Much of the talk, naturally, surrounding Michael Dunlop’s prospects in 2013 centre on his chances of winning a Superbike race at the Isle of Man TT.
Dunlop, who has become an official Honda rider for next season with the TT Legends team, is expected to take the fight to Mountain titan and teammate John McGuinness in June, setting up a mouth-watering confrontation in the blue riband class between the master and young pretender to his throne.
However, while Dunlop’s primary focus is indeed to claim TT glory in the Superbike category, he remains as committed as ever to the Supersport and Superstock classes.
The 23-year-old’s prowess on the Yamaha R6 has been well documented, rewarding him with two TT victories in 2009 and again this summer.
He has also proved a formidable force on the Kawasaki ZX-10R Superstock machine, earning wins at the TT and Ulster Grand Prix.
Next year, for the first time, Dunlop - who won races this season on Yamaha, Honda, Kawasaki and Suzuki machinery - will be restricted solely to Honda power, sacrificing his trusty Yamaha R6 and Kawasaki ’stocker for the factory Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade he will ride in the red, white and blue Legends colours at the North West 200 and TT.
Irregardless, the Ballymoney bruiser is looking ahead to 2013 with more enthusiasm than ever before and Superbike aside, is especially fired up to throw down the gauntlet on the CBR600RR, which is being supplied by Simon Buckmaster’s World Supersport PTR outfit.
His international campaign begins in earnest at the Vauxhall North West 200 in May, when Dunlop believes he will have his best chance to date of winning a feature race at the event to add to his emotional 250cc success following the death of his dad, Robert, back in 2008.
“William [Dunlop] said to me in the past that the Yamaha R6 was just as fast as the Honda, but you only have to look at the facts and figures to see that the Honda was a lot faster than anything else out there.
“I know the bike will be quick and it will make things very interesting,” he added.
“Once we stretch the legs of that Honda down the back straight at the North West we’ll prove how fast she is and I know I’ll be able to cause a few problems.”
Michael’s two Supersport victories at the TT have been achieved on the R6, but he is relishing the challenge of proving he can repeat the feat on a different machine next year.
“I know that a 128mph lap is possible on a 600, maybe even 129mph at the TT and that’s where I want to be next year,” said Dunlop, who holds the current lap record for the class at 127.836mph set in 2010.
“I have targets, I have a ballpark that I want to be in and that’s my aim next year on the 600.
“I’m a factory rider now and I’m out to prove a point.”