He's the Guy for Bavarian cheer fest at Armoy
This weekend's Armoy Race of Legends is shaping up as a classic encounter between three of international road racing's top performers in a contest of Bavarian engineering between the north Antrim hedges.
In fact, there's a distinct possibility all three Superbike class wins could be German powered with leading contenders Guy Martin, and the brothers Dunlop, Michael and William, all BMW-mounted.
Despite Armoy being classed as an Irish National Road Racing event, it has been unofficially dubbed a mini-international with its superb location, quality entry and professional infrastructure.
It's now on firm footing with the likes of the Southern 100 on the Isle of Man, and the well-established Oliver's Mount dates at Scarborough. Guy Martin was a double winner last year on Suzuki machinery, but having made the switch to BMW Power with the Moneymore-based TAS Racing squad, the Lincolnshire racer and TV cult figure is confident that he can continue his rich vein of form.
Having recently won two races and retained his Solo Championship title at the Southern 100 on S1000RR machinery, Martin said: "I always said the chassis on the Suzuki was first class, we just needed more grunt. But having worked with Stuart Johnstone (Tyco BMW crew chief and engine builder) to perfect a set-up at the TT, the BMW is mint - and by that I mean the whole package... power delivery, chassis, everything.
"There's never a perfect bike but that BMW is hot. The TAS boys do a great job for me, but Armoy will be no cakewalk. William Dunlop is a top lad. I really like working with him. He's amazingly fast and when his head's in gear, he can ride a Superbike as fast as anyone. Then there's Michael… he's some boy..."
The Ballymoney racer won last year's feature race.
But one man who will be looking to upset the Bavarian cheer fest will be Bradford's Dean Harrison, fresh from a double win at Scarborough with Mar-Train Racing. The Yamaha UK backed pilot hasn't raced at Armoy since 2010, so will be classed as a virtual newcomer, and despite the new R1 coming in for harsh public criticism since it was unceremoniously binned at the TT by Michael Dunlop, Harrison believes both he and Mar-Train Racing can put on a decent show.
"Since Michael jumped ship from Yamaha at the TT people think the R1 is a useless bike, but I have a totally different view," explained Harrison, who went on to post a 130mph lap in the Senior TT after a difficult fortnight with Yamaha's new flagship model.
The 26-year-old admitted that his Mar-Train squad has endured a catalogue of teething problems with the new machine this season, but is positive that the upcoming Ulster Grand Prix should suit it's often temperamental characteristics.
"Josh Brookes has been doing a job on the Yamaha in British Superbikes and won two races last weekend, and we got one at Scarborough, but the smoother tracks suit it better.
"In road racing all the tracks are so different with jumps and bumps, and we've found out that the window we need to work in is quite small," said the mechanically minded racer of the YZF-R1M, to give the machine its full title.
"One thing the bike doesn't lack is power, and the more we ride it the closer we are getting to finding what we need. It's a case of exploring all the options with chassis and suspension, but I'm really looking forward to the Ulster Grand Prix, although I'm sure Armoy will also be fun. But we will take it as it comes this weekend."
Roads around Armoy close tomorrow, Friday, at 12.30pm for all practice sessions, with the opening Supersport race concluding the day's action.
On Saturday Race Day, roads close at 10.00am with an 11-race programme, culminating with the feature SGS International Armoy Race of Legends Superbike encounter.