Derek McGee maintained his excellent run of form after clinching pole in four classes during practice for the 10th anniversary Bayview Hotel Armoy Road Races on Friday.
The Mullingar rider will start as the hot favourite to add to his unbeaten run of 14 Irish roads victories after topping the times in the Open, Supersport, Supertwins and 125/Moto3 classes.
Home favourite Michael Dunlop will not defend his ‘Race of Legends’ title, which the Ballymoney man has won a record seven times in a row since 2011. The 29-year-old did not take part in qualifying, ending speculation over whether or not he would race at Armoy following the death of his brother William in a crash at the Skerries 100 near Dublin on July 7.
Derek Sheils is also a non-starter on the Burrows Engineering Racing Suzuki as he continues to weigh up his future following the recent tragedies in the sport, although Tobermore’s Adam McLean will race at Armoy after claiming last week that it was “unlikely” he would compete again on the roads this year.
McLean’s McAdoo Racing team-mate, James Cowton, was killed in a crash at the Southern 100 on July 12.
McGee has been the man to beat on the Irish National scene since the Isle of Man TT and lived up to his reputation in practice, clinching pole on the CITP Kawasaki, with young English rider Davey Todd only one second behind in second place (Burrows Engineering Racing Suzuki).
Skerries man Michael Sweeney was third quickest overall ahead of Paul Jordan on his 600 Yamaha, with McLean fourth fastest on the McAdoo Kawasaki ZX-6. Dominic Herbertson completed the top six.
In the Supersport session, McGee led the way on the B&W/Lady B Kawasaki by 1.6s from McLean, with Jordan only a further 0.160s back in third.
Todd, who made an impressive debut at Armoy last summer – securing two podium finishes – was fourth fastest, 0.3s back on Jordan. Christian Elkin and Graham Kennedy rounded out the top half dozen on the leaderboard.
McGee was miles clear on the 125/Moto3 time sheets as he dominated on the Joey’s Bar Honda M3, taking the top spot by 3.6s from Elkin on Bob Wylie’s Honda, with Kevin Fitzpatrick slotting into third on the Harp Farm 125 Honda.
Melissa Kennedy was fourth on the KNR Racing Honda M3 ahead of Gary Dunlop (Joey’s Bar 125 Honda) and Nigel Moore (125 Honda). Paul Robinson and Sam Dunlop were eighth and ninth fastest respectively on their 125 Honda machines.
McGee also had the bit between his teeth on Ryan Farquhar’s KMR Kawasaki as he came out on top in the Supertwins session by 2.4s from McLean, with Elkin and Todd the top four.
Neil Kernohan was fastest in the Lightweight Supersport session from Stephen McKeown and Davy Morgan, while Darren Keys and Liam Chawke will start on pole in the Senior and Junior Support classes respectively.
In the Classic session, Ed Manly topped the leaderboard overall ahead of Barry Davidson.
New Zealand’s Daniel Mettam - a newcomer - crashed on the opening lap of Supersport practice on Wilson Craig’s Honda, forcing a red flag. He was taken to hospital, but did not sustain any life-threatening injuries.
The first Supersport and Senior Support races will take place on Friday evening.