A relaxed and confident William Dunlop says there will be ‘no excuses’ this year as he sets out to challenge for honours at the international road races and a much-prized maiden Isle of Man TT triumph.
Dunlop will ride full-time this season for long-term backers Chris Dowd and Ivan Curran in the CD Racing team, continuing with his favoured Yamaha R6 for the Supersport races and choosing the YZF-R1 Superbike as his weapon of choice for the premier class.
I’m enjoying myself a lot more and I feel relaxed... I’m in a good place
Both bikes are currently being prepared by renowned engine guru and former Yamaha World Superbike engineer Marcus Eschenbacher in Germany, though Dunlop is due to test each machine in two weeks’ time at Almeria in Spain.
The 30-year-old made an impromptu appearance at the Barry Symmons-organised Pro Test at Cartagena last Thursday, where he spent the day clocking up the laps on an older-spec Yamaha R6 before winding down by playing some golf on Friday prior to returning home to Northern Ireland.
Dunlop also has the expertise of Nick Morgan’s MSS Performance crew in his corner in 2016, when he will ride a Kawasaki ZX-10R in the Superstock class on the roads and the opening rounds of the British championship at Silverstone, Oulton Park and Brands Hatch as part of his tune up for the TT.
It’s an environment Dunlop feels especially comfortable in and the Ballymoney man has already ticked off more laps in pre-season than ever before as he adopts a different approach to his racing in 2016.
“My fitness is as good as it’s ever been and although I haven’t done as much training as I have sometimes in the past, I’m enjoying myself a lot more and I feel so relaxed,” he said.
“I did my best ever laps at Cartagena on the 600 on Thursday, a good bit quicker than I’d ever gone before.
“I’ve done more laps in pre-season so far this year than I’ve ever done before in testing. We’ve had five days of testing in total and I’ve more to come at Almeria for three days and then the BSB tests in England.
“Everything is clicking well and I just feel like I’m in a good place,” added Dunlop, who parted company from Ulster’s Tyco BMW team last season after a two-year stint.
“I’m really pushing myself to have a good year and I’ve got the right people around me. Having Nick Morgan looking after things with the Superstock bike is brilliant because if I’ve a problem, I’m coming into the pits and going straight to him to deal with it – you’re not going and speaking to someone else who then has to go and pass on what you’re saying to Nick.
“If I come into the pits and want something changed, Nick and ‘Jeb’ [John Cobbold, MSS engine technician] are there and the bike is changed right there and then while I’m standing there. It’s nice having that sort of input and I’m going to take full advantage of it,” he said.
“The way I’m doing things this year with testing in Spain and some British championship rounds is the way a lot of the TT guys do things every year, so there’s no excuses now.”
Due to a calendar shake-up, April heralds the first three Irish National road races of the year with the Mid Antrim 150 [April 2], Cookstown 100 [April 23] and Tandragee 100 [April 30] all taking place during the same month.
However, Dunlop has already confirmed his absence at the Mid Antrim and says it is unlikely he will be at Cookstown or Tandragee as he concentrates instead on the short circuit tests and British Superstock 1000 rounds.
“I definitely won’t be doing the Mid Antrim because it’s too early for us in the season and the boys are actually trying to keep me away from doing any of the Nationals before the TT, because the main thing is to get there in one piece,” he explained.
“Everything has been going so well and they want to concentrate on getting a lot of testing done and then obviously I’ll get more track time in the British Superstock rounds at Silverstone, Oulton and Brands Hatch before the TT.
“We might actually end up doing a good bit of the British championship.”
“Having seen some of the lap times at Cartagena and comparing them to what I did on a rode bike, I’d be pretty confident I can do a decent job.”