Glenn Irwin secured a front row start for the third round of the Bennetts British Superbike Championship at Oulton Park in Cheshire on Bank Holiday Monday.
The PBM Be Wiser Ducati rider backed up his impressive form at the Oulton test last week – where he topped the times after dipping under the lap record – to qualify third quickest on the Panigale R behind team-mate Shane Byrne and Jake Dixon on the RAF Reserves Kawasaki.
Irwin, who finished as the runner-up in race two at Oulton Park last year in a one-two for Paul Bird’s team after Byrne claimed victory, lapped in 1m 34.237s in Q3.
The Carrick rider was only 0.258s behind pole man Byrne.
Irwin said: “I’m definitely pleased to be on the front row and all my times this weekend have been on my own, so I’m feeling pretty confident.
“No-one was particularly quick on their out lap in Q3 so I was a little worried I’d lost too much heat from the tyres but I got the job done and it’s obviously good for the team to have both bikes on the front row at their local round.
“We’ve got good race pace and the boys fired me up today so roll on the two races.”
Leon Haslam (JG Speedfit Kawasaki), Jason O’Halloran (Honda Racing) and Luke Mossey (JG Speedfit Kawasaki) were the top six.
Northern Ireland’s Michael Laverty was down in 21st place on the Tyco BMW. His team-mate, Christian Iddon, suffered a blow after sustaining a fracture to his hand on Saturday.
British Superbike favourite Ryuichi Kiyonari was 18th for Honda Racing. The three-time champion is filling in for the injured Dan Linfoot.
Lisburn’s Carl Phillips was 27th fastest on the Gearlink Kawasaki.
Championship leader Bradley Ray was ninth on the Buildbase Suzuki.
A number of top road racers are using the event as a final shakedown before the North West 200, including Dean Harrison, David Johnson, Gary Johnson, Ivan Lintin and Conor Cummins.
Irwin is also having his final BSB ride ahead of the first major international road race of the year, where practice gets underway on the North Coast next Tuesday.
The 28-year-old won the feature Superbike race last year following a sensational battle with fellow Carrick man Alastair Seeley, who returns on the Tyco BMW.
Seeley, the all-time record holder at the event with 21 victories, is joined in the team by regular roads rider Dan Kneen and Ballymoney’s Michael Dunlop, who will ride the Tyco BMW Superbike alongside his own MD Racing BMW Superstock and 600 Honda machines this season.
Meanwhile, reigning British Supersport champion Keith Farmer claimed pole in the Pirelli National Superstock 1000 class on the Tyco BMW at Oulton.
Farmer had 0.2 seconds in hand over EHA Aprilia riders Joe Collier and Andy Reid, while Seeley was ninth quickest on the WD-40 Kawasaki. Josh Elliott (Morello Kawasaki) was 17th.
Dublin’s Jack Kennedy won the British Supersport Sprint race on Sunday by over six seconds on the Integro Yamaha from Gearlink Kawasaki’s Ben Currie. David Allingham was seventh on the EHA Racing Yamaha.
Kennedy leads Currie in the championship by six points going into today’s feature race (3.40pm).
Eugene McManus was seventh in the opening British Motostar race.
The 18-lap BSB feature races are scheduled for 1.30pm and 4.30pm today.