Michael Dunlop set for Cemetery Circuit debut on Boxing Day
Michael Dunlop is preparing to make his debut at the infamous Cemetery Circuit on Boxing Day at Wanganui in New Zealand.
The Isle of Man TT outright lap record holder is contesting the three-round Suzuki Series for the first time and has been in the country throughout December.
Earlier this month, Dunlop was unable to compete in the first round at the Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park, Taupo, after failing to gain official clearance from his insurers to race.
However, he did participate in round two a week later on December 11 at Manfeild Park, Feilding.
The 13-time TT winner pulled out of the first F1/Superbike race with mechanical issues but Dunlop – who is riding a GSX-R1000 supplied by Suzuki New Zealand – finished sixth in race two and remains among the favourites for the series finale at the Cemetery Circuit next Monday.
The Ballymoney rider has already visited the course ahead of his race bow over the festive period and Dunlop is looking forward to the experience.
“I’m really looking forward to it, although obviously the heat here is a big thing. We’re not used to this sort of heat in Ireland,” he said.
“This is like a heat-wave for me. At home we’re more used to rain. I’m under no illusion as to how quick these riders in New Zealand are. There’s horses for courses and I don’t do a lot of short circuit races. I don’t think I’m going to come here and easily beat people.
“Hopefully I’m a fast learner,” Dunlop told the Wanganui Chronicle. “I much prefer the longer courses and I gather Wanganui has a 49 or 50-second lap time, so hopefully it won’t take me too long to sort out where I’m going.
“I’ve been fortunate to get this opportunity to come out here, so I want to see as much of New Zealand as I can while I’m here.”
Dunlop, who moved on to 13 wins at the TT following a brilliant Superbike and Senior double in June, has yet to announce his plans for 2017.
The 27-year-old is unsurprisingly in hot demand for next season and as usual has been linked to several manufacturers, including Honda and Suzuki.
Dunlop has excelled on the BMW S1000RR in recent seasons but with Hawk Racing’s Stuart and Steve Hicken running Suzuki’s official effort with the all-new GSX-R in the MCE British Superbike Championship next year, the Ulster rider’s next move remains unclear.
Austrian Horst Saiger is also competing in the Suzuki Series and won both races at Manfeild, although Wellington’s Sloan Frost – the reigning champion – leads the standings following the first two rounds.