Real blow for fans as Honda confirm Martin won't compete at Ulster GP
All the speculation ended yesterday when it was announced that Guy Martin will not be in action at the MCE Ulster Grand Prix next month.
Organisers of the international road race had expected Martin to appear at Dundrod, having joined Honda Racing following his return from a two-year absence, but team bosses confirmed yesterday that his highly anticipated return to the event is not to be.
Clerk of the Course Noel Johnston said: "Naturally I'm disappointed to have the news confirmed by Honda that Guy won't race at Dundrod next month, but it is not altogether surprising given the difficulties the team have endured throughout the season.
"I had hoped for a different outcome, as Guy is obviously a big fan favourite and he has never made any secret in the past of his love for the circuit, which after all is the international where he has had the most success over the years.
"Putting this news aside, I'm happy with the strength of this year's entry.
"We have seen some incredible performances this season from the likes of Peter Hickman, Dean Harrison and Michael Dunlop in particular, and I have no doubt they will bring the same spectacular form to Dundrod."
Since Martin made his Dundrod debut in 2003, he has had 30 podium finishes, including 11 UGP wins and four Dundrod 150 victories before his highly-publicised crash during the 2015 Dundrod 150, resulting in his two-year absence.
The new Honda campaigned by Martin and John McGuinness has not lived up to expectation, with firstly McGuinness crashing during North West 200 practice - resulting in season-ending injuries - and then Martin coming off on the opening lap of the Superbike TT, escaping injury.
Honda withdrew their machine from the rest of each meeting.
Martin had been expected to ride at the Southern 100 but was declared a non-starter prior to that event, even though he did ride at Cadwell Park in a test session the weekend before. He has an entry in for the Armoy road races next weekend.
In other UGP news, little has been heard from Tyco BMW as to who will or will not replace the injured Ian Hutchinson, with many names being bandied about.
The Hector and Philip Neill-owned team will be looking for a front-running rider, but just who is available at this stage?
On the list of possibilities are Lee Johnston, if he has recovered from his TT practice spill; Dan Kneen, who is on a roll following his Southern 100 displays; and Alastair Seeley, who could make his second ever appearance at Dundrod.
Other names include Conor Cummins, who has recovered from an early-season injury, Australian ace David Johnston and Gary Johnson.
Josh Brookes or Christian Iddon may even come in to make their Dundrod debut.
Meanwhile, after first practice for the BSB meeting at Brands Hatch this weekend, the best-placed local rider is Michael Laverty (McAms Yamaha) who was ninth fastest, with Glenn Irwin - on his comeback from injury - down in 22nd.
Elsewhere, Andrew Irwin is still looking for his first British Supersport win after having been relegated from first position at the last race for passing Jack Kennedy under a yellow flag at Snetterton.
He was sixth fastest yesterday ahead of today's qualifying first race with Carrickfergus ace Seeley second.