Glenn Irwin powered to pole position for Saturday’s Superbike races at the 2018 Vauxhall International North West 200.

In bright and sunny conditions at the international road race meeting in Northern Ireland, the British Superbike rider produced a sizzling performance on the PBM Be Wiser Ducati to seize the top spot.

Irwin edged out Dean Harrison (Silicone Kawasaki) by 0.066s with Michael Dunlop third on the Tyco BMW as the top three were separated by just 0.094s.

Carrickfergus man Irwin, who is only competing in the Superbike class, said: “I am really, really happy to take pole. I’ve only done about six laps in the dry around here this week and the rest of the boys have done 40 or 50.

“In that last session I thought we had more time and I pulled into get a new tyre but then I decided to go out again without changing it.”

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The final Superbike qualifying session had to be red flagged after Lee Johnston’s Honda Racing Fireblade blew an engine and dropped oil on the road. With the track cleaned there were just 20 minutes left before the roads had to be reopened, turning the final session into a hectic sprint for the frontrunners.

Irwin set his pole time on his final circuit around the 8.9-mile course.

“We had made a slight change to the bike and it wasn’t as stable as before which was a bit scary when it started weaving in straight lines,” said Irwin, who won last year’s feature Superbike race.

“I made a mess of the last corner because of the old tyre and that affected my time but it will be close on Saturday.”

Alastair Seeley was fourth fastest on the Tyco BMW ahead of Michael Rutter (Bathams BMW), who was only 0.875s behind Irwin.

Martin Jessopp completed the front two rows of the starting grid for Saturday’s big bike races more than a second back on the Riders Motorcycles BMW.

Peter Hickman (Smith’s BMW), William Dunlop (Temple Golf Club Yamaha), Conor Cummins (Padgett’s Honda) and Lee Johnston (Honda Racing) completed the top ten. Johnston had to ride his Superstock-spec Fireblade in the restart.

His Honda team-mate, Ian Hutchinson, was 13th fastest as he makes his return from injury.

Earlier, Alastair Seeley claimed pole for the Superstock and Supersport races.

In the Superstock class, Seeley was two seconds ahead of Dean Harrison, with Michael Dunlop third on his MD Racing BMW. Rutter, Dan Kneen (Tyco BMW) and Peter Hickman on the Smiths BMW were the top six.

Seeley also dominated in the Supersport class on the EHA Racing Yamaha as he took pole by 2.8 seconds from Martin Jessopp, with Harrison third fastest. Michael Dunlop (MD Racing Honda), Lee Johnston (Padgett’s Honda) and William Dunlop (Temple Golf Club Yamaha) were the leading half dozen.

Yeovil man Jessopp secured pole for the Supertwins class by only 0.038s from Adam McLean, who crashed unhurt on his final qualifying lap at Juniper chicane.

James Cowton, Joey Thompson and Derek McGee were the first five, with two-time winner Jeremy McWilliams sixth quickest as he returns to the event.

The first Superstock, Supersport and Supertwins races take place on Thursday evening ahead of Saturday’s main five-race programme.

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