Michael Dunlop will lead the charge at Cookstown 100 with new machine
Michael Dunlop will showcase his factory backed Milwaukee Yamaha YZF-R1 Yamaha for the first time on local tarmac this weekend at the KDM Hire Cookstown 100 Road Races.
It's a massive boost for the promoting Cookstown & District Motor Cycle Club who now have three factory supported teams on the grid.
The others are Moneymore-based Tyco BMW, who were testing at Kirkistown yesterday and will have William Dunlop and Guy Martin on their machinery, and Temple-based Mar-Train Racing - Yamaha UK's official effort this term - who bring hungry youngster and 2014 TT winner Dean Harrison to the Orritor Circuit.
Milwaukee Yamaha-mounted Dunlop has imposed an embargo on press interviews since signing for Shaun Muir's squad but will always find it difficult to slip under the radar such is his current profile.
The 11-time TT winner will be on track at Oulton Park in Cheshire today, testing the factory-built Milwaukee Yamaha YZF-R1 alongside his British Superbike team-mate Broc Parkes.
Dunlop is also expected to throw his leg over the much talked about Yamaha R6 today at Oulton that Yamaha engine building guru Marcus Eschenbacher has reportedly squeezed close to 150hp from.
With the grid looking more akin to an international event with Jamie Hamilton (Cookstown B.E Racing), Derek Sheils (BikeBitsNI Racing) and the dangerman in all classes Derek McGee riding Wilson Craig Honda machinery, a top step is no guarantee for any of the factory boys.
"There's still a lot of development to happen with the bike and it's all hush hush, but Yamaha are working really hard at the factory in Germany to get the bike just right for what we need to do," was all Michael Dunlop would say on the all-new R1.
Initial reports coming from inside the camp at a test in Spain mid-March were that Dunlop believed he'd possibly made a huge mistake stepping away from BMW's S 1000 RR which brought him major success in 2014 - but Milwaukee Yamaha team manager Mick Shanley refuted those claims last weekend at Brands Hatch.
"We had Michael at Kirkistown last week and now that he's had time on the new R1, he loves the bike," was Shanley's succinct reply, which makes sense, as the Ballymoney man did put his new bike on the top step of a Thundersport race at Donington Park a fortnight ago.
On his move to Yamaha this season Dunlop said: "We've moved on to Yamaha and my job is to push on and push my hardest and do a job for them. But look, I'm confident. We might be a little bit behind the times but nothing scares me about it."
I'd say the men scared at Cookstown, will be those trying to keep the hard-charging Dunlop and his collection of MD Racing and Milwaukee Yamaha machinery off the top step.
McGee and Sheils are dark horses, but recent Scarborough winner Harrison is a lad who shows little respect for favourites.
Despite it only being his second visit to Cookstown, the affable Bradford lad is looking forward to giving his Mar-Train Racing squad something to shout about.
"I've been doing some laps in the car and fair play to the organisers, the circuit is looking absolutely mint," Harrison said.
"I've only ridden the circuit once, in 2013, but I enjoyed it and seemed to go okay so we'll just take it as it comes and hopefully put on a good show," said Harrison.
Roads close tomorrow for practice at 12 noon and re-open at 9.30pm. On Race Day, Saturday, roads close at 10am sharp with a full 15-race programme scheduled.