Stephen Thompson hopeful of surprise podium challenge at Dundrod

Miss NI finalist Zoe Robb, Clerk of the Course Noel Johnston, Crumlin rider Stephen Thompson  and Rajesh Rana, Director at Andras House.
Miss NI finalist Zoe Robb, Clerk of the Course Noel Johnston, Crumlin rider Stephen Thompson and Rajesh Rana, Director at Andras House.

Bathams BMW rider Stephen Thompson feels he will have his best chance ever of battling for a podium finish in the Superstock class at the Metzeler Ulster Grand Prix in August.

Thompson, who finished 11th and ninth in the Superstock races at the North West 200, has joined Michael Rutter in the black and gold livery this season for the international road races.

The 36-year-old is currently preparing for the Isle of Man TT, which gets under way on Saturday with the opening practice session on the Mountain Course, but Thompson is already looking forward to his annual trip to Dundrod.

The Crumlin rider has yet to claim a top-three finish at an international meeting on the roads, but says he is ‘excited’ by his prospects at the world’s fastest road race this summer.

“I’m really excited about the Metzeler Ulster Grand Prix this year. It’s an event I always enjoy but I’m especially looking forward to racing with the new BMW S1000RR,” said Thompson.

“The bike was somewhat an unknown on the roads, but BMW have really committed to road racing this year and the S1000RR has already proven itself in the hands of Michael Dunlop and Michael Rutter at the North West 200.

“I’m working hard to get the bike set-up and by the Ulster Grand Prix in August I’m confident we will have a strong package and be close to the front.”

Thompson was speaking at the official announcement of a new deal between the Ulster Grand prix and the Ramada Plaza, with spectators being offer a 10 per cent reduction off every rate at the hotel during Bike Week at the event from August 11-16.

Rajesh Rana, Director of Andras House Ltd, owners of the Ramada Plaza and Days Hotel, said: “We are delighted and proud to sponsor the Ulster Grand Prix in 2014. The races are an important part of Northern Ireland’s culture and they bring a significant amount of tourism and business to our local economy.

“The Ramada Plaza and Days Hotel will be supporting the event in any way we can with accommodation, venue hire and hospitality. We wish all the riders taking part good luck.”

Ulster GP Clerk of the Course, Noel Johnston, added: “It’s great to see road racing continue to attract high profile sponsors and we are really excited about working with the Ramada Plaza as our hotel partner.

“This year is looking like another great year and it I’m looking forward to seeing Stephen on his new machinery as it has clearly given him a big boost in confidence.”

To avail of the discounted accommodation offer at the Ramada Plaza or Days Hotel visit the website of either hotel and input the promo code UGP2014 during the booking process.

Meanwhile, Toome man Michael Laverty finished 16th for the fourth time in the first five rounds of the MotoGP World Championship at Le Mans in France on Sunday.

The race was won by Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez, who was celebrating his fifth straight victory. Valentino Rossi on the Movistar Yamaha and Alvaro Bautista (Gresini Honda) were the top three.

Laverty, who narrowly missed out on securing a point on the PBM machine, said: “I can’t believe I’ve finished in 16th place again.

“For the fourth time in five races we have finished just one position back from scoring points.

“They will come for sure, the team are doing a good job and I feel I am riding well.”