In pictures: Ulster GP is launched and Dunlop can't wait to stake his claim for glory
The countdown to the 2017 MCE Ulster Grand Prix began yesterday when top local riders Michael, William and Gary Dunlop, Adam McLean and Paul Jordan were joined by Peter Hickman, Dean Harrison, Daley Mathison and Dominic Herbertson to launch the 95th edition of the world's fastest road race at Lagan Valley Island, Lisburn.
Set to join them on the grid are Kiwi Bruce Anstey, Manxmen Dan Kneen and Conor Cummins, Cookstown BE rider Derek Sheils and Ivan Lintin, to name but a few, to whet the appetite of fans for what should be some cracking racing come August.
Clerk of the Course Noel Johnston said: "The bar was set high last year, but the beauty of Dundrod is that the racing is always incredibly close, exciting and a spectacular finish to the international road racing season."
Fan favourite and 15-time TT winner Michael Dunlop commented: "The Ulster is the last international of the year and we are working hard to get the Bennetts Suzuki sorted. The competition will be tough as always and it will be hot and heavy with the packed start at Dundrod. We'll all be looking forward to getting stuck in."
Hickman is also looking forward to Dundrod. He said: "I went to the TT with nothing and it was mega to come away with five podiums. I've been strong at Dundrod since first turning a wheel there in 2014, although I was disappointed not to do better last year. I'm absolutely coming to make amends in August."
Lee Johnston, injured at the TT, tweeted that he is working hard to be fit for the meeting.
Organisers Dundrod and District Motorcycle Club also confirmed some major improvements to the circuit and paddock thanks to a grant in excess of £200,000, all of which have been implemented in time.
Noel Johnston added: "We'd like to thank the Department of Communities for its generous investment, which has allowed us to undertake important capital safety work, as well as improving facilities in the paddock and to provide better access for disabled fans."
MCE Ulster Grand Prix Bike Week runs from August 6-12. Tickets are available now on Ticketmaster.
Meanwhile, Andy Reid will make his full British Superbike debut this weekend at Snetterton riding the Tyco BMW alongside Christian Iddon.
Reid said: "It's a massive opportunity and a huge thank you to the team and sponsors, everyone who put it together for me.
"I'll take it as it comes and enjoy every minute of it. I'm coming in as a rookie with an experienced team. It will be a steep learning curve, but I have confidence in my ability."
Reid was unable to find a team at the start of this season and this opportunity presented itself because Tyco BMW mutually agreed a parting of the ways with Italian Davide Giugliano.
Reid, the 24-year-old from Newtownabbey, was a multiple winner in British Supersport and team owner Philip Neill said: "It is clear Andy has an abundance of talent. It's this talent we are always looking to invest in and he's a young lad with a bright future and I'm looking forward to seeing what we can achieve together."
• Former British Superstock champion and Sunflower Trophy winner Danny Buchan has been announced by the Mid Antrim 150 Club as agreeing to ride at the Neil Robinson Memorial Trophy meeting at Bishopscourt July8-9. Buchan currently leads the British Superstock series.
Also adding spice to the meeting are Carl Phillips, who will ride Michael Dunlop's Superstock Suzuki and Robert English riding the IFS Global Logistics R1 Yamaha that he scored three second place finishes at Mondello Park over the weekend.