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2023 North West 200 | Dunlop, Seeley lead way as NW200 kicks off

Derek Wilson
Michael Dunlop Superbike quickest in first qualifying NW200

Home favourites Michael Dunlop and Alastair Seeley topped the timesheets in opening qualifying for this week’s North West 200 with Dunlop claiming the honours in the Superbike class and Seeley getting the nod in the Superstock and Supersport categories.

In a predominantly dry session, Dunlop lapped the 8.9-mile circuit linking the towns of Portrush, Portstewart and Coleraine at 122.943mph on his Hawk Racing Honda, which gave him a 1.929s advantage over record 27-time winner Seeley on the Milwaukee BMW.

Lee Johnston (Ashcourt Racing Honda) was over four seconds further back in third with outright lap record holder Peter Hickman (FHO Racing BMW) in fourth of John McGuinness (Honda Racing) and Dean Harrison (DAO Racing Kawasaki).


It was a challenging session for six-time winner Glenn Irwin though with handling issues with the BeerMonster Ducati keeping him down in eighth after a lap of 119.125mph. There was disappointment too for Josh Brookes as he ground to a halt on his second lap on the FHO Racing BMW to leave him, at present, amongst the non-qualifiers.

Light rain had fallen in the closing moments, and it did so again at the beginning of the Superstock session, the final one of the day, but conditions rapidly improved and Seeley went quickest on the Synetiq BMW. Indeed, he set the fastest lap of the day at 123.361mph.

In a role reversal of the Superbike class, it was Dunlop’s turn to be 1.9s adrift in second on the MD Racing Honda whilst Hickman slotted into third at 121.924mph. Seventh in the Superbike class, Davey Todd (Milenco by Padgetts Honda) was fourth quickest on the Superstock leaderboard ahead of Johnston and Harrison with Brookes having a more profitable session in seventh.

Seeley also enjoyed a strong session in the Supersport class, which was the first to get underway in the morning under sunny skies and he was immediately in the zone on the Powertoolmate Ducati with a lap of 116.751mph.

That put him 0.394s ahead of Richard Cooper and it was his BPE by Russell Racing Yamaha team-mate Dean Harrison who was third quickest albeit by just a tenth of a second from Dunlop. Hickman, on the K2 Trooper Triumph, was fifth ahead of Johnston and Todd whilst Mike Browne, as expected, was the quickest newcomer in a fine eighth. The Burrows by RK Racing rider was also going well in the Superbike class in tenth.

It was left to Cooper to deny an Irish clean sweep as he posted the fastest lap of the Supertwin session. A late entry on the KMR Kawasaki – for whom he ‘won’ both races twelve months ago before being excluded for a technical infringement – Cooper lapped at 111.723mph which was a full second inside the lap record.

Former Grand Prix winner Jeremy McWilliams (Bayview Racing Paton) was some 3.4s in arrears with Paul Jordan (PreZ Racing Kawasaki), Adam McLean (JMcC Roofing Kawasaki), Dunlop (McAdoo Racing Kawasaki) and Johnston (Ashcourt Racing Aprilia) completing the top six.

Qualifying resumes on Thursday morning with three races – for the Supersport, Superstock and Supertwin classes – set to take place that same evening.

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