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Cummins is confident he can stay out in front at Dundrod

 

By Roy Harris

The weather - more specifically whether or not it will rain - is the big talking point at Dundrod ahead of today's MCE Ulster Grand Prix, and predicting that is almost as problematic as picking the winners for today's seven-race programme.

Thursday was to provide a few pointers, and the main one was that Manxman Conor Cummins and his Padgetts Hondas can take the battle to the Dean Harrison/Peter Hickman roadshow in the Superbike, Superstock and Supersport races today.

His achievements - he took pole on Thursday as well as a victory - are all the more impressive given that the 32-year-old fought back from possible career-ending injuries in 2010 to be a front runner at international level again.

Last year, the former Dundrod outright lap record holder finished third and fifth in the two Superbike races, and fifth in Superstock, but played second fiddle to his team-mate and double winner Bruce Anstey, a non-starter this year due to illness.

"I've got the equipment under me in Padgetts Honda and one of the best teams in the paddock behind me," Cummins said.

"I'm in great physical shape and I love the circuit. The speeds will be high and I feel we can be at the sharp end."

So it came as no surprise on Thursday when the big man delivered, claiming pole position for today's Superbike races with a lap of 134.138mph before scoring his second Ulster Grand Prix success - his first for nine years - by winning the six-lap Supersport race quite comfortably in patchy conditions.

Lining up on the front row alongside Cummins will be Harrison, Hickman and Australian David Johnson, debuting on the Tyco BMW and looking to put a qualifying spill at the hairpin behind him as he aims for his first Dundrod podium.

Davey Todd heads up the second row, with three-time winner Lee Johnston on the sole Honda Racing Fireblade in fifth position and Paul Jordan - who arguably put in the top performance of qualifying on his debut - on the Dafabet Devitt Kawasaki sixth.

The same seven riders make up the front two rows for the opening race of the day for Superstock machines, with Harrison on pole from Hickman, Todd, Cummins, Johnson, Johnston and Jordan, while in Supersport it is Harrison with his second pole ahead of Cummins, Adam McLean (McAdoo Kawasaki) and Hickman, just over a second separating the quartet as Johnston, Todd and Michael Sweeney complete the second row.

McLean and Todd, both 22-years old, are the two men on the rise well capable of attacking the experienced riders, as the former demonstrated on Thursday by finishing second in the Supersport race and winning his first international road race with victory in the five-lap Supertwin event on his Roy Hanna Motors Kawasaki, a feat he would like to repeat in today's Supertwin.

Harrison scored his first UGP win last year and set the outright lap record at 134.614mph.

He has been in outstanding form this season, recording his second TT win and dominating the Southern 100 with five wins. He would dearly love to stand on the top step this afternoon.

Hickman, a triple winner last year and outright TT lap record holder, is coming off the back of a double BSB podium at Thruxton despite a kidney infection that required an overnight stay in hospital prior to racing.

Todd has been impressive on John Burrows' machines and his front-row start in Superstock is quite an achievement in only his second season at Dundrod.

If you are looking for outsiders to put a spanner in the works you are looking at Sam West, Dan Cooper, David Jackson, Dominic Herbertson, Darren Cooper, Joey Thompson (the youngest competitor at 20) and Christian Elkin in the major classes, while Elkin and Neil Kernohan will look to repeat their Thursday success in Ultralightweight and Lightweight.

Roads Close at 9.30am.

Race 1: Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council Superstock - 6 laps

Race 2: Centra White Mountain Service Station Supersport 1 - 6 laps

Race 3: Plant Lubrication (NI) Ultra-Lightweight / Lightweight - 5 laps

Race 4: MMB UGP Superbike - 7 laps

Race 5: Team Air Power Supersport 2 - 6 laps

Race 6: Maxwell Freight Services Supertwin - 5 laps

Race 7: Around A Pound Superbike - 6 laps

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