Michael Dunlop in rally mode for NI Motorcycle Festival

Michael Dunlop will be a star attraction at the Northern Ireland Motorcycle Festival in February.
Michael Dunlop will be a star attraction at the Northern Ireland Motorcycle Festival in February.
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Michael Dunlop is set to wow fans once again at the Blackhorse Northern Ireland Motorcycle Festival in February in his Ford Escort MK2 rally car.

The 13-time Isle of Man TT winner became the first rider ever to clock a sub-17 minute lap of the Mountain Course last year, completing the 37.73-mile course in a time of 16m 58s from a standing start.

Dunlop’s blistering time was also the first 133mph TT lap as he blitzed the RST Superbike race, which he went on to win in dominant style on the Hawk Racing BMW from Ian Hutchinson.

The Ballymoney man completed a big bike double on the island with another imperious performance in the PokerStars Senior TT to move onto 13 wins overall, only one victory behind the late Mike Hailwood.

Dunlop attended the annual motorcycling festival last year at the Eikon Exhibition Centre in Lisburn and put on a scintillating display in his rally car outside the venue.

The Ulster star, who raised the outright lap record at the TT to almost 134mph in the Senior race last June, setting a new benchmark of 133.962mph on his second lap as he pitted for fuel – a staggering lap time of 16m 53.929s – will attend the festival on Saturday and Sunday, February 4-5.

Billy Nutt, entering his 22nd year of promoting the biking spectacular, said he is delighted to have Dunlop in attendance once again.

“Michael will return with his rally car and we’re delighted to welcome him back,” said Nutt.

“He put on a real show last year and it proved really popular with the fans, so anyone who may have missed out last time will have another chance to see him in action up close.

“He’ll be there on the Saturday and Sunday and plus we have confirmed the Purple Helmets stunt team once again this year, so there will be plenty to see outside as well as inside. It promises to be terrific entertainment over the course of the weekend.”

Dunlop, who also clinched a Superbike victory at the North West 200 last year and established a new outright lap record, has yet to officially announce his plans for 2017.

Following the sensational news this week of Guy Martin’s return to the international road races as part of Honda Racing’s set-up with 23-time TT winner John McGuinness, Dunlop remains the last major piece of the 2017 jigsaw to fall into place.

Meanwhile, new Jackson Racing signing Lee Johnston has also been confirmed for the NI Motorcycle Festival and joins a star-studded guest list that includes four-time World Superbike champion and ‘King of the Jungle’ Carl Fogarty, plus NW200 record holder Alastair Seeley.

The festival will run over three days from Friday, February 3 to Sunday, February 5.

Many of the new 2017 models will be on display, and it is hoped Honda’s all-new Fireblade will be on show next month along with the latest Kawasaki, BMW, Triumph, Suzuki, Yamaha, KTM and Harley Davidson machines.

The Motorcycle Racing Association (MRA) will again host the ‘Motocross Village’ while the Temple Club will run the David Jefferies Memorial Supermoto event on the Saturday and Sunday.

The Northern Ireland Karting Association (NIKA) will also be represented along with the Motor Cycle Union of Ireland (MCUI).

Opening times: Friday, February 3 (2pm-10pm); Saturday, February 4 and Sunday, February 5 (10am-5pm).

Admission: Adults £12 (senior citizens £6).