Race is on to be Ulster king
The scene is set for a blistering Metzeler Ulster Grand Prix today with battle set to recommence between the world’s top road racers following a sensational Dundrod 150 race on Thursday when Tyco Suzuki’s Guy Martin just got the upper hand on Dundrod outright lap record holder Bruce Anstey (Valvoline Padgetts Honda), by a mere two tenths of a second.
Martin said: “Bruce is riding bloody well and I think looking at Thursday’s result it could well be just me and him out front again in the Superbike races, but you cannot discount Michael (Dunlop) or my team mate William (Dunlop).
“I think the longer races will suit me and I’ve just got to keep the pressure on. It will be the same in the Supersport races where I need to ‘man up’ a bit and wring the neck off the wee bike. Yes I want a result on the 600, but it is the big class that takes priority for me this weekend.”
Flying Kiwi Anstey starts the Superbike races from pole position following a 133.165mph lap in qualifying, but Martin set the fastest speed in Thursday’s race at 133.313mph, a second off Anstey’s outright lap record of 133.977mph.
The question being asked is will the ‘Fastest Road Race in the World’ become even faster today?
If Mother Nature plays her part all signs are that the lap record is in jeopardy with the top nine riders in the Dundrod 150 putting in laps at over 130mph and the top six averaging over 131mph for the five lap race – that is the speed you have to be at to win a Superbike race at Dundrod.
However it is not all about Martin and Anstey as they are joined on the front row by the Dunlop brothers William and Michael, both determined to put Thursday’s race behind them when Michael fought back from a poor start to finish third with William sixth.
William said: “I was disappointed as I had a good pace and was right up with Guy going towards Wheelers on the first lap, but got lifted by another rider at the ‘hole in the wall’ and then struggled through the hairpin. I set my fastest ever lap at 132.745mph, but it wasn’t good enough for a podium. I know I’m better than sixth and will be pulling out all the stops to get on the podium.”
Meanwhile Michael knows he has to get the BMW Motorrad off the line sharper to be in contention from lap one.
It took him until lap three to get uo to third on Thursday, but by then Martin and Anstey were two seconds ahead; the gap too big to reel in. But, if anybody can do it Michael can, having won at the North West 200 and Isle of Man TT on BMW.
Lee Johnston and Dean Harrison both set their fastest ever laps on Thursday and are well capable of being in the mix for a podium today.
Worth watching is debutant
Peter Hickman, who has been getting faster and faster the more laps he puts in and finished seventh on Thursday, becoming the fastest ever newcomer around the 7.4mile circuit with a lap at 131.198mph. He then won the Totalis Challenge race by over 23 seconds – all this after crashing at Wheelers in Superstock qualifying and then scrounging around the paddock for replacement parts to get back on track.
Dan Kneen has been sweeping all before him on the Irish national scene and set his fastest ever lap of 131.210mph in qualifying and could well threaten a podium from his second row starting position.
Superstock and Supersport will both see the same riders battling for the top step of the podium with William Dunlop saying of his Supersport Tyco Suzuki: “It is a missile when I get it wound up, but it will be another tight affair with five or six riders capable of winning.”
Johnston won the Supertwin race on Thursday by two seconds, but the battle behind him was heart-stopping with up to half a dozen riders squabbling over the final rostrum places — expect more of the same today when that battle could well be for the win.
Today’s seven race programme will also see a combined Ultra Lightweight / Lightweight race where James Cowton, Neil Kernohan, Christian Elkin and Daley Mathison should be the front runners in their respective classes.
Roads close this morning at 9.30 am and don’t forget to bring your radio where you can tune into Radio UGP on 107.8fm or Radio Ulster 1341MW from 10.30am to 1.10pm and then on 92-95FM from 1.10-6pm for all the action.
Meanwhile, the Dundrod and District Motorcycle Club have confirmed that Pierre Favre was the rider injured during the Lightweight race at the Dundrod 150.
Pierre, who is from France, is in a critical condition in the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast. And Danny Webb, who crashed heavily at Joey’s (Windmill) during Supersport qualifying on Thursday, is recovering in hospital from broken ribs and ankle.
Both riders were newcomers to the Dundrod Circuit.