William Dunlop is reinvigorated and ready to put two disappointing years behind him as the Ballymoney rider’s 2017 preparations click into gear today at Donington Park.
Dunlop, who has taken the wraps off the IC Racing/Caffrey International Yamaha R6 he will ride in the Supersport class this year, will participate in the official British championship test before competing in a Thundersport round at Donington this weekend.
In an exclusive interview with the News Letter, the multiple North West 200 and Ulster Grand Prix winner is eagerly looking ahead to the new season and confidently predicts he is ‘feeling good’ about his prospects.
The 31-year-old will run his 600cc Yamaha as a private effort with backing from long-term sponsor Ivan Curran and Caffrey International. German-based tuning specialists KME will continue to prepare his machinery for the middleweight class, while mechanic Alastair Russell also remains as part of the tight-knit team.
Dunlop has signed for Halsall Racing for the Superbike and Superstock classes, but has yet to test his BMW machines and missed the Pro Test at Cartagena in Spain due to an issue with parts.
However, he is eager to get back into the groove this week on his trusty Yamaha and Dunlop is feeling up for the challenge after a miserable run of fortune at the Isle of Man TT in particular, where he has suffered three crashes in the last three years.
“It hasn’t been a good few years for me and I’ll admit there have been times when I’ve been wondering why I’m doing this, but then I needed to give myself a kick up the backside and get up and get something sorted with a bit of testing,” he said.
“I know the Yamaha well and it’s the same chassis, although the engine is a bit different. Now we can make a few changes to try and make it a bit easier to ride.
“Whether or not we get the new  R6 is pretty irrelevant because it won’t be any quicker than the one I have, as both have the same engine really. The new bike isn’t available yet anyway.
“I did the Classic TT in August but the Ulster Grand Prix is really the last time that I did anything properly on a bike; I haven’t done any motocross or anything like that over the winter and I’m a bit disappointed that I haven’t been anywhere to test yet before this BSB test at Donington, because all the other guys have been to Spain.
“This is just a wee run out for us on Wednesday because I need to get on a bike,” Dunlop added.
“After the test at Donington I’ll be staying on to do a Thundersport race at the weekend and it’s all about getting some track time. I thought I’d have been to Spain and done seven or eight days of testing by now, but because that hasn’t happened I just want to go and get some miles on my 600.
“It’s just got to the stage where I need to be sitting on a bike because the season is so close now.”
Dunlop plans to compete in the Irish Superbike meeting at Bishopscourt in Co Down at Easter and has also earmarked the Tandragee 100 on April 22 as a possibility prior to the North West 200.
“There’s a possibility I’ll do Tandragee but I haven’t made up my mind yet about Cookstown because it clashes with a British championship round at Oulton Park,” he said.
“The plan was to do the BSB round at Oulton for some time on the big bike, but we’ll have to wait and see what happens; Cookstown is still an option.”