MICHAEL Dunlop set himself up for this month’s Relentless International North West 200 with a hard-fought double in the Supersport and Superbike classes at the Tandragee 100 on Saturday.
Dunlop had no answer to KMR Kawasaki’s Ryan Farquhar in the Open race but he later regrouped and increased the tempo to defeat his chief opponent in a game of cat and mouse in the Supersport 600 race on his GSX-R600 Suzuki before repeating the feat in the feature race on his new Honda Superbike.
“It was a good day and I felt I could have went a bit quicker on the big bike because I was struggling with it a bit,” he said.
“The front end kept coming up all the time and I was having to fight with the bike to try and tame it, but I did the best with what I could on the day.
“We can try a few things to solve it with the gearing before the North West 200,” he added. “I was a bit more comfortable on the bike for the big race after we made a few changes and I was able to pass Ryan for the win.
“We were riding at a hard pace out there but that’s what you need to do to win races.”
Farquhar powered to the front in the Open race and stayed there throughout the five laps on his Kawasaki ZX-10R Superstock machine.
He had 3.3 seconds in hand over Dunlop at the flag, with the fastest lap going to Farquhar at 107.554mph - some way off Dunlop’s 2011 lap record of 109.297mph, although conditions were far from ideal with cold temperatures and loose stones around the 5.3-mile Co Armagh circuit.
The leading pair had a massive advantage over John Burrows in third place, 19 seconds in arrears, with Adrian Archibald, Derek Sheils and Michael Pearson the top six.
Farquhar, who claimed a treble with victories in the Supertwin 650 and Moto 450 races, said: “In the first Superbike race I was able to keep Michael at bay and edge away in the closing stages for a good win.
“The Moto 450 and Supertwin races gave me two comfortable wins but the other two races were anything but and it was really close between Michael and myself. He was riding really well and it was good, clean racing and I can’t be unhappy with two close seconds.”
Farquhar made his familiar fast getaway in the Supersport race but Dunlop was slowly reeling him in and forced his way to the front after the half-way point. In a thrilling finish, Dunlop held on to win by a few hundredths of a second as Farquhar set the fastest lap of the race at 106.726mph.
Derek Sheils was third, 37 seconds behind, followed by Burrows, the impressive Derek McGee and Michael Sweeney in sixth.
The feature race developed into the duel anticipated between Farquhar and Dunlop and the pair set a blistering pace.Farquhar led the way, but Dunlop was looking menacing in second place and made his move in the closing stages. A dramatic final lap saw both riders set their fastest times of the day, with Dunlop holding on to win by the slimmest of margins with Burrows again third and the top six completed by Sheils, Pearson Shaun Anderson.
Dunlop was credited with the fastest lap of the day on his Honda at 108.315mph. Paul Robinson won the 125cc race from Sam Wilson and Nigel Moore. William Dunlop retired from the 125cc race, but was a winner in the 250cc class with Farquhar beating Burrows and Jamie Hamilton in the concurrently run Supertwin race.
Noel Brennan and Davie Black were the respective Senior and Junior Support winners.