ULSTER GP: Harrison ready to challenge for Superbike honours

Dean Harrison on the Silicone Engineering Kawasaki at the Southern 100.
Dean Harrison on the Silicone Engineering Kawasaki at the Southern 100.

Dean Harrison is confident he can step forward and challenge for his maiden Superbike victory at the MCE Ulster Grand Prix on Saturday.

As practice gets underway on Wednesday morning around the 7.4-mile Dundrod course, Bradford man Harrison will be aiming to hit the ground running on the Silicone Engineering Kawasaki ZX-10R.

The 28-year-old brings some exciting form to the table on the back of his podium finishes in the premier class at the Isle of Man TT, plus a hard-earned Solo Championship success at the Southern 100 last month.

Harrison has yet to truly make his mark at Dundrod, although he did go agonisingly close to a breakthrough victory in 2014, when he was narrowly beaten to the post by Dan Kneen in a barnstorming Superstock race.

“The big bikes are where I wanted to progress this year because I think you need to be able to ride the Superbike well to prove yourself, and it’s where we’ve made the most progress,” said Harrison, who has confirmed he will remain with the Silicone Engineering Racing team for a third successive season in 2018.

“That’s the class I put a lot of time into, but then we’ve also made quite a few changes to the engine for this week too, so it will be a bit of trial and error. We’ve a new Motec ignition system to try out on the ZX-10, but fingers crossed it will be a flying machine.

“We’re doing the last four rounds of BSB later in the year, so if nothing else it will be good to get some laps under our belt to see what it’s like.

“In terms of targets, of course I enjoy riding all of the bikes, but I’ll definitely be trying hard on the Superbike. [Peter] Hickman and Michael Dunlop are probably the favourites and they are riding really well, but I think we can be in the mix,” added the English rider, who stole the show with a sizzling seven-timer at the Cock ’o the North meeting at Oliver’s Mount in June prior to the Southern 100.

“I’m now at that stage where I’ve got a good idea of where I’m going around Dundrod, so I’m confident. I feel like I can definitely push for podium in all classes.

“I’m feeling good to be honest. I’ve had good results at most places this year and I’m really looking forward to getting out this week.”

Ulster GP Clerk of the Course Noel Johnston rates Harrison as one of the standout contenders at the world’s fastest road race and was particularly impressed with his performances at the TT and Southern 100 on the bigger capacity machines.

“This season it feels like Dean has really come of age, especially after his performance on the big bikes at the TT and Southern 100,” said Johnston.

“He’s coming to Dundrod in rich vein of form and I’m confident it’s going to continue, especially as he’s got the same team behind him.”

Meanwhile, McKinstry Skip Hire has been confirmed as the sponsors of the Superpole qualifying session for the Superbikes on Saturday, which was introduced for the first time at Dundrod last year.

Roads close on Wednesday morning at 10am for practice, reopening no later than 9.30pm. On Thursday, roads will be closed during the same period for final practice and the Charles Hurst Dundrod 150 National meeting.