Michael Dunlop poised for Imatra debut on Penz13 Honda in first race since Isle of Man TT

Michael Dunlop is poised to make his debut at Imatra in Finland this weekend, where his uncle Joey was a winner in 1986 on his way to a fifth consecutive TT Formula 1 world title.

By Kyle White
Wednesday, 29th June 2022, 10:52 am
Updated Wednesday, 29th June 2022, 10:55 am

Dunlop is entered on a Honda Fireblade for the Penz13.com team at the newly named Jarno Saarinen Circuit.

Imatra is marking its 60th anniversary this year as Finland’s famous road racing course hosts the second round of the International Road Racing Championship.

Ballymoney man Dunlop increased his tally of Isle of Man TT wins to 21 with a double in the Supersport races on his MD Racing Yamaha R6.

Michael Dunlop on his own MD Racing Honda Fireblade Superstock machine at the Isle of Man TT.

He is now only two wins behind 23-time winner John McGuinness, while the 33-year-old is also closing in on Joey’s all-time record of 26 victories around the Mountain Course.

Dunlop is familiar with the new Honda Fireblade after riding his own bike at the North West 200 and TT, and the Ulsterman will no doubt be targeting the top step this weekend as the event takes place from July 2-3.

He showed he remains a force to be reckoned with at the TT, where Dunlop smashed his old Supersport lap record to set a new benchmark of 129.475mph.

“There’s life in the old dog yet,” said Dunlop after winning the opening Supersport race.

“It’s good to get another one and thanks to the team because it’s been a hard year.

“I’ve always said when the job’s right, I’m right.”

Dunlop will be a red-hot favourite for more success at the Armoy Road Races next month.

His home road race will be officially launched on Wednesday (June 29) in Portballintrae with the Bayview Hotel on board once more as the title sponsor.

Lincolnshire’s Gary Johnson is also entered at Imatra, where he will ride for the Paukku Racing team in the Supersport and Open 600 classes.

The two-time Supersport TT winner is making his debut at the Finnish course and Johnson says the event has always been on his radar.

“I haven’t competed in Imatra before, but I’ve always wanted to come and experience it,” he said.

“Logistically Imatra is a challenging trip, but I hope for the best and that everything goes well in the race.”

Leading IRRC riders Didier Grams, Lukas Maurer and Laurent Hoffman lead the charge at the European race, while Frenchman Pierre Yves Bian is also a strong contender.

Yves Bian, the current IRRC Supersport champion, was a winner in the Supertwin class at the North West 200 in May after Richard Cooper was excluded from the results, and also excelled at the TT, finishing fourth in the Supertwin race on his VAS Engine Paton.

“After last year’s IRRC championship title, I decided to focus only on the big races this year,” said Yves Bian.

“I’ve trained a lot and prepared well, which I think is reflected in the results, and that’s great. The North West 200 Supertwin win was something absolutely magical.

“Even though I’m not riding the full IRRC series this year, I got an invitation to come to Imatra to ride a Superbike which is really great. Imatra is a special place, so I didn’t want to miss this opportunity.

“I have nothing but good memories from Imatra because I reached the first podium there in 2016 and won in the following years.”

Bian will ride for the Finnish Markka Racing team.

He is due to make his debut at Armoy from July 29-30, when he will link up with the Wilson Craig Racing Team alongside Ballymoney rider Darryl Tweed.