NW200: Michael Dunlop impresses on new Bennetts Suzuki

Michael Dunlop carries the front wheel of his Bennetts Suzuki over Black Hill during NW200 practice on Tuesday.
Michael Dunlop carries the front wheel of his Bennetts Suzuki over Black Hill during NW200 practice on Tuesday.
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Michael Dunlop unleashed the Bennetts Suzuki on the roads for the first time at the Vauxhall International North West 200 on Tuesday and immediately impressed on the new GSX-R1000.

The outright lap record holder and last year’s Superbike winner clocked the third fastest time during Superbike practice on the north coast.

The Ballymoney man is charged with turning the new Suzuki into an international race winner this season and Dunlop made a promising debut, lapping at 120.655mph.

Carrick’s Alastair Seeley topped the times on the Tyco BMW by 1.5 seconds from Michael Rutter on the Bathams/SMT BMW, with 13-time Isle of Man TT winner Dunlop a further second back.

True to form, Dunlop hasn’t given much away during his pre-season preparations.

After a winter testing schedule in Spain, the Ulster rider competed in the opening rounds of the British Superbike Championship at Donington Park and Oulton.

Tuesday was his first outing between the hedges in anger on the Yoshimura-supported GSX-R1000 and his early pace certainly bodes well as Dunlop tunes up for the Isle of Man TT.

With the Triangle course bathed in glorious sunshine, he set his best time on his fifth and final lap but claims there is a lot more to come during final qualifying on Thursday.

“I need as much time on the bike as I can get but we aren’t a million miles away after today. There is still a lot more to come from me and the bike,” said Dunlop, who smashed Josh Brookes’ lap record in 2016, setting a new benchmark for the 8.9-mile Triangle course of 123.207mph.

“I did my best time on the last lap and we made some changes halfway through the session, but they didn’t sort the problem we had.”

The Superbike session was reduced to 25 minutes as a result of a delay caused by a red flag incident during Supersport practice.

Chris Dixon, from Cumbria, crashed at Black Hill. His injuries included leg fractures and he was transported to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast, although his condition was described as non life-threatening.