2017 racing action kicks of with World Superbikes in February. Here’s our lowdown on what’s new and what you need to know.
Will we see 134mph Laps at the Ulster GP?
This week sees the best road racers on the planet head to the fastest road race in the world – the International Ulster Grand Prix. And whilst a lot will depend on the weather in County Antrim, it should be a tremendous week’s racing on what is the fastest road course still currently in use.
The third of the ‘big three’ International road races to be held in the UK, the Ulster GP takes place on the high-speed 7.4-mile Dundrod circuit, just outside Belfast, Northern Ireland, and Bruce Anstey has held the official circuit lap record for an incredible six years with the flying Kiwi lapping at an average speed of 133.997mph in 2010 on the Relentless by TAS Suzuki GSXR1000.
With Michael Dunlop obliterating the Isle of Man TT record with a lap of 133.962mph, Anstey will need to up the ante as this year’s Ulster Grand Prix gets underway if his lap is to remain the world’s fastest.
Hat-trick for Anstey?
The 47-year will again be riding for the Valvoline Racing by Padgetts Honda team, and having won the feature Superbike race for the last two years, he’ll be keen to make it three in a row. His record at the Ulster, like all the other International road races, is exemplary with 11 wins and 25 podiums to his name, the latter the third highest of all time.
There’s a twist this time around though as he’ll race the RC213V-S MotoGP replica machine although this will be the first time he competitively rides it fully fit, after suffering bruising from a crash during practice at the TT.
“I’m really pleased that we’re able to bring the RCV to Dundrod and that I’ll get another run out on it before the season ends,” says Anstey. “It’s fantastic to ride and should handle the fast, flowing corners of the circuit with ease. I’m looking forward to riding the RCV at full fitness too. I got a bit knocked about and bruised with my off at the TT so this is my chance to get out there and do the bike justice.”
Dunlop the man to beat?
The man arriving at Dundrod in the best shape is, arguably, Michael Dunlop, with his record breaking, race winning feats at the TT having been followed with dominant performances at the Southern 100 and Armoy road races. Still only 27, Dunlop hasn’t been as victorious at Dundrod as one might have thought but, with the Buildbase/Hawk Racing BMWs, he’s in a great position to add to his current tally of six wins.
Dunlop’s brother William has one more win but an impressive 20 podiums and having struggled with injury and new machinery at the TT, he’ll be looking to end the International road race season on a high. He’s been in excellent form in the Supersport class of late and whilst this will be the class that gives him his best chance of victory, don’t rule him out in the Superbike class either.
Hutchinson on fire:
However, arguably Michael’s biggest threat will again come from Ian Hutchinson and many are eagerly awaiting the mouth-watering prospect of the pair going head to head once more. Their battles in the 1000cc races at the TT blew the event apart and the same could again happen at the Ulster. Hutchy has been in great form on the short circuits on the Tyco BMW and he’ll have both the Superbike and Superstock machines at his disposal as well as Keith Flint’s CAME/IBT Supersport 600cc Yamaha so more wins are all he’s after.
Plenty of challengers:
Although John McGuinness, James Hillier and Michael Rutter are again missing from the entry list, there are still plenty of impressive riders in attendance, none more so than Peter Hickman who claimed his maiden road race win at last year’s event. The GBMoto Kawasaki rider is enjoying a strong season in the British Superbike Championship and with another year on the roads under his belt, which has seen him impress at the North West 200 and TT, expect more of the same at Dundrod.
Lee Johnston stole all the headlines twelve months ago when he claimed a hat-trick of wins and he should again be in a position to challenge again this time around on the ECC/Burdens BMW and Triumph machines whilst Dean Harrison should be in the mix for podiums on the Silicone Engineering Kawasaki’s.
Conor Cummins can never be ruled out at Dundrod on the Honda Racing and Valvoline machines whilst Dan Kneen (Mar-Train Racing Yamaha) will be eager to get some decent results having been forced to miss both the TT and NW200 due to injury.
Aussie David Johnson is a welcome late entry on the Wilson Craig Racing machines and this will make up for the loss of Ivan Lintin, the Devitt RC Express Kawasaki rider having been forced to pull out due to injury. However the team proudly welcome the talented Steve Mercer to the team so it’s all still to play for!
Are you excited now that the races are underway? Do you think the 133.997mph lap record can be beaten? Why not share your thoughts below!
Having started watching motorcycle races all over the world form childhood, Phil Wain has been a freelance motorcycle journalist for 15 years and is features writer for a number of publications including BikeSport News and Classic Racer, having also been a regular contributor to MCN and MCN Sport. He is PR officer for a number of teams and riders at both the British Superbike Championship and International road races, including Smiths Triumph, Quattro Plant Kawasaki, John McGuinness, Ryan Farquhar and Keith Amor. He is also heavily involved with the Isle of Man TT Races, writing official press releases and race reports as well as providing ITV4 with statistical information.