ULSTER GP: Michael Dunlop ready for 'hot and heavy' shootout at Dundrod
Senior TT winner Michael Dunlop is targeting more Superbike glory on the Bennetts Suzuki at the MCE Ulster Grand Prix in August.
The Ballymoney man, who also won the Supersport race at the TT to extend his tally to 15 wins around the Mountain Course, was among a stellar cast of top names in attendance at the official launch of the world’s fastest road race in Lisburn on Monday.
Last year’s showdown around the historic 7.4-mile course was one of the greatest pure road racing spectacles in recent memory and the 2016 Ulster Grand Prix stands out as the greatest international meeting this country has seen for many years.
Tyco BMW’s Ian Hutchinson completed a sensational four-timer but the Yorkshire rider was pushed hard all the way in both Superbike races by Bruce Anstey and Dunlop, culminating in the first ever 134mph lap on the final lap of the second Superbike race as the Bingley Bullet came out on top.
Hutchy could well miss the event this year after breaking his left femur in a crash in the Senior TT, but the organising Dundrod & District Club has assembled a sparking line-up, with some more big names potentially entering the mix over the coming weeks.
Dunlop, who is still fine-tuning his new Bennetts Suzuki GSX-R1000 Superbike, said: “The Ulster is the last international of the year and we’re working hard to get the bike sorted, with new parts on the way and a few improvements to make.
“The competition will be tough; it’s always hot and heavy with that pack-start at Dundrod and we’ll all be looking forward to getting stuck in.”
Peter Hickman had a dream TT as the English rider finished on the podium in all five solo races, including a brilliant ride to the runner-up spot on the Smiths BMW in the Senior behind Dunlop.
A Superbike winner at Dundrod in 2015, Hickman is one of the big favourites this summer.
“I’ve had a good year with the MCE BSB and the TT, where I turned up with nothing and left with five podiums,” he said.
“I’ve been strong at Dundrod since first turning a wheel there and while I was a bit disappointed not to do better last year, I’m absolutely coming to make amends this August.”
Dunlop and Hickman were joined at the launch by Bradford’s Dean Harrison, fresh from a record-breaking seven-timer at the Cock o’ the North meeting at Oliver’s Mount over the weekend.
William Dunlop and his cousin Gary, Tobermore’s Adam McLean, Paul Jordan from Magherafelt and English pair Daley Mathison and Dominic Herbertson also attended the event at Lagan Valley Island for the launch.
Other top riders who will be on the grid in August include Flying Kiwi Bruce Anstey on the Padgetts Honda machines and team-mate Conor Cummins, Dan Kneen, Ivan Lintin and Dublin’s Derek Sheils, who leads the charge for the Cookstown B.E. Racing team.
Fermanagh's Lee Johnston also hopes to be fit in time to take his place on the grid as he recovers from his crash in practice at the TT.
Bike Week runs from August 6-12 and includes the Charles Hurst Motorcycles Dundrod 150 National races. Tickets are available now via Ticketmaster.