Laverty sets sights on seventh Sunflower crown as McWilliams returns to meeting
Michael Laverty is dreaming of a seventh Sunflower Trophy triumph after being confirmed as Tyco BMW's sole representative at the prestigious end-of-season meeting at Bishopscourt on Friday and Saturday.
The six-time champion, and rider with the most wins at the meeting (19), Laverty - who seems set to be heading to the Endurance World Championship next season - would love to take a seventh win in the Sunflower race after a close runner-up spot behind Glenn Irwin last year.
However, the competition will be tough as he lines up against Danny Buchan, Richard Cooper (the winner of the final BSB race at Brands Hatch on Sunday), Dean Harrison, Carl Phillips, David Haire and new Ulster Superbike champion Gerard Kinghan.
Laverty said: "It's always nice to come home to race at the Sunflower. It's always a great event and an enjoyable way to round out the season.
"Bishopscourt is a great venue and continues to improve year on year. It's thanks to Hector and Philip Neill, plus the Hillsborough Club, who have made it possible to race there again."
It has also been confirmed that ex-Grand Prix winner Jeremy McWilliams will line up for Ryan Farquhar's KMR Kawasaki team in the Supertwin races.
Add that to the announcement that Irwin will be competing only in the Supertwin races this year, it brings extra intrigue to what should be two competitive races on Saturday.
Farquhar said: "For me the weekend is about testing and evaluating new parts for next season. There is no doubting Jeremy's testing ability."
It should be an enthralling encounter between Irwin on the John Burrows Kawasaki ER6 and McWilliams on Farquhar's machine, but don't rule out newly-crowned British Junior Supersport champion Eunan McGlinchey on the McAdoo Kawasaki, Robert Kennedy on a potent Cloverdale/ILR Paton, 2016 double winner Paul McClung or recently-crowned local champion Gary McCoy.
McWilliams said: "I'm not only riding the Supertwin, but also a Moto3 machine for the first time, so that should be interesting.
"Ryan has been busy with new things to test on the Supertwin before we decide what we race on Saturday. It will be interesting to see how Ryan's bikes have developed since the North West."
Canadian Darren James, who rides for Farquhar at the North West and TT, is also in action at the Sunflower.
Meanwhile, the International North West 200 has appointed Australian company Sportsnet Holidays as its official travel partner in Australia and New Zealand for the next three years.
Event Director Mervyn Whyte MBE said: "The Coleraine and District Motorcycle Club are delighted to partner with Sportsnet in Australia to offer packages and tours to the North West 200 and increase the number of visitors from Down Under."