NW200: Michael Rutter rolls back years to seal Superbike pole
Michael Rutter has qualified on pole for the headline Superbike races at the Vauxhall International North West 200.
Rutter, who has won 13 times around the 8.9-mile Triangle course, lapped at 122.345mph on Thursday to push Alastair Seeley (Tyco BMW) back to second place.
Glenn Irwin sealed a front row start on the PBM Be Wiser Ducati, upping his pace to 121.566mph. The Carrick rider was denied crucial track time when the session was halted with around 23 minutes still to go when John McGuinness crashed at Primrose corner, sustaining a suspected broken leg.
Thirteen-time winner Rutter has been in red-hot form on the Bathams SMT BMW machines as he seeks his first win at the event since 2012, when he won the Superstock race on a Kawasaki.
“I am really happy with that lap today," said the 45-year-old. “There was a lot more grip today because the track was a lot cleaner than on Tuesday so I just went out and just tried to keep my head down and get a good lap in. When you do that around here you never know what will happen.”
Michael Dunlop was fourth fastest overall on his Bennetts Suzuki as the Ballymoney man heads up the second row, where he will be joined on Saturday by Martin Jessopp (Riders BMW) and Peter Hickman on the Smiths BMW, who made a big improvement on Thursday.
Seeley secured pole in the Supersport class on the Gearlink Kawasaki with a lap of 116.812mph as he headed Lee Johnston on the Jackson Racing Honda (116.298mph).
Michael Dunlop was a big improver in the class on his MD Racing Yamaha, jumping to third place on the front row after a lap of 115.751mph.
The top six was completed by Jessopp (Riders Motorcycles Triumph), Dean Harrison on the Silicone Engineering Kawasaki and James Hillier (JG Speedfit Kawasaki).
The first three races in the Supersport, Superstock and Supertwins classes take place on Thursday evening, with roads closed from 5pm.