Reigning isle of Man TT Privateer champion Dan Stewart is coveting a return to the Ulster Grand Prix at Dundrod in August in what could be the SMT Honda team’s sole Northern Ireland appearance this year.
Stewart has signed a deal with Robin Croft’s outfit for the TT in June, when he will ride a variety of machinery in the Superbike, Senior, Superstock and Supersport classes.
One of the TT’s most consistent performers in recent years, Stewart will ride a Honda Fireblade in the premier class on the Mountain Course plus the Kawasaki ZX-10 Superstock machine which carried Ulsterman Keith Farmer to the National Superstock 1000 crown in 2012.
He will also contest the Supersport races at the TT on Steve Plater’s former British Championship-winning Honda CBR600RR.
The 37-year-old, who will compete in the National Superstock 1000 Championship in 2013, will continue to receive backing for a tenth year from loyal sponsor Graham Wilcock of Wilcock Consulting.
Croft’s SMT Racing team has an impressive British Superbike and international road racing pedigree, previously running star names including James Ellison, Chris Walker and Michael Rutter.
A lack of funding has prevented the team from competing in BSB, however SMT Racing was back in the headlines last November as Rutter dominated at the Macau Grand Prix to claim a record eighth success.
The TT is Stewart’s main focus this season but while there are no plans to use the North West 200 in May as a warm-up to the Island showpiece, the SMT Racing team hasn’t ruled out a trip to the Ulster GP, where Stewart finished third on his debut in the National race in 2010.
Team owner Croft told the News Letter: “The deal has worked out well for us so far and I think Dan’s best chances are in the three big bike races at the TT.
“If you go by the form guide, then Dan should be creeping into the top 10, but you can never go by the form guide at the TT because so many things can happen.
“He’s doing the British Superstock series this year so he’ll have plenty of time on the bike before the TT and plus he’ll have a test with us on the Superbike.
“We’re not doing the North West, but Dan wants to do the Ulster, although we haven’t talked about that yet as we’re jumping one hurdle at a time,” he added.
“Obviously as a team we want to go back to Macau to defend our title there but at this stage I’d be looking at going back there with the same two riders as last year [John McGuinness and Michael Rutter].
“So the plan is definitely to race the TT, possibly the Ulster Grand Prix and definitely Macau.”
Cumbrian Stewart, who has racked up 16 top ten finishes at the TT since 2006 including three consecutive sixth places in 2009, 2010 and 2011, is intent on making the most of his best opportunity yet to enhance his reputation as a serious roads contender.
“I’m delighted to be joining Robin’s team,” he said.
“I’ll have a better set-up for 2013 than ever before and with SMT’s considerable expertise and knowledge, it should allow me to post more consistent lap times and, hopefully, break the 130mph barrier and improve upon my previous best finish of sixth.
“Everything’s in place for me to have my best ever year at the TT.”
Former British Supersport champion Karl Harris made his Isle of Man TT debut with SMT Racing in 2012.