Smiths Racing rider Peter Hickman set the early pace in the Superbike class with a 131mph lap at the fonaCAB Ulster Grand Prix on Wednesday.
Hickman, who has been the man of the meeting at Dundrod for the past two years, was 4.7 seconds quicker than Manx rider Conor Cummins (Milenco by Padgett’s Honda) after lapping at 131.237mph on his BMW S1000RR.
The 32-year-old was the only rider over the 130mph mark in the opening Superbike session, which was cut short with around nine minutes remaining due to rain.
Hickman said: “My plan was to go and do a steady lap, put in two fliers and then come in and that’s what we did.”
Rising prospect Davey Todd impressed in third on the Wepol/Penz13.com BMW with a speed of 127.709mph, which left the 23-year-old 5.6 seconds down on Hickman.
Todd said: “I am still learning the circuit, trying to get in some laps. I was taking it easy because it isn’t worth the risk in practice.”
Fermanagh’s Lee Johnston slotted into fourth on his Ashcourt Racing BMW with a lap of 127.395mph, which was marginally faster than outright lap record holder Dean Harrison on the Silicone Engineering Kawasaki in fifth.
Harrison was fastest through the speed trap, recording196.9mph on the Flying Kilo on his ZX-10RR machine.
Derek Sheils was sixth on the time sheets on the Burrows Engineering/RK Racing Suzuki ahead of Paul Jordan, who is riding the Dafabet Devitt Kawasaki for the first time since the Isle of Man TT. Sheils’ Suzuki was considerably down on top-end speed compared to Harrison, with the Dubliner clocking 184mph.
Hickman’s BMW also seemed to be losing out to Harrison’s Kawasaki, with his BMW around 4mph slower at the fastest part of the 7.4-mile course.
Injured Ballymoney man Michael Dunlop, who has decided not to compete in the Supersport races on his MD Racing Honda, was eighth fastest on the Tyco BMW at 126.871mph, over seven seconds behind Hickman.
Australian rider David Johnson (125.368mph) was ninth on the Honda Racing Fireblade with Yorkshire’s Jamie Coward completing the top ten on his Prez Racing Yamaha R1 following a lap of 124.683mph.
In the Supertwin session, Paul Jordan from Magherafelt led the way on the Dafabet Devitt Kawasaki.
Jordan, who finished fourth in the Lightweight race at the Isle of Man TT, was 0.6 seconds ahead of Joe Loughlin (ILR/Mark Coverdale Paton) after setting an early mark of 112.850mph.
Jamie Coward was third on the KTS Kawasaki with Lee Johnston, riding a Ryan Farquhar-prepared Kawasaki, in fourth, 2.2 seconds behind Jordan.
Christian Elkin (Dynocentre NI Kawasaki) and Michael Sweeney (Kiely Heating Kawasaki) were the top six.
Ballymena’s Neil Kernohan was quickest in the Lightweight practice session on the 250cc Logan Honda after lapping at 110.815mph.
Road racing stalwart Davy Morgan was over seven seconds slower in second on his 250 DM71 Honda, with Shaun Anderson in third (CB Racing Honda 250), a further second adrift.
Czech rider Michal Dokoupil topped the Ultra-Lightweight session on his Moto3 Ariane with a lap of 107.653mph, putting him 1.8 seconds clear of Christian Elkin (Bob Wylie Honda). Gary Dunlop was third on the Joey’s Bar Honda, 5.5 seconds down on Dokoupil.