Michael Dunlop has unveiled his new MD Racing livery for 2016 as he sticks with his trusty BMW S1000RR for the Superstock class this year.
Dunlop, who will also ride the Hawk Racing BMW in the Superbike races at the North West 200, Isle of Man TT and Ulster Grand Prix, has yet to confirm his choice of machinery in the Supersport class but has the freedom to take his pick of the middleweight bikes within his own independent team.
The 27-year-old has a provisional entry for this weekend’s KDM Hire Cookstown 100 in Co Tyrone, although it seems that Dunlop will instead take in the May Bank Holiday British Superbike meeting at Oulton Park, joining up with Buildbase BMW riders Richard Cooper, Lee Jackson and Taylor Mackenzie at the Cheshire track.
His first outing on the roads therefore is due to be at next month’s North West 200 before he returns to the Isle of Man TT, where Dunlop is bidding to add to his haul of 11 victories around the Mountain Course.
The Ballymoney man contested the opening BSB race at Silverstone earlier this month and confirmed that he would again be in action this weekend in some guise.
“I feel like I’m still going around at Silverstone if I’m honest but we struggled the whole weekend with different things,” said Dunlop, asked recently if he would be present at Cookstown.
“Whatever we decide will be the most beneficial to us. I’m not sure at the moment but we’ll be racing somewhere that weekend.”
Dunlop - who has launched his own website, www.michaeldunlopracing.com - will ride with the number six plate at the TT this year, which served him so well when he achieved back-to-back four-timers in 2013 and 2014.
“I’m okay with number six and I’ll go wherever they want me,” he said. “We’ll keep our head down and it makes no difference to me.”
In Dunlop’s expected absence, the entry at Cookstown is headlined by Dan Kneen on the Mar-Train Racing Yamaha machines, who won the feature Superbike race last weekend at the Tandragee 100, plus William Dunlop (MSS Kawasaki Superstock) and Cookstown B.E. Racing riders Derek Sheils and newcomer Malachi Mitchell-Thomas.
Manxman Kneen is set to ride the YZF-R1M Superstock machine this weekend at the 2.1-mile Orritor course, where he won in a dramatic circumstances on his previous visit to the event in 2014, edging out William Dunlop on corrected time in the main Superbike race.
Dunlop, meanwhile, is still waiting for his first outing on his new CD-IC Racing Yamaha R1 Superbike.
The 30-year-old made his roads bow on the Kawasaki Superstock machine at Tandragee and will again ride the ZX-10R on Saturday.
Dunlop experienced a clutch issue with his CD-IC Racing Yamaha R6 at Tandragee but hopes to have the problem resolved for the Supersport races, when he would start as the clear favourite.
Derek McGee on the NW Racing BMW, Michael Sweeney, Seamus Elliott, Paul Jordan and Davy Morgan are other leading names in attendance.
Waterford’s Brian McCormack is a late entry in the Supersport and Open races while James Cowton also returns to the event after finishing a strong sixth in the big race of the day in 2015.
In the smaller classes, Gary Dunlop is set to make his debut at the Orritor course in the 125cc race, while Derek McGee will again ride the Joey’s Bar 125cc Honda.
The line-up also includes Sam Wilson, Nigel Moore, Paul Robinson, Adam McLean and Paul Jordan.
In the Supertwins class, Mitchell-Thomas and Sheils are among the top contenders on the Burrows’ Kawasaki bikes.
Practice is due to take place on Friday from 12 noon with four races scheduled later, including the Supersport Invitational race.
on Saturday, roads will close at 10am sharp for a 15-race programme.