John­ston sets Su­per pace to leave ri­vals trail­ing

Belfast Telegraph - - SPORT - BY STEPHEN DAV­I­SON

LEE John­ston set the fastest Su­per­bike lap time on the Honda Rac­ing Fire­blade dur­ing the open­ing day of prac­tice at the 2018 Vaux­hall In­ter­na­tional North West 200 and then got back down to work.

The diminu­tive Fer­managh racer was al­most 2.7 sec­onds faster than the rest of the field but still wasn’t al­to­gether happy and he and his team will be burn­ing the mid­night oil in prepa­ra­tion for to­mor­row’s race day.

“Ev­ery­thing felt good with the­bike­and­sodoI,”the 29-year-old smiled af­ter his first out­ing at a race meet­ing on the CBR1000RR.

“We still have to make changes, lots of changes, and we have very lit­tle data from last year so there is plenty of work to do with the bike. But I feel good in my­self on the Honda.”

A shower of rain be­fore the start of the Su­per­bike ses­sion, plus a red flag when Dutch rider Jo­han Fredriks crashed at Univer­sity, played havoc with the Su­per­bike qual­i­fy­ing ses­sion.

Bal­ly­money’s Michael Dun­lop fin­ished sec­ond quick­est on the Tyco BMW with James Cow­ton third on the McA­doo Kawasaki.

Last year’s fea­ture Su­per­bike race win­ner, Glenn Ir­win, set the fourth fastest time on the PBM Du­cati. But the Car­rick­fer­gus man, who has all of his North West eggs in just one bas­ket in the Su­per­bike class, was far from happy af­ter man­ag­ing just three laps on the Du­cati Pani­gale be­fore the red flag in­ci­dent stopped play.

James Hil­lier (Qu­at­tro Plant Kawasaki) and Conor Cum­mins (Pad­gett’s Honda) com­pleted the top six.

Manyof the Su­per­bike rid­ers were just be­gin­ning their fastest laps when the ses­sion was stopped, catch­ing out 21 times win­ner Alas­tair See­ley,

Dan Kneen, Pe­ter Hickman, Dean Har­ri­son and Michael Rut­ter. Hickman’s is­sues were typ­i­cal.

“There was a damp start to the Su­per­bike ses­sion so we took our time getting go­ing and by the time we were up to speed the red flag came out,” BSB star Hickman said. Har­ri­son faced sim­i­lar prob­lems. “We­di­dalap and then stopped to ad­just the chain,” the Brad­ford rider ex­plained.

“Whenwe went out again the ses­sion was stopped.” See­ley also strug­gled in the Su­per­sport ses­sion be­fore bounc­ing back to top the timesheets on his Tyco BMW in the Su­per­stock cat­e­gory.

Four­teen-time North West win­ner Michael Rut­ter was sec­ond fastest on the Bathams BMW in the damp ses­sion with Kneen (Tyco BMW) and Michael Dun­lop (MD Rac­ing BMW) third and fourth to make it a good day at the of­fice for Tyco boss Philip Neill.

“It was a dif­fi­cult day for the or­gan­is­ers who did the best they could in the cir­cum­stances,” Neill said.

“We are happy with the team’s per­for­mances to­day.”

John­ston’s Honda team-mate Ian Hutchin­son (left) is hav­ing his first roads out­ing at the North West since breaking his left leg in a crash dur­ing last year’s Se­nior TT.

“I am glad to get to­day out of the way and I felt com­fort­able on the bike,” the 38-year-old said af­ter out­ings on the Su­per­bike and Su­per­stock ma­chines.

He even­tu­ally fin­ished 11th fastest dur­ing Su­per­bike qual­i­fy­ing.

The Dun­lop broth­ers, Michael (MD Rac­ing Honda) and Wil­liam (Caf­frey Yamaha), dom­i­nated Su­per­sport qual­i­fy­ing, fin­ish­ing first and sec­ond.

James Hil­lier (Qu­at­tro Plant Kawasaki) was third ahead of John­ston on the Pad­gett’s Honda and last year’s 600cc win­ner Martin Jes­sopp (Rid­ers Mo­tor­cy­cles Tri­umph).

Tober­more’s Adam McLean, who fin­ished fourth in last year’s Satur­day Su­per­sport race, was sixth quick­est on the McA­doo Kawasaki.

And 54-year-old Jeremy McWilliams, a dou­ble North West 200 win­ner, is mak­ing his re­turn af­ter sit­ting out last year’s event.

Ma­chine prob­lems saw the for­mer Mo­toGP star fail to

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