William Dunlop is set to ride a top-spec Yamaha R1 Superbike prepared by respected tuning guru Marcus Eschenbacher for CD Racing in 2016 after splitting from Tyco BMW.
Dunlop parted company from Moneymore-based TAS Racing after two seasons in a ‘mutual agreement’ with the Philip Neill-managed team, with the news officially announced on Tuesday evening.
The 30-year-old Ballymoney man will compete for Randalstown team owner Chris Dowd next season full-time with further backing from Ivan Curran and former Grand Prix racer Eugene McManus.
Dunlop will also continue to ride the Eschenbacher-tuned R6 on which he enjoyed so much success this year, completing the Irish National roads season unbeaten in the Supersport championship to clinch the title for the first time.
His exit from Tyco BMW has raised questions over who will partner Guy Martin next season, should the Lincolnshire star decide to remain in the team following speculation over his plans in the wake of his crash in August at the Ulster Grand Prix.
Martin, though, is on the entry list for November’s Macau Grand Prix in the Far East, suggesting he is poised to make his racing comeback for Tyco BMW.
Dunlop won the Irish National road racing Superbike title this year for the Ulster team – BMW Motorrad’s official entrants at the international road races and MCE British Superbike Championship – but his standout achievement was a famous Superbike triumph on the Suzuki GSX-R1000 at the North West 200 in 2014 – his first major success in the premier class.
He was also in contention for the podium in the Senior TT weeks later until a crash at Graham Memorial thwarted his chances.
It was that ill-fated performance - with Dunlop leading for most of the opening lap in the blue riband race - which raised expectations over his prospects of challenging for a dream win on the Isle of Man in June, but sadly he was ruled out of the event with a broken rib after coming off the Tyco BMW Superstock machine during a practice lap.
He had finished fifth in the opening RST Superbike race prior to the incident.
In Tuesday’s statement, Dunlop - set to return from a foreign holiday on Wednesday - thanked TAS Racing for the opportunity afforded to him.
“Philip and all the boys at Tyco BMW were very good to me, so first of all I’d like to thank them for making me feel very welcome. I really enjoyed my two years with the team,” he said.
“I’d also like to thank Tyco, BMW Motorrad and Metzeler tyres for their support.”
Team principal Neill trumpeted Dunlop as a ‘great ambassador’ for TAS Racing over the past two seasons and left the door open for a return in the future.
“William has been a great ambassador for us these past two years and on a personal note, I have really enjoyed working with him,” said Neill.
“I have spoken to William at length and we have agreed mutually to go our separate ways for 2016, but the door has certainly not been closed. There’s every chance he could return in the future.”
Dunlop’s new team boss Dowd has strong ties with former Yamaha World Superbike engineer Eschenbacher – Eugene Laverty’s ex-crew chief in the Aprilia WSBK team – who will prepare the engines for his Superbike and Supersport machines.
In 2013, Dunlop rode an R1 Superbike for Shaun Muir’s Milwaukee Yamaha team alongside Conor Cummins.