LIVE updates from Thursday's opening races at the North West 200 - Wins for Lee Johnston, Peter Hickman and Stefano Bonetti
Peter Hickman powered to his second ever victory at the North West 200 with a decisive triumph in the opening Superstock event.
The Smiths Racing BMW rider, who started from pole, repeated his success from the corresponding race last year as he started the 2019 international road racing season on a high.
Carrick’s Glenn Irwin finished in second place, 1.8 seconds behind, with third place going to Michael Dunlop on his MD Racing BMW.
Dunlop found himself in rostrum contention after Dean Harrison slid off unhurt at University on the penultimate lap of six on his Silicone Engineering Kawasaki.
It was Irwin who made the early running on the Quattro Plant/Wicked Coatings Kawasaki, but Hickman was giving chase with James Hillier (Quattro Plant/Wicked Coatings Kawasaki), Harrison, Ian Hutchinson (Honda Racing) Lee Johnston (Ashcourt Racing BMW) and Dunlop jostling for position in behind.
Hickman had taken the lead by Metropole on lap two and from there, the British Superbike rider began to gradually open a gap over Irwin and Harrison.
The top three pulled clear of the rest, leaving Johnston, Dunlop, Hillier, Hutchinson, Davey Todd (Penz BMW) and newcomer Richard Cooper (Buildbase Suzuki) to fight it out.
Irwin and Harrison became involved in a battle for second place as they swapped places in behind Hickman, who was continuing to edge further ahead.
On lap five, Irwin was left clear in second when Harrison appeared to lose the front end of his Kawasaki at University, promoting Dunlop to third.
Hickman went on to close out his second North West 200 win as he make amends for his earlier retirement in the Supersport race.
Behind Irwin and Dunlop, Hillier took fourth ahead of Supersport winner Johnston, while Nottingham man Cooper claimed a fine sixth in his first ever road race.
Hutchinson, Rutter and Davey Todd all failed to finish the race.
Fermanagh man Lee Johnston clinched his first Supersport victory at the North West 200 in dramatic fashion as Alastair Seeley crashed out on the final lap.
Johnston (Ashcourt Yamaha), Seeley (EHA Yamaha), Dean Harrison (Silicone Kawasaki), James Hillier (Quattro Plant Kawasaki) and Paul Jordan (Logan Yamaha) were involved in a thrilling five-way scrap in the sunshine around the 8.9-mile course.
The lead changed hands throughout, with Johnston and Seeley enjoying the lion’s share at the head of the pack.
Magherafelt man Jordan was riding a fantastic race as he held a watching brief in fifth place, but there was bitter disappointment for the Ulsterman when he was forced out at Mill Road roundabout on the penultimate lap. Michael Dunlop, who had dropped off the leading group on his MD Racing Honda, was promoted to fifth place.
As the leading quartet battled it out, Johnston led over the line at the start of the sixth and final lap from Seeley, Harrison and Hillier.
Carrick man Seeley, a 12-time winner in the class, was ahead at Ballysally roundabout but Johnston had edged back into the lead by the time they reached Metropole in Portrush, with Hillier and Harrison in close company.
Seeley began to line up his move on the Coast Road and drew alongside Johnston as they braked for Juniper Hill chicane, but the 39-year-old went in slightly hot and ran wide onto the grass, crashing out of contention.
Johnston held on to win by 0.7s from Harrison, with Hillier rounding out the top three. Dunlop was next, 25.3 seconds behind the winner, with Jamie Coward snatching a fine fifth place on the Prez Racing Yamaha ahead of Honda Racing’s Ian Hutchinson.
Davey Todd (Milenco by Padgett’s Honda) and Gary Johnson (RAF Reserves Triumph) were the top eight.
Peter Hickman was a retirement on his Trooper Beer Triumph on lap one.
In the Supertwin race, Italy’s Stefano Bonetti clinched his first win by only half-a-second from Jamie Coward.
Jeremy McWilliams crashed out at Mather's chicane while fellow KMR Kawasaki rider Derek McGee was a retirement.
Bonetti won the race on the Paton, with 14-time NW200 winner Michael Rutter making it onto the rostrum in third on the Bathams/KMR Kawasaki, 7.4 seconds behind the winner.
Newcomer James Chawke was an eye-catching fourth on his Paton ahead of Horst Saiger, who was also riding one of the Italian machines.
Lisburn’s Carl Phillips, making his road racing debut, was ninth on the ILR/Mark Coverdale Paton.