Glenn Irwin will be gunning for the rostrum at the Bank Holiday MCE British Superbike meeting at Oulton Park after a strong qualifying performance on the PBM Be Wiser Ducati.
The Carrick man was at the sharp end all weekend on the Panigale R and will start from fifth place on row two at the Cheshire circuit.
Irwin, who began the season with an excellent ride to third place in race two at Donington Park, set his best time in 1m 34.955s after going through to Q3.
His team-mate, reigning champion Shane ‘Shakey’ Byrne, took pole with a lap in 1m 34.016s.
A satisfied Irwin said he was feeling confident of his prospects at the third round of the series.
“I’m pleased with fifth and the boys in the team have worked hard all weekend so it’s the least they deserve,” said Irwin.
“Despite missing the test last week, we’ve been on the pace right from the off and I’ve been able to give the team good feedback so that each time I’ve gone out on track, the bike’s been better.
“They have understood exactly what I’ve needed with the bike and although Q1 was a bit frustrating, the other two sessions went really well.
“It’s my best ever qualifying position in the dry and the SC0 tyre is working really well so I’m confident we have a good race pace to get two good results.”
Fellow Ulsterman Michael Laverty suffered a massive crash on his McAMS Yamaha in qualifying and will start from 21st place on the grid.
Alastair Seeley, who is replacing Davide Giugliano this weekend in the Tyco BMW team, was 18th fastest. His team-mate, Christian Iddon, qualified ninth.
There is speculation that former World Superbike star Giugliano may not return, which would leave Iddon as the team’s only real hope of returning to the Showdown this year.
Ballymoney’s Michael Dunlop was 24th fastest on the Bennetts Suzuki as he uses the event for some final track time ahead of the North West and Isle of Man TT. Dunlop also qualified 24th in the National Superstock 1000 class.
His TT rival, Ian Hutchinson, was 10th fastest while Carl Phillips, who is riding under the MD Racing banner on a Suzuki, was 26th.
Richard Cooper topped the times on the Bennetts Suzuki from Adam Jenkinson.
Meanwhile, Andrew Irwin finished as the runner-up on the Gearlink Kawasaki in the British Supersport Sprint race yesterday as three Ulster riders finished in the top five.
Reigning champion Tarran Mackenzie won the race by 1.1 seconds on the McAMS Yamaha, with David Allingham making it onto the podium in third on the EHA Yamaha.
Clogher rider Keith Farmer was fourth on the Macadam Yamaha ahead of Dublin’s Jack Kennedy (GAC Logistics MV Agusta).
Young gun Eugene McManus was second fastest in qualifying for the British Motostar race on his KTM, while Robert Kennedy was fifth quickest on the Sandown Kawasaki in free practice in the Superstock 600 class.