Michael Dunlop has been the man to beat so far this year on the road racing scene, the Ballymoney rider dominating at both international and national events this season. Having secured wins at the North West 200, Isle of Man TT and Souther 100 already, the Ulster Grand Prix is next on the BMW rider’s international hit list.
Conditions have been troublesome so far this week for the Ulster Grand Prix, which much of practice fragmented by delays and Thursday’s Dundrod 150 race programme heavily truncated due to the weather.
In the first of the dry running of the meeting so far, Dunlop blazed to pole position for the two Superbike races on his Hawk Racing S1000RR with a lap of 131.783mph. The Ballymoney rider also secured pole for the Superstock contest on his MD Racing BMW with a lap of 121.625mph.
GB Moto Kawasaki’s Peter Hickman took his first international victory in last year’s wet second Superbike race and will be keen to add to that tally in 2016. The Englishman will line up second after narrowly missing out on Dunlop’s best lap in the Superbike session.
Bruce Anstey completes the top three in the big bike class on his monstrous Padgetts Honda RC213V-S, which competes at the Ulster with full racing tailpipes thanks to the event’s lack of noise restrictions. The Kiwi rider managed a best lap of 130.220mph on the Honda, with Tyco BMW’s and three-time 2016 TT winner Ian Hutchinson just behind in fourth.
Silicone Engineering’s Dean Harrison completed the top five, with Conor Cummins, Derek Sheils, Gary Johnson, William Dunlop and Dan Kneen rounding out the top 10. Johnson was drafted in following Tuesday’s running at the ECC Burdens’ team after Lee Johnston broke his collarbone in a crash during the lightweight session.
Lining up behind Dunlop in the Superstock race will be Shiels on the Shirlaw’s Motorcycles Kawasaki ahead of Steve Mercer on the RC Express Kawasaki. Mercer is filling in for Ivan Lintin, who recently underwent surgery on mangled finger. Team-mate James Coward was fourth with Cummins completing the top five.
In the 600cc Supersport class, Anstey will start from pole in both races on his Padgetts Honda CBR600. Hutchinson will launch from second on the BPT Yamaha, whilst Cummins starts third. Dean Harrison and William Dunlop round out the top five, with Trooper Beer Kawasaki’s Hickman starting the number 666 bike from sixth.