Michael Rutter made hay in the glorious sunshine during the opening practice for the Vauxhall International North West 200.
The Batham’s Brewery sponsored rider topped the Superbike practice on his S1000RR BMW and finished in the top three in the Superstock and Supersport sessions.
“It is like the old days.” the 13 times North West winner beamed afterwards.
“It is a really nice way to start things off and although we have a few little issues to resolve all the bikes are going really well.”
The day had not started so brightly for the Birmingham rider after a faulty battery saw his Smith’s Triumph fail to start at the beginning of the Supersport session but after a quick change Rutter eventually grabbed second spot on his first competitive outing on the British built bike.
He went on to post a 121.106mph lap on his BMW superbike to pip Alastair Seeley on the Mar-Train Kawasaki to take provisional pole in the big bike class.
“We just put the bike in the lorry after the Oulton Park BSB meeting and used the same settings for here after we changed the gearing. “ the 42 year old explained.
“If we had to race tomorrow I would be happy.”
Joshua Brookes took his Milwaukee Yamaha to sixth fastest in Superbike and ninth quickest in Supersport.
“It wasn’t too bad I suppose for a first session; we had a good run out, but not perfect. We have some improvements to make with both the Supersport bike and Superbike for Thursday. We had a little brake issue with the 600 but after that it’s just down to me to go quicker. On the Superbike we had a bit of movement from the rear, so a suspension adjustment should sort that. But all in all a pretty positive first session at the North West.” Commented Brookes.
Austrian Horst Saiger was the surprise leader in the Superstock class on the dominant ZX10 Kawasakis with Rutter slotting in behind on his stocker version of the BMW S1000RR. His team mate, Crumlin’s Stephen Thompson was third on a similar machine.
William Dunlop was the only local rider who managed to top one of the four timed sessions, taking the honours in the Supersport class on the Tyco Suzuki GSXR600.
“It was a great start to the day and it is great to have this great weather.” the Ballymoney man smiled before complaining that it was “too hot!”
“I have always been happy with the Suzuki chassis but it seems that both the Tyco boys and Metzeler have found something else for the 600 because it is really fast as a pole position around here proves.”
William’s younger brother, Michael, had a tougher day during his first outing on the ‘roads’ version of his new factory supported BMW superbike. Although the German machine was one of the fastest through the speed trap, the 25 year old had to settle for 8th place in the Superbike listings.
“We just used the session to make sure everything was OK.” he said afterwards.
“We are waiting for an electronics man to arrive to get some settings sorted. We aren’t really riding the bike yet.”
Local favourite Alastair Seeley had a few gremlins of his own with the Mar-Train Yamaha R6 and ZX10 Kawasaki. Although the Carrickfergus man has still to post a qualifying time in the Superstock category, he still managed top three placings in both the Superbike and Supersport listings.
“The weather is so good I think that I am in the Bahamas.” the 34 year old joked afterwards.
“I could have done with another couple of laps on the 600 and I did my fastest lap on the Superbike on a tyre that I didn’t really like but we are not far away with any of the bikes and after we sit down and have a good debrief we will make the improvements that we need to.”
Keith Amor unofficially blitzed James Hillier’s Supertwin lap record on the SGS KMR Kawasaki as he took pole ahead of team boss Ryan Farquhar and young team mate Conor Behan.
“I had to learn my way around again.” The Scot said after his first North West for five years.
“It is so fast here and a bit scary but I really enjoyed being back. I am under no illusions, I know that the twins races will be dogfights but I am looking forward to them.”
Macau Grand Prix winner, Ian Hutchinson, having his first UK road race ride since 2012, had an unhappier comeback after crashing out of the Supersport practice at Mill Road roundabout on his Milwaukee Yamaha R6.
Hutchinson was taken to hospital with a mangled finger but he made his way back to the track for an outing on his superbike during the final Superstock practice.
James Hiller was unhurt after sliding off his Quattro Plant Kawasaki at the Magic Roundabout but French newcomer Franck Petricola was more seriously injured after crashing his Ice Valley BMW at Primrose.
William Dunlop [Tyco Suzuki] 4min 41.401sec/114.754mph
Michael Rutter [Triumph] +1.384sec
Alastair Seeley [Yamaha] +1.423sec
Lee Johnston [Honda] +1.568sec
Gary Johnson [Triumph] +2.288sec
Guy Martin [Tyco Suzuki] +3.116sec
John McGuinness [Honda] +4.633sec
Michael Dunlop [Honda] +5.735sec
Josh Brookes [Yamaha] +6.499sec
Bruce Anstey [Honda] +7.845sec.
