Michael Dunlop is the in-form rider coming into this week’s Ulster Grand Prix at Dundrod.
But despite sweeping aside his rivals in recent outings at the Southern 100 with a five-timer, followed up by a double at Walderstown and a hat-trick at Armoy – can the Ballymoney man finally nail international honours in the Superbike class?
Last year at Dundrod, Dunlop only managed a pair of seventh placed finishes in the Superbike division, but since the introduction of his Hunts/McAdoo Racing Honda Fireblade this season, and overcoming early season teething problems, he has been virtually invincible.
The men expected to stand in his way for Superbike honours will be last year’s winners Bruce Anstey on the Padgetts’ Honda and Tyco Suzuki’s Guy Martin.
But for me the biggest danger man could well be his brother William, third in last year’s UGP Supporters’ Club Superbike encounter — a race where he also set the fastest lap.
The Dunlop rivalry is almost guaranteed to be at its highest level in the Supersport races.
Last year Michael won both by the slenderest of margins on his Street Sweep Yamaha over William’s Wilson Craig Honda.
And with Cameron Donald at Oschersleben on World Endurance duty alongside John McGuinness, it will be left to Gary Johnson, Bruce Anstey and the Tyco Suzuki duo of Cummins and Martin to try and spoil the Dunlop party.
Dunlop’s Superstock bike, the powerful ZX10R Kawasaki, is also the bike of choice for close rival and national road racing master Ryan Farquhar.
This intense rivalry looked set to continue at Dundrod, but Farquhar, somewhat surprisingly, is yet unsure if he’ll participate in any other class bar the Supertwins.
“I’ve a Supertwin ready for myself and one for Geoff McMullan and we’re waiting on forks for Jamie’s bike,” said Farquhar, referring to his young protégé Jamie Hamilton who crashed his ER6 at Armoy, and is in a race against time, awaiting parts to make the Dundrod line-up.
A subdued Farquhar added: “I’m starting to wind things down a bit at this stage, so I’ll see what the weather’s going to be like and that will determine whether I take the Superbike out or not.”
On the Superstock race Farquhar added: “The engine in the ’stocker is tired and I’ve spent a lot of money on it this year already. It’s a four-year-old bike, so I’m not spending any more money on it at this stage. I do have a 2011 bike but I may save that for Killalane and Scarborough.
“It would be nice to win the Supertwins class at Dundrod as that would complete the set this year, but we’ll take it as it comes,” Dungannon ace Farquhar explained, referring to his ‘six-fifty’ triumphs at the North West 200 and Isle of Man TT in May and June.
l Tomorrow sees the first UGP Week action on the roads with Dundrod 150 race practice (roads closed 1.30pm-9.30pm).
That’s followed on Thursday by UGP practice and the Dundrod 150 races (roads closed 10.30am-8.30pm). Friday is Open Day with free Paddock admission.