The fierce rivalry between last year’s Superbike race contenders Michael Dunlop and Guy Martin will be renewed at the Metzeler Ulster Grand Prix on August 17.
The Tyco Suzuki rider, who won the feature race in 2012, will face even stiffer competition this time as four-time 2013 TT winner Dunlop will be making his final appearance of the season on the Honda TT Legends Superbike that carried him to his first big bike win on the Island in June.
Dunlop won the second Superbike encounter in 2012 after crashing out of the battle with the 31 year old truck fitter at the Hairpin in the feature race. His recent defeat by Martin at the Southern 100 will ensure the 24 year old is even more determined to avenge those setbacks at this year’s Ulster.
However, the superfast Dundrod circuit has been a happy hunting ground for the English rider over the years and the Lincolnshire man will be focused on raising his tally of UGP victories into double figures this year.
No less than six of the 2013 TT’s podium finishers are also included in the rest of the line-up, with Cameron Donald winning the award for the ‘furthest distance travelled’ as he returns from his home in Australia to ride the Wilson Craig Fireblade he steered into second place in the Superbike TT.
William Dunlop and Manxman Conor Cummins will debut the fearsomely fast Milwaukee Yamaha YZFR1s at Dundrod, boosting the official factory entry for the Prix.
Cummins, a former lap record holder on the 7.41 mile circuit, has struggled to get to grips with the big Yamaha but the team will have been given a boost by the elder Dunlop’s double victory at Walderstown. William declared afterwards that the bike’s set up was “almost complete for the Ulster”.
The 27 year old will also have his CD Racing/Milwaukee rocketship R6 for both Supersport events which are always priority targets for the 600 specialist.
Both Bruce Anstey and Gary Johnson may have moved away from factory teams recently but it doesn’t appear to have diminished their speed. Johnson took his Lincs Lifting Kawasaki ZX10 to runner up spot in the Superstock TT in June and he is also entered on his own Honda Fireblade superbike at the Prix. He will also ride the iconic MV Agusta F3 machine in the Supersport races and he should be a podium contender in the both these races too.
The mercurial Anstey may be 43 years old but he is still the fastest man ever around Dundrod as his phenomenal 133.97mph lap, set in 2010 on a Relentless Suzuki, remains unbroken. Now on the HM Plant/Padgett’s Hondas, Bruce has kept up his winning ways on his favourite track, taking a Superbike win in 2011 and snatching a Supersport victory in 2012 after a race long dice with William Dunlop.
Although the Flying Kiwi was on the podium at both the North West 200 in May and at the TT in June, he has yet to win a race in 2013. It would be a very brave man who would bet against him doing so on 17th August.
Dean Harrison could be the dark horse of the competition. Although not a factory rider, the fast talking Bradford lad is coming to Dundrod in peak form. The 24 year old had a brilliant TT, finishing 4th in the Superstock race before scoring his first TT podium with runner up slot in the Lightweight race.
Harrison mixed it at the front with both Guy Martin and Michael Dunlop on his RC Express/MSS ZX10 Kawasaki in all three Superbike races at the Southern 100 and he dominate the Cock O’ the North meeting at Scarborough last weekend, winning the 600cc and 1000cc races.
With this much quality in the starting line-up for the 2013 Metzeler Ulster Grand Prix, picking a winner might be a bit of a lottery but the racing will be as fast and furious as ever on the world’s fastest road race circuit.
The Dundrod 150 Superbike race will be sponsored by Topaz Airport Road Service Station, the first Superbike race of the Ulster Grand Prix will be sponsored by McKinstry Skip Hire and the second by Ireland Freight Services.
Bike Week 2013 will run between 12th – 17th August in Dundrod, Co. Antrim. The main events are the Topaz Dundrod 150 races on Thursday 15th August and the Metzeler Ulster Grand Prix races on Saturday 17th August.
Wristbands that allow entry to the course and the paddock all week cost £25. Under 16s are free.
For more details on the Metzeler Ulster Grand Prix, visit www.ulstergrandprix.net