NW200: Alastair Seeley dominates opening practice

Tyco BMW's Alastair Seeley topped the Superbike times on Tuesday at the North West 200
Tyco BMW's Alastair Seeley topped the Superbike times on Tuesday at the North West 200

North West 200 race favourite Alastair Seeley wasted no time in making his mark in practice on Tuesday as the Ulster rider shot to the summit of the Superbike time sheets in the wet.

High winds and heavy rain showers caused plenty of issues for competitors on the north coast, but Seeley rose to the top of the leaderboard on his Tyco BMW S1000RR to make the perfect start to race week at the 8.9-mile Triangle course, also leading the way in the Supersport and Superstock classes.

The Carrick rider, who has won 12 times at the event to close in on Robert Dunlop’s record of 15 victories, seized provisional Superbike pole by 3.7 seconds from Lincolnshire rider Gary Johnson, who impressed on the GBmoto Kawasaki ZX-10R to slot into second position.

Fermanagh’s Lee Johnston was third quickest on the East Coast/Burdens BMW, 5.6 seconds behind Seeley, while Bradford man Dean Harrison was next for Northern Ireland’s Mar-Train Racing team on the new Yamaha YZF-R1.

Ian Hutchinson caught the eye on the PBM Kawasaki as the Bingley contender posted the fifth fastest time, while Morecambe’s John McGuinness – back to fitness in 2015 after a wrist injury thwarted his chances last year – took a strong sixth on the Honda Racing Fireblade SP.

The evergreen Michael Rutter was seventh on the Penz13.com Bathams BMW ahead of Milwaukee Yamaha star Michael Dunlop, who had his first outing on the roads on the R1 Superbike at the Cookstown 100 in April.

The Ballymoney man was followed by his brother William and his Tyco BMW team-mate Guy Martin, with the duo rounding out the top ten.

Seeley also set the benchmark in the Supersport class on the Tyco Suzuki by 1.9 seconds from Michael Dunlop (MD Racing Yamaha), with William Dunlop next on the CD/IC Racing Caffrey Yamaha as the session was also held in damp and blustery conditions.

Broughton rider Johnson, who switched to the Mar-Train Yamaha R6 for the Supersport races, was fourth followed by newcomer Glenn Irwin from Carrickfergus, who impressed on his British Championship Gearlink Kawasaki, while Harrison completed the top six on the second of the Mar-Train Yamaha machines.

Lee Johnston on the East Coast/Burdens Triumph 675 and New Zealander rider Bruce Anstey (Padgetts Honda) were seventh and eighth fastest respectively.

In the final session of the day for Superstock machines, Seeley was a cut above his rivals on the drying track as he powered the Tyco BMW into the lead yet again, lapping 4.281 seconds faster than Michael Dunlop (MD Racing Yamaha) with Harrison third on the Mar-Train Yamaha R1.

Horst Saiger, William Dunlop (Tyco BMW) and Rutter on the Penz13.com Bathams BMW were the top six, follwed by Martin (Tyco BMW) and GBmoto Kawasaki’s Johnson, who was 10 seconds off the best time set by Seeley.

In the Supertwins class, James Hillier (Quattro Plant Kawasaki) narrowly held off Ryan Farquhar on the SGS/KMR Kawasaki by 0.065 seconds for the top spot with Jamie Hamilton third on John Burrows’ Cookstown/BE Racing Kawasaki and Michael Dunlop (McAdoo Kawasaki) fourth fastest, five seconds down on Hillier.

James Cowton on Stewart Smith’s Kawasaki and newcomerr Derek McGee (Emerald Kawasaki) rounded out the leading half dozen.

Final qualifying and the first three races take place on Thursday ahead of Saturday’s headline five-race programme.