Dean Harrison pushing hard on the Silicone Engineering Kawasaki during practice at the North West 200 earlier. Picture: Stephen Davison.
DEAN Harrison topped the superbike class speeds on the Silicone Kawsaki ZX10RR in the opening practice session of the 2019 fonaCAB International North West 200 in association with Nicholl Oils.
The Bradford rider was 0.531 seconds faster than local favourite Michael Dunlop on the Tyco BMW S1000RR during the dry and sunny first day of action that saw no red flags or incidents.
Twenty-four time North West winner Alastair Seeley was third quickest on the PBM/Be Wiser Ducati, another 1.6 seconds further back. Lee Johnston (Ashcourt Racing BMW), Peter Hickman (Smith’s BMW) and James Hillier (Quattro Plant Kawasaki) completed the top six.
Hillier was 7/1000ths of a second faster than Quattro teammate and the winner of the last three superbike races at the North West, Glenn Irwin.
North West veteran Michael Rutter, who made his debut at the Northern Irish event in 1992, was ninth fastest on the Bathams/Aspire Ho RCV213S Honda, almost five seconds slower than Harrison.
John McGuinness, who is making his return to the event after breaking his leg during practice at Primrose corner in 2017, was 19th fastest on the Norton. The Morecambe racer broke down at University corner during the session.
Perfect conditions greeted the 14 newcomers who opened the action on Tuesday morning. Former British Superstock champion, Richard Cooper was the highest profile recruit on the Buildbase Suzuki with Carl Phillips making his debut on a Supertwin Paton alongside Manx Grand Prix winner, James Chawke.Cooper completed an impressive practice debut by finishing 7th quickest in Superstock qualifying after posting the 17th fastest time in Superbikes.
Alastair Seeley topped the times in the Supersport qualifying on the EHA Yamaha 0.182secs ahead of Lee Johnston on the Ashcourt Racing Yamaha with James Hillier third on the Quattro Plant Kawasaki.
Michael Dunlop was 4th, 1.6 seconds behind Seeley, on te MD Racing Honda with Dean Harrison (Silicone Kawasaki) and Peter Hickman (Trooper Beer Triumph) completing the top six.
It was Hickman who claimed provisional pole in the Superstock class with his final lap of the session on the Smith’s Racing BMW. The BSB star was 1.437 seconds faster than Lee Johnston’s Ashcourt Racing BMW with Dunlop making it a top three for the German manufacturer on the MD Racing S1000RR.
Glenn Irwin was once again out paced by his Quattro Plant Kawasaki teammate, James Hillier, as Hillier claimed 4th, 1.1 seconds faster than the Carrickfergus man in 6th. Michael Rutter was 5th, sandwiched in between on the Bathams/Aspire Ho BMW.
Jamie Coward was the surprise package of the day, topping the timesheets in the Supertwin class on the KTS Racing Kawasaki ER6. The English rider was 0.2 seconds faster than Michael Rutter, who is chasing his 15th North West win, on the KMR/ Bathams Kawasaki. Christian Elkin (Dynocentre NI Kawasaki) was a further 1.1 seconds back.
Glenn Irwin, making his road racing debut on the smaller capacity machines, was 4th fastest on another KTS Racing Kawasaki with former Supertwins North West winner Jeremy McWilliams (KMR/ Bayview Kawasaki) 5th and Stefano Bonetti 6th on the first Paton.
Norton are making their race debut with their Superlight machine at the North West. John McGuinness finished 20th fastest, almost 21 seconds behind pole sitter, Coward.
Qualifying resumes on Thursday morning, with roads closing at 9.15am and the action beginning at 9.45am. The roads will re-open at 2.45pm and close again at 5pm for the first three races of the meeting - Tides Restaurant Supersport race, Bayview Hotel, Superstock race and MCL Insuretech Supertwin event.