Peter Hickman heads up top-class field with sights on Ulster GP joy
Four 2019 Isle of Man TT winners will be in the line-up when practice and qualifying get under way tomorrow morning for the fonaCAB Ulster Grand Prix.
Leading the way is Peter Hickman, the current TT outright lap record holder and the only man to lap over 135mph. He claimed a hat-trick back in June when he won the Superbike, Superstock and second Supersport races.
The Smiths BMW rider has been UGP Man of the Meeting for the last two years and warmed up for the Ulster during last weekend's BSB races at Thruxton with third and fifth-place finishes.
He continually raises the bar to new levels on the roads and will likely do the same this week.
Dean Harrison won his first ever Senior TT this year and is the fastest man around Dundrod at 134.614mph.
The Bradford man's recent form of six race wins at the Southern 100 and a treble on the return of racing to Oliver's Mount, Scarborough with the Silicone Engineering Kawasaki makes him one of the favourites at Dundrod.
Lee Johnston claimed his first ever TT win when he took the honours in the first Supersport race on his Ashcourt Yamaha.
Having also won the Supersport race at the North West 200, Johnston will be looking to make it a remarkable treble in the final international road race meeting of the season.
Around Dundrod, he cannot be discounted from podiums in Superstock and Superbike.
Michael Dunlop scored his 19th TT victory by winning the Lightweight event on the Paton to make it 50 wins for the Dunlop family around the Mountain Circuit.
He had to pass a medical before clinching a double at Armoy while still recovering from injuries sustained in an S100 spill and, having since then broken a wrist, he's had to pass another medical ahead of this week.
Dunlop knows he has ground to make up having not won an Ulster Grand Prix race for six years. It's a tall order with the strength of the opposition, but he is well capable of upsetting the odds.
Aside from this year's TT winners, one man with a proven track record around Dundrod is Manxman Conor Cummins on the well-prepared Milenco Hondas by Padgetts.
He won his first international road race in eight years in last year's opening Supersport race and scored third-place finishes in Superstock and the second Supersport race. He has also finished on the podium in five of the last six international Superbike races.
At the Meet the Riders event in Castle Mall, Antrim yesterday, former Dundrod outright lap record holder Cummins said: "I'm coming here with winning intentions. The Padgetts Hondas are amongst the best on the grid and I don't see why I shouldn't be fighting at the front.
"I love the circuit and it would be nice to get a dry weekend."
Also racing will be Australian David Johnson on the sole Honda Racing machine (Ian Hutchinson has just had another operation on his leg), Jamie Coward, Davey Todd and local riders like Paul Jordan on the Dafabet Devitt RC Kawasaki.
Derek Sheils, meanwhile, has won 10 Superbike National races this season on the BE/RK Suzuki, and will also line up alongside Michael Sweeney, Manx Grand Prix winners James Chawke and Darryl Tweed, Gary Dunlop and five ladies in Patricia Fernandez, Veronika Hankocyova, Melissa Kennedy, Gillian McGaw and Yvonne Montgomery.
In the final international road race of the season, riders will be out to put themselves in the shop window for 2020 team seats.