Hickman is in mix as race for British crown hots up
The British Superbike Championship heads to mainland Europe this weekend for its annual visit to the Assen Circuit in Holland, where the first of three meetings counting towards the Title Showdown will be held.
Only six riders - Josh Brookes, Scott Redding, Tommy Bridewell, Tarren Mackenzie, Danny Buchan and Peter Hickman - can now win the Championship.
It will be three Ducatis versus a Yamaha, a Kawasaki and a BMW in what should be a great showdown.
There is no Northern Ireland representation in the battle as Andrew Irwin ended up in seventh position after what he felt was harsh treatment during the Oulton Park round.
There, penalties forced him to start from the back of the grid, and his top six chances evaporated. He is now chasing the Riders' Cup.
Of course, those outside the top six can still play a big part in the destination of the Championship, and the Hondas of Andrew Irwin and Xavi Fores, Tyco BMWs of Christian Iddon and Glenn Irwin, the Yamaha of Jason O'Halloran and Richard Cooper - having a Superbike outing on the Buildbase Suzuki having clinched the Superstock 1000 title at Oulton - are all well capable of mixing it at the front of the field.
Meanwhile, Alastair Seeley is still recovering from breaking his wrist last time out at Oulton Park and with his British Supersport Championship aspirations now gone, his EHA Yamaha team have decided to give Assen a miss this weekend and are set to return at the penultimate round at Donington Park.
Dubliner Jack Kennedy, uninjured after a fall at Oulton Park, takes a 37-point Championship lead over Integro Appleyard team-mate Brad Jones into Assen's two races this weekend.
The penultimate round of the AJ Plumbing Ulster Superbike Championship is a double-header at Bishopscourt tomorrow and Sunday, where the IFS David Wood Trophy Supersport events take centre stage with the overall winner of the four races over the two days receiving £1,200 and a set of Pirelli tyres.
In the Supersport Championship chase, Christian Elkin still leads the way on 290 points despite not winning a race to date, while Jason Lynn has reduced the gap to just 15 points having won all 11 races he has contested this season.
In Superbikes, Carl Phillips has led the way from the opening round of the season, but his advantage is now just 56 points over Alistair Kirk with Aaron Armstrong and defending champion Gerard Kinghan squabbling over third position.
Although not in Championship contention, the man to watch this weekend could well be Nico Mawhinney, who is returning to the sport this season after a serious leg injury.
The Castledawson rider had a win and a second last time out at Kirkistown after race-long battles with Kirk.
Phillips was never out of the top two until round six, where he had a non-finish and two wins, followed by two non-finishes in round seven and two fifth places last time out.
It should make for interesting racing over the two days that will see two sprint races tomorrow and two longer races on Sunday.
Racing at this MCRRCI multi-sponsored promotion is scheduled to commence from 11.30am tomorrow and from 9am on Sunday, with 18 races per day.
A terrific entry guarantees great racing in what is a packed programme.
Michael Dunlop, meanwhile, is recovering following surgery on injuries sustained earlier in the season and which hindered his racing ability all year. He said: "Just off the work-bench, bit sore but all went well."