Michael Dunlop sets sights on winning return at Ulster Grand Prix

Michael Dunlop with his Tyco BMW S1000RR Superbike at Cochranstown on the Ulster Grand Prix course at Dundrod.
Michael Dunlop with his Tyco BMW S1000RR Superbike at Cochranstown on the Ulster Grand Prix course at Dundrod.
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Michael Dunlop says he ‘wouldn’t bother racing at all’ if he felt he was no longer capable of winning on the biggest stages in road racing.

The Ballymoney man will make his return to the fonaCAB Ulster Grand Prix next month (August 5-10) after missing the event last year, when he took some time away from the sport following the tragic events of 2018.

Ballymoney man Michael Dunlop's last Ulster Grand Prix victory was in 2013 in the Superstock race on his MD Racing Honda Fireblade.

Ballymoney man Michael Dunlop's last Ulster Grand Prix victory was in 2013 in the Superstock race on his MD Racing Honda Fireblade.

Dunlop clinched a remarkable 19th victory at the Isle of Man TT in the Lightweight race last month on the Italian Paton – making it 50 TT wins in all for the Dunlop dynasty – but injury problems and a lack of racing miles hampered his prospects of challenging English duo Peter Hickman and Dean Harrison in the blue riband Superbike and Senior races.

The 30-year-old hurt his wrist following a spill during a test prior to the North West 200 and Dunlop aggravated the injury following a crash during the recent Donegal International Rally.

It’s been six years since his last win around the 7.4-mile Dundrod course in 2013, when he earned a comfortable triumph on his MD Racing Honda in the Superstock race, and the Tyco BMW rider admits his record of six wins in all at the Ulster GP has fallen below his own expectations.

“I haven’t carried much performance at the Ulster for a while and I am still short of bike time which puts me on the back foot,” said Dunlop, who pulled out of his debut in the Pikes Peak Hill Climb in Colorado at the end of June after his rally crash.

“I suppose all of this stuff puts me back into the life of the underdog but I don’t mind that. If I thought I wasn’t quick enough I wouldn’t be in the game, I wouldn’t embarrass myself.

“I just need these wee silly things ironed out that are holding me back and then get my finger out.

“It’s been a couple of years since I was at the Ulster and I’m looking forward to getting back on a bike around Dundrod,” he added.

“The other boys are riding bikes all the time in the British championship but I haven’t sat on a bike since the TT.”

Dunlop’s appearance at the North West 200 in May was his first road race since the 2018 Senior TT.

He admits he is losing out on significant racing miles compared to men of the moment Hickman and Harrison, who are competing regularly in the British Superbike Championship.

“I need miles on the bike,” said Dunlop, who will also return to the Southern 100 at Billown next week.

“I got a win on the smaller bike at the TT because it wasn’t so hard to ride with the injury. But I just didn’t have enough time on the other bikes between being too sore and breaking down in practice.

“I’m still suffering a bit with the shoulder and wrist but I am getting treatment at the minute. I’ll just have to suffer the pain with it for now until I can get an operation.

“I didn’t get many laps at the North West or TT this year so it will be good to get out on the bikes again at the Southern,” he added.

“If I didn’t think I could win I wouldn’t bother racing at all. I feel bad for Phillip Neill and the rest of the Tyco boys because I haven’t been able to give them anything back after all their hard work. It is as frustrating for them as it is for me.

“I love winning, that is the whole point of racing motorbikes.”

In addition to the Tyco BMW Superbike, Dunlop will also ride his own MD Racing 600 Honda and BMW S1000RR machines in the Supersport and Superstock classes at the ‘Ulster’.