The on-track action at the ‘world’s fastest road races’ begins this afternoon with practice and qualifying for tomorrow’s Topaz Dundrod 150 and Saturday’s 90th anniversary McKinstry Skip Hire Ulster Grand Prix.
One man looking to retrieve what has been a lean season is Lincolnshire ace Guy Martin, who is seeking his first international victory of 2012 — his last win coming at the Ulster 12 months ago.
Martin, who never shies away from the limelight, rides for the Moneymore-based Tyco Suzuki by TAS Team and back at the North West 200 in May suffered a high-speed crash in the opening Supersport race ruling him out of the rest of the day’s action.
Then at the Isle of Man TT in June his best result was a fourth place finish in the opening Superbike race an unrewarding effort considering he had four podium finishes in 2011.
Ironically for one of the most determined riders on the grid that elusive first TT and North West victory still eludes him.
However, the 7.4mile Dundrod circuit is a different kettle of fish for Martin, who has an enviable record of winning no less than 10 times here, with seven Ulster Grand Prix wins and three Dundrod 150 victories.
Martin, who loves the circuit, said: “Dundrod is a proper road circuit with the fast high-speed corners and no chicanes. I’m looking forward to the challenge and getting back on the top step of the podium.
“It won’t be easy, as there are a lot of fast riders out there. We have had a few issues and the results are not what we wanted, but at Dundrod I hope we can give the rest a run for their money.”
Michael Dunlop will have something to say about that with the Ballymoney rider in spectacular form following a five-timer at the Southern 100, a double at Walderstown and a treble at the recent Armoy Road Races.
A treble winner at the Ulster last year, his first wins around Dundrod, Michael is chasing his first international Superbike success at one of the ‘big three’ road races and tomorrow’s Dundrod 150 should give a major indication as to who is in form, with the current lap record of 133.977mph set by Bruce Anstey back in 2010 under threat given favourable conditions.
Manxman Conor Cummins, Kiwi Anstey, Gary Johnson and William Dunlop cannot be ruled out of contention in what should be an intriguing start to the Dundrod action tomorrow.
Newcomers Dean Harrison, Daniel Cooper, Lee Johnston and Sam Wilson, along with 2011 winner Jamie Coward, will chase the honours in the Dundrod 150 National and Challenge races. Ryan Farquhar will start firm favourite in the Supertwin race ran concurrently with the UGP 125GP race where William Dunlop faces a strong challenge from cousins Paul Robinson and Sam Dunlop.
Roads close today between 1.30pm and 9.30pm for the opening practice sessions while tomorrow roads close from 10.30am for practice with the Dundrod 150 four-race programme scheduled to commence from 2pm and roads scheduled to re-open at 8.30pm.
On Saturday roads close at 9.30am, re-opening by 8.30pm.