Michael Dunlop out to defend ‘Legends’ crown at Armoy

Michael Dunlop in action at the Southern 100
Michael Dunlop in action at the Southern 100

Michael Dunlop will be aiming to maintain his stranglehold on the blue riband ‘Race of Legends’ at the SGS International Armoy Road Races this weekend.

Dunlop has won the feature race at the event for four years running to stamp his authority on his home meeting and his partisan fans in the heartland of Irish road racing will be willing him on as he bids for a famous five on Saturday.

The 26-year-old has endured a disappointing season by his standards but Dunlop still has the Metzeler Ulster Grand Prix to come next month and a victory in his own backyard in the showpiece race at Armoy would be the ideal precursor to the ‘World’s Fastest Road Race’ on August 8.

Dunlop will lock horns with old adversary Guy Martin at both events as the duo square off on BMW S1000RR machinery.

Tyco BMW star Martin comes to Armoy in a rich vein of form after a successful Southern 100, where the Grimsby racer joined Joey Dunlop as the only riders ever to have won the Solo Championship in three consecutive years.

The 33-year-old was crowned ‘Man of the Meeting’ at Armoy in 2014 after winning the second Supersport race and the Open Superbike showdown before finishing second to Dunlop in the ‘Race of Legends’.

The international roads heavyweights seem poised to dispute the major honours again, but Martin’s Tyco BMW team-mate William Dunlop and Bradford’s Dean Harrison on the Mar-Train Yamaha will hope to have a say in matters.

A quality line-up also includes Keith Amor on his Rig Deluge BMW S1000RR and Honda Supersport machines, plus Dublin’s Derek Sheils on the BikeBits NI Kawasaki and Mullingar’s Derek McGee, who will ride his own Kawasaki ZX-10R, Yamaha R6 and 650cc Wogan Performance Kawasaki Supertwin.

Ballymoney’s Seamus Elliott will be keen to make an impression for Wilson Craig Racing after joining the team in the wake of McGee’s departure last month.

Elliott triumphed in the Supersport class at the Southern 100 to seal the biggest win of his career so far and will have his sights set on the rostrum at least in the 600cc races.

James Cowton and Connor Behan, who will ride for the Air Kawasaki team, add more polish to the impressive entry.

The Supertwins race heralds the return to Armoy of SGS/KMR Kawasaki riders Ryan Farquhar and Jeremy McWilliams.

Team owner Farquhar, who last contested the Supertwins race at Armoy in 2012, and McWilliams will start as the hot favourites on the immaculately prepared KMR machines but face something of an unknown quantity in Guy Martin, who will make his Supertwin debut on John Burrows’ Cookstown/BE Racing Kawasaki.

McWilliams made his Armoy bow in 2013, finishing a narrow runner-up to Jamie Hamilton – who misses the event through injury – and will be hopeful of going one better this year.

Magherafelt’s Adam McLean will also ride a KMR Supertwin in the Junior Support race, while Canadian Darren James makes his first appearance at Armoy in Farquhar’s team following an encouraging debut at the North West 200.

“It’s an important event for the team because SGS International are heavily involved as title sponsors and we want to put on a good show,” Farquhar said.

“I’ve been involved with Armoy from before the race ever took place and spent many days going around the circuit offering advice before the race was ever held.

“I’ve seen the work and effort that has gone into the event and now that SGS are involved the whole thing is just tied together and it’s a race that I’m close to.”

Practice and the first Supersport race takes place on Friday with roads closed from 12.30pm.

An 11-race programme is scheduled on Saturday, with roads closing at 10am sharp.