rutter are all BMW mounted and should contend for rostrum places.

North West 200 practice and race schedule

Thursday 17 May - 09:15 BST to 15:00 BST - Roads closed for practices

Thursday 17 May - 17:00 BST to 21:00 BST - Roads closed for racing

Race 1 - Supersport Race 1 - 6 laps

Race 2 - Superstock Race 1 - 6 laps

Race 3 - Supertwin Race 1 - 4 laps

Saturday 19 May - 09:15 to 19:00 BST - Roads closed for racing

Race 1 - Supersport Race 1 - 6 laps

Race 2 - Superbike Race 1 - 7 laps

Race 3 - Supertwin Race 1 - 4 laps

Race 4 - Superstock Race 2 - 6 laps

Race 5 - NW200 Superbike Race 2 - 7 laps

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