Michael Dunlop is a man on a mission when Ulster Grand Prix practice begins today around the 7.4-mile Dundrod Circuit (roads close 1.30pm).
Michael, and brother William, are among the fancied runners for every race that starts with them in it.
William is a three-time winner at the Ulster, but Michael has yet to score a victory over this famous circuit where his father Robert won 17 times and uncle Joey on a record 48 occasions, something that the 21-year-old aims to put right this week.
Michael says: “You don’t know how much it annoys me that I haven’t won at Dundrod.
“I’ve won at the North West and the TT, but I’ve yet to put my name on a winner’s trophy at the Ulster.
“I had expected to do well last year, especially in the Supersport races, but I was nowhere and I’m not just here to make up the numbers.
“This week I go in the Dundrod 150, the two Supersport and two Superbike, plus the Superstock at the Ulster and there is no reason I can’t take that elusive victory.”
Michael had been in a rich vein of form recently, taking his first national Superbike race wins at Walderstown, including the feature Race of the South and then winning three races at the Southern 100 before crashing out of the solo championship race at Billowen, luckily escaping major injury, although his Robinson Concrete Honda needed a major rebuild.
Michael explained: “I had been really getting to grips with the Superbike, but there is a fine line between success and disaster in this game and I crossed that line at the Southern when I just left my braking a split second too late at Iron Gate and put the bike on its roof while I head-butted the safety bales.
“The bike has been rebuilt and I had two thirds on it at Armoy at the weekend, although it just wasn’t quite right in the handling department.
“The Supersport races should be close affairs at Dundrod and on the Street Sweep Yamaha I’m confident of a good showing and able to give William, Ryan Farquhar, Ian Hutchinson and Keith Amor a run for their money.”
While showing a devil-may-care attitude at times, Dunlop is also a hugely determined, calculating young man with the ability, aggression and youthful exuberance to make that winning breakthrough this week.
And he will draw inspiration from dad Robert, saying: “My dad used to say, ‘win a race at the slowest possible speed’, but that may mean breaking lap records this week to win, given the right weather conditions, as there are so many quick guys out there.
“If that’s what has to be done, so be it. I’m out to top a podium or two this week. Dundrod is a real challenge. It is a fast flowing circuit and you have to be totally committed to it.”
William is the quieter of the two brothers, but, once on a bike and in the zone, he is well capable of beating the best as he proved last year when winning the second Supersport race at record breaking pace, in fact he is the only rider on a 600cc machine to lap Dundrod at over 127mph.
William said after his man-of-the-meeting performance at Armoy last Saturday: “I’m really looking forward to Dundrod. The wee 125 Honda is flying, but I think the 250 needs a bit more to be competitive with Ian Lougher.
Practice continues tomorrow morning when roads close at 10am with the Dundrod 150 race programme scheduled to start at 2pm.