Meet the rising stars keen to become big hitters at Ulster Grand Prix
Road racing's next generation of stars take to the grid for today's first practice session for the MCE Ulster Grand Prix with a host of new names aiming to make their way onto the leaderboards following a traumatic few months for the sport.
Since the beginning of last year's Ulster GP, the sport has tragically lost Jamie Hodson, Gavin Lupton, Dan Hegarty, Dan Kneen, Adam Lyon, William Dunlop and James Cowton in racing incidents. All will be remembered by those attending Dundrod this week.
Steven Lynd, Steve Mercer and Ivan Lintin have been seriously injured, while Bruce Anstey, a double winner at Dundrod a year ago, has been fighting a battle with cancer. Ian Hutchinson, meanwhile, feels his well-documented leg injury problems leave him unfit to race at Dundrod.
There are full grids for the majority of races at the 7.4-mile circuit this week and there are quite a few names hovering around the top 10 who can step it up a gear to challenge for top-six finishes.
Sam West, from Wilmslow in England, has lapped Dundrod at over 130mph and had a terrific TT, so is well worth watching on PRL Worthington machinery.
Davey Todd is an English competitor riding for Dungannon-based John Burrows' Cookstown BE Team and is only in his second visit to Dundrod, but has been lighting up the national and international road race scene since his debut at Skerries just over a year ago.
The 22-year-old was the best newcomer at the TT back in June and was also the second fastest ever newcomer.
Adam McLean from Tobermore, and near neighbour Paul Jordan from Magherafelt, fought out a humdinger of a Supersport race at Armoy, with the latter just getting the verdict.
Jordan finished a remarkable fifth in last year's second Supersport race, and this year will be on the Dafabet Davitt Racing Superstock Kawasaki normally ridden by the injured Lintin.
McLean has the might of the Gortreagh Printing Kawasaki outfit of Winston McAdoo behind his racing this season and is well capable of top-six finishes.
Another local man is Shaun Anderson from Banbridge, who had two top 20 TT results and is worth keeping an eye on aboard his Superstock Suzuki.
Australian David Johnson was knocking on the door for podiums here last year and also at the TT in June. Now with the backing of the Hector and Philip Neill Tyco BMW team, a rostrum is not beyond his undoubted talent.
Add in Derek McGee, who has been dominating the Irish road race scene recently, Michael Sweeney, David Jackson, Dan Cooper, Phillip Crowe, Derek Sheils and Seamus Elliott to name a few, and it will be interesting to see who can challenge the predicted Dean Harrison, Peter Hickman, Lee Johnston and Conor Cummins battles at the front of the Supersport, Superstock and Superbike races.
Roads close this morning at 10am for a full practice schedule.
Meanwhile, hundreds of bikers have taken part in the now annual Ulster Grand Prix 'Bike Fest' convoy from three starting points in Northern Ireland, all culminating in a lap of the world-famous Dundrod circuit.
The legendary Dromara Destroyers (Brian Reid, Ray McCullough, Trevor Steele and Ian McGregor) led a ride out of over 200 bikes from Dromara village centre for the third year running.
Joining them at Dundrod were another two convoys, one of Harley-Davidsons and one of Vespas.
Noel Johnston, Clerk of the Course, said: "We were delighted to see so many people from the biking community out in force, but who could blame them for being unable to turn down the chance to ride round the MCE UGP during bike week?
"The circuit itself is in great shape and we're now ready for the first race bikes on the grid on Wednesday morning.
"Here's to a safe few days of close, shoulder-to-shoulder racing at what is, in my opinion, the greatest mass start road race in the world."