Dunlop lapping it up in Spanish sunshine
Ballymoney's Michael Dunlop was able to enjoy his first taste of Suzuki's all-new GSX-R1000 in glorious sunshine at both the Cartagena and Almeria race circuits during the past week in Spain.
Despite having unwrapped the Bennetts-backed Hawk Racing Suzuki this time last week at a cold Mallory Park, the Spanish tests will be the first time that the 13-time Isle of Man TT winner will have fully opened the taps on the Japanese machinery, in preparation for the season ahead.
Dunlop joined his Bennetts Suzuki British Superbike team-mates in Spain, who included Frenchman Sylvain Guintoli and reigning British Superstock champ Taylor Mackenzie.
All three men were also joined at the two-day Bitubo suspension test at Almeria by Richard Cooper, who will make a return to the National 1000cc Superstock class this season.
There was also a host of local racers on track in Spain last week, headed up by local team Tyco BMW who blooded former Italian WSB star Davide Giugliano alongside his BSB team-mate Christian Iddon and 14-time TT winner Ian Hutchinson.
Northern Ireland riders were plentiful, with 14-year-old Scott Swann getting his first chance to ride his brand new standard class Moto3 Honda, that he will campaign in this season's British Motostar series.
Eugene McManus Junior was another lapping up the Spanish sunshine aboard his new Moto3 KTM, but unlike young Swann's standard machine, McManus' KTM is a former World Moto3 machine [in the region of £30,000] and should allow the youngster to excel right at the sharp end this season in the full-blown Motostar class.
Simon Reid, son of former double Formula 2 World champion Brian Reid, is making his first tentative steps on the tarmac this season in the Irish championship, thanks to the support of Crossan Motorcycles.
Speaking trackside at Cartagena, Reid, who is a former British junior Motocross champion and accomplished BMX performer, described his opening efforts on the Crossan Motorcycles ER-6 Supertwin Kawasaki.
"I'm really enjoying myself and just getting the feel of things.
"It's so nice to be back on a motorcycle and despite only being the first day, I'm already taking good chunks of time from my best lap times," he said.
Meanwhile, TT legend John McGuinness will remain in the Jackson Racing team for a third consecutive season, where he will ride in the Supersport class at the NW200 and Isle of Man TT alongside the team's new signing, Fermanagh's Lee Johnston.