Michael Pearson hopes to take the fight to hot favourite Michael Dunlop at next month’s KDM Hire Cookstown 100 in Co Tyrone.
The former Irish Superbike Champion joins an impressive entry for the traditional opening road race meeting of the season at the 2.1-mile Orritor circuit on Saturday, April 26, where Isle of Man TT star Dunlop could make his much awaited roads debut for BMW.
Pearson narrowly missed out on the rostrum at the Cookstown last year, twice finishing fourth in the Open A and feature Cookstown 100 Superbike races, but in the absence of Tyco Suzuki’s Guy Martin the Lisburn rider is targeting the top three and hopes to make a race of it with Dunlop.
Preparing for his second season in the Team Hotties Road Racing team, backed by title sponsors Northern Installations Escalators, Pearson says he’s determined to start the season on a high.
“Last year we had a good run at Cookstown in both the Superbike and Supersport classes, and with the new ZX-10R Northern Escalators Kawasaki now well set up after our test at Cartagena, my goal is to jump on the podium this year,” he said.
“Last year it was Michael Dunlop and Guy Martin out in front in the big class, but with no Guy this year hopefully we can close the gap to Micky and make a decent race of it and be fighting for a podium.”
Lincolnshire rider Martin, who won last year’s Supersport race after holding off a final lap surge by Dunlop, misses the national road race as the 32-year-old competes in the Bol d’Or 24-Hour meeting instead, which takes place over the same weekend.
However, new TAS Racing signing William Dunlop will be in action for Tyco Suzuki at the Moneymore team’s home race, while Manx rider Dan Kneen makes the trip for John Burrows’ Cookstown/BE Racing team.
Pearson, whose Kawasaki ZX-10R has been prepared by MSS Racing, will also ride in the Thundersport GB series in 2014.
“My plans for this year will be to compete in the 2014 British Powerbike Thundersport Championship. I’ll also be competing on the national road racing scene and there’s no better place to get that part of my season underway than at Cookstown.
“Even though track time in qualifying is limited to get three bikes set up, it’s a great wee circuit and the fans always come out in force with it being the opening race of the year between the hedges locally.”
Pearson - who is joined in the team by Fermanagh’s Paul Gartland, winner of the Cookstown 100 B race in 2013 - will also ride Kawasaki machinery in the Supersport class and is entered in the Supertwin race on the Rod Lee Racing Kawasaki ER6.
Dunlop could also make an appearance in the 650cc class on the McAdoo Kawasaki as the seven-time TT winner builds towards the start of the international season at the Vauxhall North West 200 in May.
Roads are scheduled to close for practice at the Cookstown 100 at 12 noon on Friday, April 25 and again from 10am sharp on Saturday, April 26 for race day.
Prior to the Irish national curtain-raiser at Cookstown, Tyco Suzuki’s Dunlop and Martin will compete at the Ian Watson Spring National meeting at Oliver’s Mount, Scarborough, on Sunday, April 13.
Ulster’s Ryan Farquhar is also due to race at Scarborough in the Supertwin class.