Michael Dunlop says the lure of winning for a sixth different manufacturer at the Isle of Man TT has given him renewed impetus to challenge for a maiden victory in the Lightweight race for Italian marque Paton.
The 15-time Mountain Course winner will ride a factory SC-Project Reparto Corse S1-R machine alongside Stefano Bonetti in the class this year, when he is targeting the top step.
Dunlop won TT races for Honda, Kawasaki, Yamaha and BMW before adding Suzuki to the list last year, when he triumphed in the Senior race.
He said: “It will be a real honour to represent the Paton factory at this year’s TT. I’ve managed to win races for five different manufacturers at the TT and I will be doing everything I can to make it six.
“I’m really looking forward to having a proper go at the Lightweight TT this year. It’s already looking like a really competitive race with the strongest field the race has had to date and if I’m on the top step at the end of the race I will have earned it.”
For Dunlop, it will be only his third outing in the Lightweight race having previously competed in the inaugural event of 2012 and again last year, when he finished seventh on the McAdoo Kawasaki, lapping at 117.965mph despite stopping at half-race distance with a technical issue.
The Ballymoney man's Superbike plans were announced last week, with the 28-year-old joining Ulster's Tyco BMW team for the feature class.
Speaking about the Paton deal, SC-Project Team owner Stefano Lavazza said: “We are extremely happy that a champion like Michael is joining our Paton SC-Project Reparto Corse Team.
“Our collaboration with him started last year just with the supply of an SC-Project exhaust for his MD Racing Yamaha R6, which he won the Supersport TT with.
“Michael was satisfied with the product and he wanted to carry on our collaboration this year as well, with the supply of SC-Project exhausts for the S1000RR BMW and the CBR600RR Honda he will ride respectively in the Superstock and Supersport races.
“His skills are well known to everyone and we are well aware that a rider like Michael has the victory as his solely focus. It is an honour for us and for Paton to have the fastest TT riders ever riding for our Team.
“We are ready for the challenge of confirming Paton as the bike to beat on the Isle of Man.”
Paton S1-R Lightweight Project Manager Roberto Pattoni said that his father Pep, founder of the Paton factory, would have been proud to have a rider of Dunlop’s calibre on the Italian machine at the TT.
“To have Michael Dunlop onboard the purely Italian Paton is an honour. Some top riders got in touch with us and this shows how good we have worked in these past few years and that we can make the difference, thanks also to the acquisition by SC-Project,” he said.
“The Bonetti and Dunlop duo will be a key element to improve our S1-R and to confirm Paton as the fastest Lightweight at the Isle of Man TT.
“We are sure that even Pep would have appreciated such a hot-blooded and passionate rider like Michael Dunlop. We can’t wait to start.”