Sunflower Trophy newcomer Richard Cooper set the pace to take pole at Bishopscourt on Friday on the Buildbase Suzuki.
The Nottingham-based rider, fresh from victory in the final British Superbike race of the season at Brands Hatch last weekend, powered the GSX-R1000 to the top of the times by 0.2 seconds. Cooper set his best lap in 1m 05.968s.
Toome’s Michael Laverty, the most successful rider ever of the Hillsborough Club’s prestigious race with six victories under his belt, slotted into second place with a time of 1m 06.186s.
Two-time winner Danny Buchan, riding an MSS Kawasaki, was third quickest in 1m 06.355s ahead of newcomer and top international road racer Dean Harrison, who lapped in 1m 07.112s on the Silicone Engineering Racing Kawasaki.
Ulster Superbike champion Gerard Kinghan gave a solid account of himself in fifth on his Superstock-spec Kawasaki, with the Randalstown man clocking a time in 1m 07.448s to edge out fellow Ulsterman Carl Phillips (JMC Roofing Kawasaki).
In the Supertwins class, British Superbike contender Glenn Irwin – riding a Kawasaki for John Burrows’ B.E. Racing team – headed the leaderboard by four-tenths-of-a-second from Jeremy McWilliams on the KMR Kawasaki.
Irwin has won the feature Sunflower race for the past two years but the Carrick man is not defending his title this weekend. He had his final ride on the PBM Ducati at Brands Hatch, where he won the opening race for his maiden BSB win of the season. The 28-year-old will replace champion Leon Haslam in the JG Speedfit Kawasaki team in 2019, who has made the switch to World Superbikes as team-mate to Jonathan Rea.
Dan Cooper was third fastest in Supertwins qualifying followed by British Junior Supersport champion Eunan McGlinchey, who is riding for McAdoo Kawasaki Racing.
In the Supersport class, Jason Lynn led the way from Robert Kennedy and Richard Kerr, while Christian Elkin was fastest in the Moto3 category from Paul Robinson, Sam Laffins, McGlinchey, McWilliams and Gary Dunlop.
The main race programme takes place on Saturday, with morning warm-up from 9.15am