Michael Dunlop clocked up his first laps on the new Bennetts Suzuki GSX-R1000 he will race on the roads this year at Mallory Park on Wednesday.
Dunlop, whose new Superbike is fitted with a host of trick Yoshimura parts, took to the track during a test day at the Leicestershire circuit.
The 13-time Isle of Man TT winner will fly to Spain next week for a further test at Cartagena before travelling on to Almeria for another shakedown as his pre-season testing schedule begins in earnest.
Dunlop, the outright lap record holder at the North West 200 and TT, is set to make his first roads appearance on the Suzuki at the Triangle course in May, where he won the sole Superbike race last year.
Bennetts Suzuki team boss Steve Hicken said: “We want to have a good go at the North West. It is important to us and it is important to Michael.”
Dunlop will go up against the new-look Honda Racing pairing of John McGuinness and Guy Martin, plus fierce rival Ian Hutchinson on the Tyco BMW and 17-time winner Alastair Seeley among a host of top class names, with new Jackson Racing signing Lee Johnston and Peter Hickman on the Smiths BMW also among the favourites.
News of the Suzuki deal has been welcomed by Ulster GP chief Noel Johnston, who expects Dunlop and the GSX-R1000 to be a ‘perfect fit’ for the fastest road racing course in the world at Dundrod in August.
“This is a really interesting move for Michael and I have no doubts he’ll go well on the GSX-R1000 under the Hawk Racing banner,” Johnston said.
“I’ve seen a few of the early testing results on the new Suzuki and it looks like it’s going to be one of the most powerful bikes on the grid, with a super-smooth delivery that will be a perfect fit for a fast and flowing circuit like we have at Dundrod.
“Last year as so close to being a perfect year for Michael and I hope he sees similar success this season.
“I know the local fans would love to see him back on the top step of the podium at the Ulster and there’s nothing like the support of a home crowd to push you on,” he added.
“Let’s not forget that Bruce Anstey held the world’s fastest road racer title on a Suzuki for six years before losing it to Hutchy on a BMW last year. I can’t help but wonder if Suzuki might regain the title this August.”