William Dunlop set his fastest ever time at Kirkistown on Thursday as the Ballymoney man tested his Tyco BMW S1000RR Superbike machine ahead of next week’s Vauxhall International North West 200.
Dunlop was joined at the Co Down track by team-mates Guy Martin and Alastair Seeley, while Milwaukee Yamaha’s Michael Dunlop was also present as the 11-time Isle of Man TT winner seized the chance to clock up some laps on his YZF-R1 Superbike and Superstock machines before practice commences on the north coast on Tuesday morning.
BMW rider Dunlop, who was in excellent form at last weekend’s Tandragee 100 meeting where he won the feature Superbike race plus the Supersport event, told the News Letter his first impressions of the full-blown BMW Motorrad Superbike were extremely positive as he put the machine through its paces in perfect conditions at the Co Down track.
“The bike was really, really good. We were lucky with the weather and we were supposed to test on Wednesday but then we cancelled it because the forecast was bad, though it turned out good on Thursday,” said the 29-year-old.
“We had a few problems with the bike in the morning and I didn’t get that many laps, but towards the end of the day all the issues were sorted and the bike was so strong – it was as good as I’ve ever rode around Kirkistown.
“I lapped the track quicker than I’ve ever done before and I’m quite positive about it considering we had very little time with the bike and today was the first time that we had a proper run on it.
“Thankfully the bike was perfect at the end and it’s ready to race. I was there with Guy and Alastair and the bike left the track the way we will ride it at the North West on Tuesday, there are just a few small changes we need to make,” he added.
“There was very little difference compared with the Superstock bike, which is very fast, but it was just the other extras like the brakes and suspension on the Superbike that make the difference.
“It was definitely faster than the Superstock bike but they are pretty similar and it wasn’t as if I felt I was riding two completely different bikes.”
Dunlop, who claimed his maiden international Superbike success at the North West 200 last year, said he was feeling more confident with his stable of BMW S1000RRs every time he sat on the bikes.
“With Tommy [Bridewell] and Michael [Laverty] having a good weekend at Oulton Park the team is finding things with the bike all the time,” he said.
“I think we can do a good job at the North West but it’s always going to be tough. We’ve got a good set-up and a fast bike, so we’ll be thereabouts but I’ll just take things as they come.
“Cookstown was bad for us but we went to Tandragee and it was so much better, so we’re improving each time we sit on it and we’re progressing with it all the time.”
Roads are scheduled to close on Tuesday for first practice at the 8.9-mile Triangle course from 9.15am-2.45pm.
The first three races will be held following final qualifying next Thursday evening with the opening Supersport, Supertwin and Superstock events, with roads closing again from 5.15pm-9pm.
Saturday’s main race bill includes both Superbike races, plus the final Supersport, Superstock and Supertwin races, with roads closing at 9.30am sharp.
BBC NI will show a special preview programme next Friday evening at 10.40pm with two highlights programmes scheduled for Sunday, May 17 at 10.25pm and Monday, May 18 at 10.45pm.
BBC Radio Ulster will also broadcast live coverage of the practice sessions on Tuesday and Thursday in addition to the race action on Thursday evening and Saturday.