William Dunlop has re-established his former association with Chris Dowd and Ivan Curran in a deal to ride a Yamaha R6 in the Supersport class this year.
The 29-year-old tied up the Yamaha ride with the blessing of Tyco BMW team principal Philip Neill and Dunlop intends to contest most of the Irish national meetings in addition to the North West 200, Isle of Man TT and Ulster Grand Prix this season.
He claimed his first international road racing win on a four-stroke machine on the CD Racing Yamaha at the Ulster GP in 2009, setting a new lap record at the time of 127.588mph, and Dunlop is delighted with the chance to reform his old partnership with Randalstown team owner Dowd and sponsor Curran.
Dunlop’s bikes are currently being prepared in Germany by former Yamaha World Superbike engineer Marcus Eschenbacher, who was also Eugene Laverty’s crew chief at Aprilia.
“I’m getting two bikes built, one is the bike I rode before for Chris and Marcus is also preparing another one,” Dunlop said.
“Having Marcus do the engines and being involved with Chris and Ivan Curran again is a great set-up for me and we’ll be aiming to do most of the nationals this year along with the internationals.
“I won’t need much track time on the Yamaha to get up to speed because I know the bike so well and that’s one of the main reasons why I was keen to ride the R6 again, because it means I can go to the TT and focus everything on the Tyco BMWs for the big classes during practice week,” he added.
“I’ll be able to put in a few laps on it in practice and then just park it and concentrate on the big bikes, because for me now the Superbike class is the top priority. It’s worked out well all around and I was able to do the deal with Philip’s [Neil] blessing.”
Dunlop has ridden Honda, Yamaha and Suzuki Supersport machines in recent seasons and although he has been a rostrum finisher in the class at the TT, the Ballymoney man has just come up short in his bid for a coveted win on the Mountain Course.
“I’ve always been suited to the Yamaha and obviously I’ve worked with Chris a few times in the past and we know how each other works, so it makes sense to go this route with BMW not making a Supersport bike,” he said.
“All the 600s now are really quick, there’s nothing to choose between them really but the Yamaha is the bike I’ve spent the most time on in the past and that will benefit me come the TT, because I get can on with things on the BMW Superbike.
“It’s good to have a 600 sorted that I know is capable of winning any race but obviously for me now the main goal is winning a Superbike race at the TT. People used to label me as a 600 rider, but I think that’s changed now because I won a Superbike race at the North West last year and I showed I had the pace to be up there at the TT in the Senior,” said Dunlop.
“I couldn’t have asked for any better bikes this year; we saw what the BMW was capable of last year with Michael winning three races at the TT and I can’t wait to ride the S1000-RR.”
Earlier this week, it was revealed that Guy Martin had joined Smiths Racing to ride a Triumph in the TT Supersport races, taking over the ride from Gary Johnson.
Dunlop, meanwhile, and his Tyco BMW team-mate Martin will join the team’s British championship riders Michael Laverty, Tommy Bridewell and Alastair Seeley at Almeria in Spain in March for a pre-season test.