Supersport Lap Record: Keith Amor [Honda] 4min 37.591sec/ 116.329mph – [Supersport Race 2 – 2010].
Horst Saiger [Kawasaki] 4min 32.427sec/118.535mph
Michael Rutter [BMW] +0.099sec
Stephen Thompson [BMW] +0.277sec
Martin Jessopp [BMW] +0.511sec
Simon Andrews [BMW] +0.805sec
Lee Johnston [Honda] +1.727sec
William Dunlop [Tyco Suzuki] +2.331
Guy Martin [Tyco Suzuki] +3.540sec.
Superstock Lap Record: Michael Rutter [Kawasaki] 4min 28.757sec/ 120.153mph – [Superstock 2, 2012].
Thursday May 15 Practice Schedule:
Practice – Roads Close 09.15hrs to 14.45hrs.
1st Session Supertwin 10.00 to 10.50hrs.
2nd Session Superstock 11.05 to 11.55hrs.
3rd Session Supersport 12.10 to 13.00hrs.
4th Session Superbike 13.15 to 14.15hrs.
Thursday May 15 Race Schedule:
Racing – Roads Close 17.15 to 21.00hrs.
Race 1 Supersport (6 laps) 18.00hrs.
Race 2 Supertwin (4 laps) 19.00hrs.
Race 3 Superstock (6 laps) 20.00hrs.
Milwaukee Yamaha’s Josh Brookes opened his account at the International North West 200 with top ten times in both the Supersport and Superbike classes.
His team-mate Ian Hutchinson took 16th place in the Supersport session but slid off during the session at Mill Road roundabout. Hutchinson suffered a finger injury and later completed laps on his Milwaukee Yamaha R1 Superbike.
Brookes took ninth place in the Supersport practice after 7 laps of the 8.9-mile coast road circuit. The Aussie then replicated that placing in the opening Superbike practice session aboard his Milwaukee Yamaha R1.
Brookes said: “It wasn’t too bad I suppose for a first session; we had a good run out, but not perfect. We have some improvements to make with both the Supersport bike and Superbike for Thursday. We had a little brake issue with the 600 but after that it’s just down to me to go quicker. On the Superbike we had a bit of movement from the rear, so a suspension adjustment should sort that. But all in all a pretty positive first session at the North West.”
Hutchinson said: “I’ve lost a finger nail and a bit of skin in the crash off the Supersport bike, so it’s a bit frustrating. It was a niggly little problem and the bike jumped from first to second and bucked me over the front. I just wanted to get back and get a few laps on the Superbike and get myself settled before Thursday.”
Team co-ordinator and chief engineer Mick Shanley said of the opening day: “Hutchy had a couple of issues and got caught out on his first flying lap on the 600. He’s damaged a finger but overall he’s okay. He got a few laps on the Superbike at the back of the Superstock session at the end of the day – so he should be good to go on Thursday.
“Brookesy had a pretty good day overall. Last year he was learning the circuit as a newcomer, so at least he hasn’t as much to do on that front this year. This time it’s all about set-up and his pace today in both sessions was not a million miles away. He’s looking for a bit more stability on the Superbike and to be fair the 600 is a bit of a novelty for him, not having ridden one for so long. But for the first day at the North West we are happy enough.”
Tyco Suzuki Report
Tyco Suzuki’s William Dunlop holds the provisional pole position for the Supersport class after the opening day of qualifying for the International North West 200 in Northern Ireland.
Dunlop also finished fourth in the Superbike class, just one place behind team-mate Guy Martin, who posted the sixth-fastest time in the middleweight division. Dunlop and Martin were seventh and 10th respectively in the Superstock session, which was red-flagged.
William Dunlop: “I’m pretty pleased with that for an opening day at the North West. I had every confidence we could be up there on the GSX-R600 Supersport bike but was also looking for a top ride on the Superbike. I will take fourth place happily. We had no major problems and with more time on the Superstock bike in a full session we can get well-up the grid.”
Guy Martin: “Can’t complain too much about that. Top-three on the Superbike and well within striking distance on the 600 shows we are already competitive. The weather was mint and the circuit is in pretty-good nick apart from turn two; but it’s the same for everyone. The Superstock session was cut short but yeah, a decent first day.”
Philip Neill – Team Manager: “The first day here can be a bit fraught but we’ve done well considering and haven’t struggled, showing the pedigree of all our GSX-R machinery. All the bikes are well qualified; we just need some fine-tuning and to keep our mind on the job now for Thursday morning. Then we go racing, but we’re ready for it.”
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