Michael Dunlop ready to take on BSB's big boys
Pole position man and local favourite Michael Dunlop – who dipped under the lap record in qualifying with a best time of 122.274mph – believes his factory-supported BMW S1000RR S4 will be well up to the task in today's Superbike clashes on the north coast.
The 25-year-old Ballymoney man is ready to take the fight to NW200 pre-race favourites Alastair Seeley and Michael Rutter, who have seven 'big class' wins between them.
And, after painfully losing out in Thursday night's Superstock encounter to Seeley on the run up the coast road – he's more determined that ever for a big class victory and a first for the German manufacturer at the Triangle.
"That Superbike of mine is brute, but it feels good. The BMW is a very fast bike and the Superbike races are the ones I want to win," he said.
"We're not sure what the tyres will do over a full race distance but we're going to give it a go, and I'll be taking it to those BSB boys," he smiled.
Obviously referring to BSB regulars Alastair Seeley on the Mar-Train Kawasaki, Michael Rutter on the Batham's BMW and Milwaukee Yamaha mounted Josh Brookes, he added: "I'm not scared of taking it to them.
"Those BSB boys are used to sitting on top of each other and pushing hard, but I don't mind pushing myself.
"If it takes a bit of shoving, I can do that too," he grinned.
Dunlop has yet to win an International Superbike race at the North West 200, and after losing out on in the closing stages to Mar-Train Racing's Alastair Seeley in Thursday night's Superstock encounter The Maverick is ready to deploy the after-burners!
"It's a brand new motorbike and I'd never ridden it anywhere else before we came to the North West.
"We had no settings, so we had to start from scratch, but we've kept chipping away and chipping away and there's still more to come from the bike and from me," he explained.
Looking ahead to today's Superbike races, Dunlop said of his game plan: "The best idea would be to get to the front and break them, but then so would the other boys," Dunlop enthused.
"I think it's really about trying to get a good run, stay with the front group and then be prepared for the coast road on the last lap, as that's where it all happens.
"Leading a race means nothing; it's all about having a go on the last lap which is a nightmare really, but I'm happy enough to do that if that's what it takes."
Dunlop has made the decision to change suspension on both his 'stock and Superbike BMWs, with K-Tech the spring and damping of choice on the Superstock machine and Ohlins on his Superbike.
If he can take victory it would be a first for BMW, but the keener money may be on Alastair Seeley giving Kawasaki a top step, especially after a subliminal double on Thursday night in the Supersport and Superstock classes.
Kawasaki's last Superbike win was back in 1977 with Mick Grant aboard a 750cc machine, but with Seeley reportedly running a standard engine borrowed from a customer's road bike in his Mar-Train Racing chassis after an engine blow-up – then 13 times winner Michael Rutter could well be the man to take the challenge to Dunlop on his Batham's BMW in today's encounters.
Tyco Suzuki duo Guy Martin and Wiliam Dunlop are joined by Bruce Anstey on the second row behind the aforementioned trio and should be in the hunt, but Aussie Josh Brookes should not be discounted on the Milwaukee Yamaha.
Starting from row three, Brookes said of his Superbike aspirations: "I've qualified in a lowly position in 12th but I know my lap time is better than that.
"I want to get a good start and get to the front and really play it by ear. I'm learning all the time, but there's no reason why I can't be up there."