Derek Sheils maintained his terrific run of form as he clinched pole in the Superbike class at the Bayview Hotel Armoy Road Races on Friday, where Michael Dunlop made his return from injury.
Riding the Burrows Engineering/RK Racing Suzuki, Sheils set the pace with a speed of 104.572mph to head fellow Republic of Ireland rider Derek McGee (NJ Doyne Kawasaki) by 1.2 seconds.
Sheils is on a run of seven Irish National Superbike victories, including doubles at Kells, Skerries and Faugheen over the summer months.
Michael Sweeney was third quickest on the MJR BMW at 102.345mph, while Ballymoney man Dunlop slotted into fourth on the Tyco BMW, 3.1 seconds down on Sheils.
Dunlop set his best lap speed of 101.470mph as he returns to his home race for the first time since 2017.
He suffered a reported broken pelvis amongst other injuries in a crash at the Southern 100 earlier this month but is back in action quicker than anticipated as he builds towards the Ulster Grand Prix in a few weeks’ time.
The 30-year-old has won the past seven ‘Race of Legends’ encounters at Armoy and will be gunning for an unprecedented eighth successive triumph in the feature race on Saturday.
Thomas Maxwell and Dominic Herbertson completed the top six in the Open Superbike qualifying session.
International road racing regular Sam West qualified ninth as he makes his Irish National debut.
In the Supersport class, Magherafelt’s Paul Jordan set the pace on his 600 Yamaha.
Jordan won the Friday evening Supersport race at Armoy in 2018 after a thrilling battle with Adam McLean, who misses out this weekend through injury.
His lap of 101.910mph put him 0.177 seconds ahead of McGee on the B&W/Diamond Cutting Kawasaki, with Sheils third fastest on his Roadhouse Macau Yamaha.
Sweeney was fourth on his MJR Yamaha, while Dunlop posted the fifth quickest time on the MD Racing Honda, 2.4 seconds behind Jordan.
Mike Browne rounded out the top six on his Kawasaki ahead of Herbertson on the Davies Motorsport Kawasaki and Ballymoney’s Darryl Tweed (Honda).
McGee took pole in the Supertwin class on the KMR Kawasaki from Sweeney, Andy Farrell and Neil Kernohan. The Mullingar man also secured the top spot in the Moto3/125GP class by 4.6 seconds from Melissa Kennedy, with Nigel Moore in third.
Gary Dunlop will have to start from the rear of the grid after having trouble with his Joey’s Bar Honda.
Tommy Henry was fastest in the Senior Support session with Kernohan coming out on top in the Lightweight Supersport class on the 250 Logan Honda.