William Dunlop is determined to round off the major international road racing season in style at next month’s MCE Ulster Grand Prix.
The Ballymoney man faced an uphill battle this year after a deal with Halsall Racing for 2017 fell through, leaving the 32-year-old without Superbike and Superstock machinery.
Dunlop reached an agreement with Tim Martin to run the former Mar Train Yamaha machines under the Temple Golf Club banner, but the multiple international road race winner has been playing catch-up after a lack of pre-season track time.
A seven-time winner at Dundrod, Dunlop is fired up to challenge for the podium in the Superbike class in particular next month.
“I’m heading to the Ulster hoping to get five good finishes but it’s the Superbike that I’m really going for. I know I’m capable but where the bike is going to be is a bit unknown right at this moment,” he said.
“We’ve a few new parts coming over the next couple of weeks and I’ve got Armoy as well to get things ironed out.
“We had a test planned this week on Wednesday but the weather is set to turn for the worse so it doesn’t look likely now,” he added.
“I’m confident we’re going to cure the problems we’ve been having and if we do, I think I could be an outsider for the Superbike. It’s the one everyone wants and the one everyone remembers and it’s the only one I haven’t won at Dundrod. It’d be great to have the complete set.”
Dunlop finished fourth in the Supersport race at the Isle of Man TT and was disappointed with the result, but he is confident he can make amends at Dundrod on the IC Racing Yamaha R6.
“This past two or three years I’ve been let down going to the TT so it’s always been a disaster,” he said.
“Then you’re always looking at the Ulster to try and make amends and this year is no different. Finishing strongly puts you in a good position to try and get bikes for the following year, which is important too.
“I was really disappointed with fourth on the 600 at the TT but I’m confident I can better that result at Dundrod. I know on a 600 I’ll either win it or lose it on the last corner and that’s the only thing I’m a bit worried about.
“Overall though, the circuit suits my riding style and I’m always happy and comfortable being there. It’s an international that feels like a national event and I love that about it.”
The popular Ulster rider is only two wins behind his legendary father Robert’s tally of nine victories but Dunlop points out that the circumstances he finds himself in are very different.
“It’s a strange thing to think about equalling my Dad’s record anywhere, because I always rated him as one of the best. I’m now sitting one above my Dad at Walderstown but that doesn’t make me a better rider,” he said.
“It’s a different set of circumstances too as he was injured for half his career. It’s nice though seeing my name up there with his.”
William was on hand during the launch of the Ulster Grand Prix to announce a renewed sponsorship deal with Whitemountain Centra Service Station, which will once again back the first Supersport race this year.
Clerk of the Course Noel Johnston said: “My thanks to Sam and Danielle at Centra Whitemountain for their continued support, and to William for taking the time to help us launch the second year of their partnership.
“William is a talented rider and one of the nicest lads in the paddock; you have to feel for him with the run of luck he’s had in the last couple of years.
“I’m glad to hear he’s gunning for victory, as a bit of confidence is sometimes half the battle when it comes to the difference between winning and losing a race. Fingers crossed he can get any lingering issues with the bikes sorted in time for a proper run out at Armoy before getting to the Ulster.”
Bike Week runs from the August 6-12 and includes the Charles Hurst Motorcycles Dundrod 150 on Thursday, August 10. Tickets are available now on Ticketmaster.