North West 200: Glenn Irwin snatches Superbike pole in dramatic qualifying

Glenn Irwin recovered from his qualifying struggles on Tuesday to snatch a dramatic Superbike pole position
Glenn Irwin produced a sensational lap late in the Superbike qualifying session to pip Dean Harrison for pole position
North West 200 international road races
Dates: Tuesday 14 May-Saturday 18 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 17 May, Sunday 19 May and Monday 20 May

Glenn Irwin snatched Superbike pole position at the North West 200 as he, Dean Harrison and Alastair Seeley all bettered the unofficial lap record.

Harrison looked set for pole as he became the first North West rider to do a lap under four minutes 22 seconds.

But Carrickfergus' Irwin then clocked 4:21.767 to pip Harrison by 0.206secs.

Peter Hickman earned Superstock pole with Seeley and Jamie Coward retaining their Supersport and Supertwin top spots from Tuesday's qualifying times.

The qualifying session took place before racing action began on Thursday with the Supersport, Superstock and Supertwin races.

Irwin despondent after Tuesday qualifying

Irwin cut a despondent figure after being seventh fastest in Tuesday's Superbike qualifying session - more than four seconds behind provisional pole position man Harrison.

However, the county Antrim man was all smiles following his sensational lap on his Quattro Plant Kawasaki on Thursday after Harrison had appeared to lock down pole for both Saturday's Superbike races with his 4:21.973 clocking.

Harrison's time had bettered Michael Dunlop fastest previous lap of 4:22.095 on the reconfigured North West contest set during Superbike Race 1 in 2016.

With Seeley also under the lap record, fourth fastest Dunlop's lap was more than three seconds adrift of Irwin's stunning mark.

"I was down in the dumps and in tears on Tuesday night," admitted Irwin.

"I haven't been myself and didn't want to be here but I came with a different attitude today."

The Superbike pole rounded off a good session for Irwin after he also qualified on the front row in the Superstock and Supertwin classes on his Kawasakis.

Peter Hickman in action on his BMW in Superstock qualifying
Peter Hickman secured Superstock pole - 1.64 seconds ahead of Irwin

Hickman dominates Superstock qualifying

Earlier, Hickman had been within a second of Dunlop's 2016 lap record as he produced a scorching Superstock lap of 4:23.604.

Hickman's time was 1.64 seconds quicker than second-placed Irwin with James Hillier a further 0.58 in arrears in third spot.

"It didn't feel mega-fast. I was just riding around," said Burton-Upon-Trent man Hickman, who clinched his lone North West 200 win in Superstock Race 1 last year.

Seeley's leading Supersport time from Tuesday proved just enough to hold off Fermanagh rider Lee Johnston in a session twice held up by red flag incidents.

Johnston's fastest time in Thursday's session was a mere 0.005 slower than Seeley's Tuesday mark with Harrison, Hillier, Hickman and Dunlop all in close proximity as they completed the top six.

Half of Seeley's all-time North West 200 record of 24 race wins have come in the Supersport class.

West Yorkshire man Jamie Coward's fastest time from Tuesday's first Supertwin qualifying session could not be bettered with veteran Michael Rutter also remaining in second spot from first practice

In-form Mullingar rider Derek McGee produced Thursday's best Supertwin time to qualify third fastest as Irwin, Italian Stefano Bonetti and Christian Elkin completed the top six.

One of the red flag incidents led to a rider having to be taken to hospital and race director Mervyn Whyte later told BBC Sport Northern Ireland that the incident had been "nothing serious".

NORTH WEST 200 QUALIFYING RESULTS

Supertwin
1.Jamie CowardKawasaki108.42 mph
2.Michael RutterKawasaki108.35
3.Derek McGeeKawasaki108.18
4.Glenn IrwinKawasaki108.13
5.Stefano BonettiPaton108.16
6.Christian ElkinKawasaki108.02
Superstock
1.Peter HickmanBMW122.502 mph
2.Glenn IrwinKawasaki121.745
3.James HillierKawasaki121.476
4.Michael DunlopBMW121.052
5.Lee JohnstonBMW120.88
6.Dean HarrisonKawasaki120.571
Supersport
1.Alastair SeeleyYamaha116.547 mph
2.Lee JohnstonYamaha116.545
3.Dean HarrisonKawasaki116.084
4.James HillierKawasaki116.081
5.Peter HickmanKawasaki115.989
6.Michael DunlopHonda115.852
Superbike
1.Glenn IrwinKawasaki123.362 mph
2.Dean HarrisonKawasaki123.265
3.Alastair SeeleyDucati123.231
4.Michael DunlopBMW121.932
5.Conor CumminsHonda121.803
6.Lee JohnstonBMW121.479

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