Belfast Telegraph

Testing times in the Spanish sunshine

By Paul Lindsay

A vast majority of the main International Road Racing protagonists are currently testing at various venues throughout Spain with their respective teams, blowing out the winter cobwebs and, for a few, that also means trying out the latest machinery with the new season just around the corner.

As always, and as expected, the lion's share of bar-room chat from the pure road racing cognoscenti surrounds the Dunlop brothers, William and Michael, and the man everyone wants to see win his first Isle of Man TT in 2015, the inimitable Guy Martin - who only needs to sneeze to generate national press.

Michael Dunlop is currently testing the all-new R1 with new team Milwaukee Yamaha at an official factory derived shakedown test at the Circuit d'Alcarràs in northern Spain.

With a reported embargo on lap times coming from the test, and the press having also been locked out while Yamaha see their all-new R1 on track for the first time in Europe, it's difficult to know just how the 11-time TT winner is getting on.

But the reports we have received indicate that Dunlop - who is Yamaha's only factory supported rider on the roads this year - is already raising quite a few eyebrows with impressive lap times, circulating alongside his British Superbike team-mates Josh Brookes and Broc Parkes.

Mar-Train Racing's Dean Harrison is also at the test, having been invited as Yamaha UK's official entry on the roads this term.

At the other end of Spain, local team TAS Racing - operating as Tyco BMW in 2015 - have been running their new steeds for the year ahead in BMW's impressive evolution of their North West 200 and Isle of Man TT winning S1000RR.

Philip and Hector Neill have nailed their colours to the mast, taking all five riders to Spain over a seven-day period at both Cartagena and Almeria.

The initial impressions are upbeat from their new BSB riders Michael Laverty and Tommy Bridewell, but Martin's initial reaction when riding the 2015 BMW S1000RR has led us to believe it could finally be the machine to help him deliver that coveted Isle of Man TT top step.

"I don't get too excited about modern machinery, but this is the real deal. It's nimble and does everything I've asked of it so far, and all I have really changed is the footrest and handlebar position," said Martin.

Both Martin and his team-mate on the roads for a second successive season, William Dunlop, were riding the Superstock version of the Tyco BMW, but both admitted off-air that they've already achieved lap times inside those from last year's test on Suzuki's GSX-R1000.

Dunlop said: "I'm not a big fan of these Spanish tests or Superstock tyres but I've done that many laps on the BMW I'm dizzy.

"I'm really enjoying riding the S1000RR as the chassis feels like it was developed to suit my riding style, and of course Guy is keeping us all entertained as he does."

Positive news indeed for the Dunlop boys and Martin, but one contender who has been flying under the radar is 21-time TT winner John McGuinness.

The Honda Racing pilot is testing at Monteblanco in southern Spain with team-mate Conor Cummins.

He's undoubtedly the biggest threat to Dunlop and Martin's aspirations for Superbike victories on Mona's Isle, and being just five wins away from the late, great Joey Dunlop's magical 26 at the TT, I'd say the former Morecambe brickie has his eyes set on reducing that even further this coming June.

It's shaping up to be a great season on the roads, beginning at the Vauxhall International North West 200 in May.

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