NW200: Alastair Seeley squeezes out Michael Dunlop for pole hat-trick

Alastair Seeley (Briggs BMW) during Superbike qualifying for the North West 200.
Alastair Seeley (Briggs BMW) during Superbike qualifying for the North West 200.

Man of the moment Alastair Seeley was unstoppable as the Ulster rider topped the time sheets in the Superbike class to make it a hat-trick of pole positions.

Seeley, though, only completed his qualifying treble by the narrowest of margins, edging out a determined Michael Dunlop by only 0.017 seconds on his Briggs BMW.

Dunlop had hit the top on the Hawk Racing BMW with a lap of 122.335mph but had to settle for second place on the front row ahead of Saturday’s two Superbike races, with Seeley clocking 122.343mph to take pole by a whisker.

The session was halted due to a red-flag incident at Mill Round roundabout around 15 minutes from the end. The competitor involved was airlifted to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast but did not sustain life threatening injuries.

Seeley and Dunlop were the only riders who broke into the 122mph bracket, with Michael Rutter maintaining his excellent form around the Triangle course in third place on the Bathams SMT BMW (121.648mph).

Lee Johnston heads up the second row as BMW S1000RR machines filled the top four places, lapping at 121.065mph on his East Coast/Burdens-backed machine.

Behind the Fermanagh rider, Peter Hickman from Burton-on-Trent slotted into fifth on the JG Speedfit Kawasaki (120.911mph) with Tyco BMW’s Ian Hutchinson sixth.

Hutchinson earlier broke the 200mph barrier through the speed trap on his Superstock-spec Tyco BMW, a first for a Superstock bike at the North West.

Lincolnshire’s Gary Johnson (Penz13.com BMW) was seventh fastest ahead of John McGuinness, who lost time with a hold radiator on his factory Honda Fireblade.

James Hillier (Quattro Plant Kawasaki) and Ryan Farquhar (Tyco BMW) completed the top ten.

Veteran racer Jeremy McWilliams qualified a very respectable 14th on the Mar-Train Yamaha R1 as he acts as stand-in for the injured Dan Kneen, finishing ahead of North West Superbike regulars Martin Jessopp (Riders BMW) and David Johnson (Ice Valley BMW).