Alastair Seeley underlined why he is the most successful Vauxhall International North West 200 rider of all-time by topping the time sheets in the opening Superbike and Supersport practice sessions for the 2017 event. The 17 times race winner steered his Tyco BMW to a lap of 4 mins 25.1 seconds in perfect conditions on the 8.9 mile Triangle circuit.
The Superbike session was cut short after a rider crashed at Black Hill in the opening 600cc session but Seeley lost no time in making his mark.
“The superbike felt good but I didn’t go mad out there today.” the Carrickfergus rider smiled.
“We had new brakes to bed in and new tyres but the BMW felt very fast.”
Seeley pulled into the pits to make a change to his gearing and returned to the track to go even faster.
“I got tucked in behind John McGuinness and Glenn Irwin on my last lap and passed both of them on track to set my fastest time.” he explained.
The two quickest laps of the day were actually posted during the later Superstock session. Both Seeley and veteran Michael Rutter went faster on their stocker spec BMWs than they had on the superbikes as they benefitted from better conditions and a cleaner track. Rutter was the second quickest superbike and topped the leaderboard on his superstock Bathams/SMT BMW.
“I am surprised to have been second on the big bike because it was handling so badly.” the 45 year old Englishman said.
“We will need to make some adjustments for Thursday’s session but I am delighted to have been fastest on the stocker. The track was very dusty early in the day and there was more rubber down later on.”
Local favourite Michael Dunlop was third quickest in his debut roads outing on the Bennett’s Suzuki superbike, a second behind Rutter.
“I did my best time on the last lap.” the 28 year old, who is the outright lap record holder for the NW200 circuit, explained.
“We made some changes half way through the session but they didn’t sort the problem we had.”
Having his first run between the hedges on the Suzuki GSXR, Dunlop admitted he was still struggling to find the optimum set up with his new superbike.
“I need as much time on the bike as I can get.” he said.
“But we aren’t a million miles away after today and there is still a lot more to come from me and the bike.”
Dunlop finished seventh fastest on his sMD Racing Suzuki in the Superstock session.
Ian Hutchinson complained of problems getting through the traffic as he posted the fourth fastest superbike time, 4.6 seconds behind his Tyco BMW teammate, Seeley.
“I am happy with the bike but it was difficult to get a clear run today.” the Yorkshireman said.
Glenn Irwin completed the top five in the superbike class in his first ever ride around the North West circuit on a superbike. The 27 year old had been second fastest for much of the session before posting a 4 min 30 second lap on the Be Wiser PBM Ducati.
“It was unreal being out there today.” the BSB rider smiled.
“I didn’t expect to be this far up the leaderboard this quickly. We don’t have any settings at all for the Ducati because it has never been raced here before.”
Irwin was allowed to ride to the later Superstock session and unofficially posted a time just over a second slower than Seeley’s.
Guy Martin made his return to the international roads aboard the new Honda Fireblade but the Lincolnshire man struggled, finishing way off the pace in 19th place in the Superbike session.
“It was steady away but we still have work to do.” the 35 year old admitted. Honda teammate John McGuinness was 7th fastest in the superbike session but opted not to ride in the Superstock practice.
2017 Vauxhall International North West 200 First Practice
- Alastair Seeley, Tyco BMW. 4min 25.1 secs 121.811mph
- Michael Rutter, Bathams/SMT BMW. 4 min 26.670 sec 121.093mph
- Michael Dunlop, Bennetts Suzuki 4mi 27.639sec 120.655mph
- Ian Hutchinson, Tyco BMW. 4min 29.782 sec 119.697mph
- Glenn Irwin, Be Wiser PBM Ducati, 4 min 30.030sec 199.587mph
- Michael Rutter, Bathams/SMT BMW 4min 24.634 sec, 122.025mph
- Alastair Seeley, Tyco BMW. 4min 24.775secs, 121.960mph
- Lee Johnston, East Coast Construction BMW, 4 min 25.173 sec, 121.777mph
- Ian Hutchinson, Tyco BMW. 4min 26.265 sec 121.278mph
- Dean Harrison, Silicone Engineering Kawasaki, 4min.28.977 sec, 120.055mph
- Alastair Seeley. Gearlink Kawasaki. 4 min 41.480 sec. 114.722 mph
- Dean Harrison Silicone Engineering Kawasaki 4 min 42.975sec 114.116mph
- Lee Johnston Jackson Racing Honda 4 min 43.968sec 113.717mph
- Martin Jessop Riders Motorcycles Triumph 4 min 45.063sec 113.280mph
- John McGuinness Jackson Racing/ Bet Victor Honda 4 min 45.893 sec 112.951mph
- Martin Jessop Riders Motorcycles Kawasaki 4 min 56.494 sec 108.913mph
- Michael Rutter KMR/IEG Kawasaki 4min 58.171sec 108.300 mph
- Ivan Lintin Dafabet Devitt Kawasaki Racing 4min 59.330sec 107.881mph
- Lee Johnston KMR/NI Air Ambulance Kawasaki 4 min 59.671 sec 107.758mph
- 5 Dan Cooper KW Electrical Kawasaki 5min 02.880 sec 106.616mph