Conor Cummins at peak for battle with UGP big guns
Published 16/08/2013 | 08:00
Saturday's Metzeler Ulster Grand Prix has been billed as the Michael Dunlop versus Guy Martin showdown – the final chapter of 2013. But will it follow a different script when the two rivals shared Superbike honours at last year's meeting, with Dunlop taking the all-important Ulster Grand Prix victory?
Ballymoney ace Michael was virtually untouchable at this year's Isle of Man TT with four wins, but Martin did fight back and found a chink in the Dunlop armour at the Southern 100 in July, taking his Solo Championship title and the lap record.
On paper, both men should be virtually untouchable in the Superbike class with Dunlop a slight favourite to retain his UGP title but don't rule out the enigmatic Guy.
There are plenty of other top class competitors parked up at Dundrod, ready to take the fight to the aforementioned Honda TT Legends' and Tyco Suzuki duo, starting today in the Dundrod 150 Superbike race.
Many people believe William Dunlop can notch up his debut Superbike win around Dundrod on the factory-backed Milwaukee Yamaha R1 this week and his Manx team-mate Conor Cummins – a former Superbike winner and lap record holder at Dundrod – is also quietly confident of producing a result that will put him in the shop window for 2014.
The biggest factor for both men will be the weather. William is a self-confessed hater of wet conditions and while he has the pedigree and prowess to conquer a wet Dundrod, his best chance to shine will be on a dry track – where he will start as favourite in both of Saturday's Supersport races.
Cummins was in Dundrod podium action last year with Tyco Suzuki, but is keen to stretch the legs of the super quick Milwaukee Yamaha R1, which he says is the quickest Superbike he has ever ridden.
"I'm peaking at the minute and can't wait to get out there," said the 26-year-old Manxman.
"I had the 'stocker and 600 with me over in the Isle of Man and got loads of miles on them both, and I also had a good run around Armoy on the 600 and Superbike."
When asked about his aspirations for this week and his preferred conditions, he replied confidently: "I don't mind if it's wet or dry or snowing! This is what the last few months have been built around. The Superbike is a missile and it's well capable, as am I. I'm here to win."
Kiwi Bruce Anstey, a Supersport winner last year and the outright lap record holder around Dundrod at 133.977mph, can never be discounted on Clive Padgett's stable of Hondas, with reliability never a concern in the hugely successful Batley camp. With eight wins and a podium finish recorded every year since 2002 at the Ulster, the 44-year-old is sure to be in the mix rain or shine.
One rider who hasn't shared the same consistency is Lincolnshire rider Gary Johnson. The talented 33-year-old is surprisingly yet to win a race at Dundrod, but he's already a member of the 133mph club and with a runner-up spot in last year's feature Superbike race, the Lincs Lifting pilot is one to watch. And closely.