Dean Harrison could have his best chance yet of landing a maiden North West 200 victory as he spearheads Kawasaki’s official challenge at the major road races again in 2022.
The Bradford man impressed during qualifying in 2019 when he posted the second fastest time behind Glenn Irwin in Superbike qualifying after dipping under Michael Dunlop’s 2016 lap record.
Poor weather on the main Saturday race day tempered any hopes Harrison had of staking his claim for the top step, but he goes into this week’s races as one of the leading contenders in the Superbike, Superstock and Supersport classes on the rebranded DAO Racing (formerly Silicone Engineering Racing) machines.
Harrison, a Senior TT winner in 2019, has been plying his trade in the British Superbike Championship in the absence of the major road races following two sparse years impacted by coronavirus restrictions.
However, his real passion is road racing and the 33-year-old can’t wait to get back to doing what he does best.
“Road racing is my thing and yes, while I’ve enjoyed racing over the last two years I have really missed this side of it,” said Harrison.
“I’m not looking too hard at it, I’m going to go tackle this in the same way I’ve tackled it previously, go out there and do my thing and do the best I can for the team.
“It’s always a special time when the road racing season starts but obviously it’s even more so this year because we’ve had two years out,” he added.
“It’s surely the same for everyone, we’re all just really looking forward to getting back to it.
“Nobody has ever really experienced this before, two full years away for everyone, so it’s totally new ground for all of us.
“Personally, I just can’t wait to get back out there.”
Harrison has signed a fresh two-year deal with the DAO Racing Kawasaki team and while both the North West and TT were cancelled in 2020 and 2021, he feels he spent his time wisely last year with a full campaign in BSB.
“Last year, we didn’t have any road racing apart from one weekend at Oliver’s Mount, so our whole effort went into BSB,” Harrison said.
“I think it proved to be an important season. When you’re running with some of the fastest Superbike riders in the world, it can only help bring you on and I think both myself and the team learnt a lot.
“I’m confident what we’ve learnt in BSB so far will help make us faster when we get back on the roads and with a team and bike I know and work well with, this could certainly be my best year yet.”
One event Harrison will miss this year is the Ulster Grand Prix at Dundrod, which has been cancelled for a third successive year after a government funding package fell through in March.
“As a rider Dundrod is a brilliant track and it’s a great place to be when the sun is shining, just like the North West 200,” Harrison said.
“It’s a shame that’s it’s not going again and I don’t really know what it will take to get it back again. It’s a massive blow to the sport to be honest and I don’t know what else can be done.”