I need miles on the bike: Michael Dunlop riding through pain barrier for long-awaited Ulster GP return
Six-time Ulster Grand Prix winner Michael Dunlop will return to the fonaCAB-sponsored event in August having missed last year's event less than a month after the death of his brother, William at the Skerries 100.
Dunlop will race a Tyco BMW S1000RR in the Superbike races alongside his own MD Racing CBR 600RR Honda and BMW in the Supersport and Superstock classes.
"It's been a couple of years since I was at the Ulster and I'm looking forward to getting back on a bike around Dundrod," the 30-year-old said during a visit to the Co Antrim circuit.
Dunlop recently won his 19th TT when he rode a Paton to victory in the Lightweight TT, notching up a 50th TT success for the illustrious family name around the Mountain Circuit.
The Ballymoney man is also set to compete at next week's Southern 100 meeting as he battles to get up to speed for the Ulster after missing most of the 2018 season following the loss of William.
"I haven't carried much performance at the Ulster for a while and I am still short of bike time, which puts me on the back foot," said Dunlop.
"I didn't get many laps at the North West or TT this year, so it will be good to get out on the bikes again at the Southern."
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Dunlop was forced to pull out of last weekend's Pikes Peak Hill Climb in Colorado after aggravating an arm injury he picked up in pre-season testing when he crashed his Ford Escort out of the Donegal International Rally.
The Tyco BMW star explained: "I'm still suffering a bit with the shoulder and wrist, but I'm getting treatment at the minute. I'll just have to suffer the pain with it for now until I can get an operation."
It is six years since he last tasted the victor's champagne at the Ulster and he openly admits he is struggling to find the pace that would put him back into contention with Peter Hickman and Dean Harrison after missing almost all of 2018.
"I need miles on the bike," admitted Dunlop. "I got the win on the smaller bike at the TT because it wasn't so hard to ride with the injury. But I just didn't have enough time on the other bikes between being too sore and breaking down in practice.
"There have been a series of knocks with this and that, which have all added up when you are already up against it to start with after being off a bike for so long. Hickman, Harrison and Lee Johnston are riding bikes all the time in BSB, but I haven't rode a bike since the TT."
Despite this, Dunlop is hungry to get back winning races.
"I love winning, that's the whole point of going racing motorbikes," he added.
"If I didn't think I could win I wouldn't bother racing at all. I feel bad for Philip Neill and the Tyco boys because I haven't been able to give them anything back after all their hard work. It is as frustrating for them as it is for me.
"I'm the underdog again and I don't mind that. If I thought I wasn't quick enough I wouldn't be in the game. I wouldn't embarrass myself. I just need these wee silly things ironed out that are holding me back and then get my finger out."
Eugene Laverty has a date with the medical personnel at Donington Park, near Derby, today to determine if he is fit enough to race in the eighth round of the World Superbike Championship this weekend.
It is almost two months since Laverty had an unfortunate crash at Imola, which left him with fractures in both wrists.