Determined Dunlop out to add to his magnificent seven at Ulster GP
Ballymoney's William Dunlop is aiming to make his mark at this week's MCE Insurance Ulster Grand Prix, where his optimum goal is to add to his seven wins at the showpiece aboard his stable of privately-run Yamahas.
Having picked up the man of the meeting award at the Armoy Road Races in July, where he won both Supersport races on the IC Racing Yamaha R6 as well as posting a couple of Superbike podiums on the MMB R1, Dunlop is coming into form at just the right time ahead of Thursday's big kick-off.
"I had a really good day at Armoy, which is a great boost before getting to the Ulster," said Dunlop, who was at Brands Hatch last weekend to take in the British Supersport championship for additional track time.
The 30-year-old, who is now running his own team with the support of some personal sponsors having parted with CD Racing in the early part of the year, continued: "I need a good Dundrod as I've had a really bad year.
"We've made good progress and the bikes are now where they should have been at the start of the year, so I think we can do a good job.
"The 600 is always going to be strong and the Superbike is almost ready for Dundrod, so I think it's going to be a good one."
Looking ahead and analysing his main rivals, Dunlop - who became a father for the first time last month - explained: "The main competition in the 600cc class will probably come from Ian Hutchinson (the 14-time Isle of Man TT winner who won both Supersport races at this year's event in June with Keith Flint's Came Yamaha squad).
"You're always going to have Lee Johnston (last year's double winner), Bruce Anstey and the rest of them also vying for it, but I think Ian looks the strongest."
Having shown good form previously in the Superbike class at the UGP aboard a Yamaha - when he rode for Shaun Muir's Milwaukee team - he will aim to do likewise on the Marcus Eschenbacher-built, McManus Brothers-backed YZF-R1M that he will ride this week.
"The Superbike is more of an unknown for me, but I genuinely think that if the bike's as good as I think it's going to be with the new engine, then I'll be in the mix," he said confidently.
"I don't mind where I finish as long as I'm close to the leader. Anything after that is a bonus, I just want to be close to the front boys." He is expecting to challenge big favourites Hutchinson, Johnston, Peter Hickman and his brother, Michael.
Speaking of running his own team since the split with CD Racing, he said: "Running my own bikes and starting from scratch has been more difficult than I thought.
"Going straight to the North West with bikes that weren't right and then to the TT was a bit stressful. Then all of a sudden we are here at Dundrod.
"I feel much better prepared for Dundrod. The three months it has taken to get to where we are now is the three months we would have had over the winter period.
"I really do believe that I've got good bikes. The 600 is brilliant, no matter what happens I'm happy with that, but it's the Superbike that matters now.
"The Ulster Grand Prix is one of my favourite circuits to race on, as it's a proper road race."