North West 200: Rejuvenated Glenn Irwin feels 'like I have just woken up'

Glenn Irwin
Irwin returned to his scintillating best in Thursday's Superbikes qualifying sesion
North West 200 international road races
Dates: Tuesday 14 May-Saturday 18 May Venue: Triangle Circuit, Portstewart, Coleraine, Portrush
Coverage: All practices and races live on the BBC Sport website and BBC Radio Ulster; Highlights on BBC One NI Friday 17 May, Sunday 19 May and Monday 20 May

Glenn Irwin says he feels revitalised after securing pole position for Saturday's Superbike races with a blistering qualifying time.

The Carrickfergus rider, who won both races last year, had looked far from his best in Tuesday's practice session and was well behind the fastest riders.

"After Tuesday to be truthfully honest I wanted to withdraw from the event," Admitted Irwin.

"It hadn't been the best start to this year.

"I was pretty negative and I had also had a testing crash on Monday at Bishopscourt."

On Thursday Irwin clocked a stunning 4:21.767 to better the lap record set by Michael Dunlop in 2016.

The Kawasaki rider, who has won the last three 'big bike' races on the famous triangle course, has struggled in the early stages of the British Superbikes season but is hopeful that the North West could mark a turning point in his year.

"I never expected to go under a lap record in the moment we were in but the one thing I learned yesterday was to do that in a road race, you have got to ride it like a short circuit," said Irwin on Friday.

"I feel like I have woken up. Last night was a taster and I feel like Saturday can be really strong."

Dean Harrison and Alastair Seeley also registered impressive times and will join Irwin at the front of the grid.

"The Superbike race is going to be hot and heavy," predicted Irwin.

"If you put the head down when those lights go green, you can always turn it out of a dogfight and into a two or three horse race. "

Seeley in high spirits after Superstock crash

The Supersport class provided the most drama on Thursday night with Seeley crashing late in the final lap as he fought to take first place.

The 39-year-old, who has a record 24 wins at the North West, was engaged in an exciting battle with eventual winner Lee Johnston throughout the six laps before coming off at Juniper chicane.

Alastair Seeley
Seeley led several times during Thursday's Supersport race before crashing during the final lap

"I went for it as I always do, I never settle for second best," reflected Seeley, who was able to walk back to the pits following the crash.

"It is not ideal, you don't want to crash at any road race but it was probably the slowest point to do it.

"The bike is not too bad, I'm not too bad, it's just the helmet which I will not be using again."

Seeley has won at least one race at the North West every year since his maiden success in 2008 and will hope to continue that streak on Saturday when he is set to feature in both the Supersport and the Superbikes.

"I am not worked up about making it (25 race wins)," he said.

"It is so hard round here to do it. So many riders are here with good machinery and good teams.

"I will use my experience I know this place inside out and I will try and stay off the gravel."