This week sees the final International road race of the year, in the UK at least, take place with the Dundrod circuit playing host to the Ulster Grand Prix – and in a year that’s seen many riders endure a mixed season, it’s there last chance to claim an International race win.
The fastest road race circuit in the world:
The 7.4-mile Dundrod circuit is currently the fastest road race circuit in the world, still in use, with the lap record held by Bruce Anstey at 133.977mph. The Flying Kiwi set that mark back in 2010 with mixed weather conditions since then meaning it hasn’t come under serious threat.
However, with lap records being broken by handsome margins elsewhere, we can expect to see that mark shattered this time around. If the weather is kind, of course.
When it rains, it rains!
The hills above Antrim are renowned for rain and when it rains at Dundrod, it rains. And being in the heart of the countryside, that plays havoc with the racing although, it has to be said, we’ve seen some thrilling wet races over the years.
There’s nothing anyone can do about the weather though and, irrespective of the climate, this year’s Ulster is set to be a cracker; indeed, with the exception of TT legend John McGuinness, road racing’s finest will again be heading to Northern Ireland.
Dunlop setting the record straight:
One man eager to set the record straight is Michael Dunlop with the Ballymoney rider having a torrid season by the high standards we’ve become accustomed to in recent years. His departure from Milwaukee Yamaha has been well documented whilst crashes at both the Isle of Man TT and Southern 100 haven’t helped him either.
However, a race win at the latter and at the recent Armoy road races, where he again got the better of Guy Martin, show he’s edging ever closer to peak form.
Great success for Martin:
Martin, of course, is a master of Dundrod and his 11 wins since 2006 make him the fourth most successful rider of all time at the Ulster. He won the main Southern 100 Championship event and whilst his results at the TT and NW200 were mixed, nowhere is he more happier than at Dundrod. He’ll be at the front for sure.
Dunlop working hard to retain his place:
Another rider yet to have tasted International glory this year is Martin’s Tyco BMW team-mate William Dunlop. A crash at the TT put him very much on the back foot and he’ll be desperate to succeed at the Ulster especially, if he’s to retain his place with the squad for a third successive term.
At the opposite end of the scale are two riders who’ve had excellent years – Bruce Anstey and Ian Hutchinson. The former, despite now being the just a few days away from his 46th birthday, is still at the top of his game and has been on the podium, at least once, at the Ulster every year since 2002. At home on the Padgetts Honda, he’s one behind Martin on the all-time winner’s list so we can expect more high class results this time around.
Likewise Hutchinson. The hat-trick hero of the TT, the Yorkshire rider has only ridden at the Ulster once since 2010 but he’s another rider with an excellent track record at the venue. Ridden identical machinery to hwat he had at the TT, the Bingley Bullet still has points to prove and race wins to take so he’ll be at the forefront for sure.
Honda looking good:
Despite McGuinness being absent, the official Honda Racing team are represented by Conor Cummins, the former outright lap record holder making a welcome return, with fellow Manxman Dan Kneen, Anstey’s team-mate at Valvoline Racing, adding further weight to the Honda challenge.
Peter Hickman – the dark horse:
As always, there’s plenty more potential race winners though with the likes of Dean Harrison, Lee Johnston, Ivan Lintin and Keith Amor all having tasted previous success at Dundrod. A dark horse for a win could well be Peter Hickman, the fastest ever newcomer in the history of the event. With a similar tag at the TT, he showed what he could do there earlier this year and the BMW pilot is clearly ultra talented when it comes to road racing.
Fellow short circuit regular Glenn Irwin also made his debut last year, in the Supertwin class, but he adds the two Supersport races to his agenda this year and, if his North West 200 efforts are anything to go by, the rest had better watch out.
One of the best courses in the world:
The Ulster is often seen as the poor relation out of the ‘big three’ Internationals and whilst it’s true the facilities may be lacking, the course itself is definitely one of the best in the world and with the quality of racing equally high in standard, the stage is set for another superb road race race meeting.
How do you see the final international road race of the year planning out? Will Anstey’s record ever be broken?
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.