Michael Dunlop has revealed that he will participate in a test this week before confirming his plans for the 2014 road racing season.
Dunlop, who won four races at the Isle of Man TT last year, including a much sought-after victory in the Superbike class on the Honda TT Legends machine, announced in November that he was considering taking a year out from the sport unless a suitable offer materialised.
The 24-year-old parted company from Honda after a superb season during which he chalked up victories at the North West 200, Southern 100, Ulster Grand Prix and Scarborough Gold Cup meetings in addition to his TT four-timer and a string of Irish National successes on his MD Racing machines.
There has been intense speculation about the Ballymoney rider’s next move, but Dunlop has been strongly linked to BMW for the Superbike class this season on a factory-backed S1000-RR.
And although he stopped short of officially confirming any links with the German manufacturer, Dunlop has admitted that he is set to take part in a test this week.
Speaking at the Adelaide Motorcycle Awards in Belfast on Friday evening, the seven-time TT winner - who won the IFS International and National Road Racer of the Year accolades - said: “If I’m going back racing everything has to be right - I want to be able to go and enjoy myself again.
“I’m testing a bike next week and if all goes right and I enjoy it then I’ll come back this year, but at this moment in time I won’t be racing.
“My goal was to win a Superbike race at the Isle of Man TT I did it last year,” he added. “I knew it would be something that would eat me for the rest of my life if I never won a Superbike TT.
“I’ve been lucky because I have great sponsors in this game and I don’t think many people can say they have sponsors like I have - they’re the best ever and they’ve stuck by me through everything.”
Dunlop was also awarded the Freedom of Ballymoney on Friday morning in recognition of his achievements in motorcycle racing at a ceremony attended by his family, including mum Louise, grandmother May and his brother William.
His father, Robert and uncle, Joey also received the honour in 2007 and 1993 respectively.
World Superbike star Eugene Laverty received the main award in Belfast on Friday as the Toome man was crowned the Adelaide Irish Motorcyclist of the Year in association with Enkalon for the second time.
Laverty finished as runner-up in the World Superbike Championship last year, notching nine wins on the works Aprilia RSV4.
He was unable to attend the event due to pre-season testing commitments with his new Voltcom Crescent Suzuki team in Spain, but a delighted Laverty was presented with the prestigious Joey Dunlop trophy at his home in Monaco.
It was the second time the 27-year-old receive the honour after winning the title in 2010, when he finished second in the World Supersport Championship.
Dunlop was second overall with ISB champion Nico Mawhinney third.