William Dunlop will be in action for the first time since the Post TT Races at Billown last month as he prepares to go up against Derek Sheils at Walderstown this weekend.
Sheils is unbeaten at the Irish National meetings on the Cookstown B.E. Racing Suzuki in 2017 and is fresh from a treble at Skerries last Saturday, where he dominated on the GSX-R1000 in front of his home fans.
Dunlop missed the North County Dublin meeting to attend a special tribute marking 40 years of his legendary motorcycle racing family at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, which was also attended by his brother Michael.
The 31-year-old is a regular at the ‘Race of the South’ in Co Westmeath and adds some extra clout to the entry, which also includes Derek McGee – who the Supersport, Supertwins and 125cc races at Skerries – and Michael Sweeney.
Dunlop is still striving to get the best out of the Temple Golf Club Yamaha after missing out on a pre-season testing programme after a deal to ride for ex-British Superbike team Halsall Racing fell through, but the Ballymoney man is hopeful Walderstown will prove less demanding on the 1000cc YZF-R1.
The multiple North West 200 and Ulster Grand Prix winner is bulding towards the world’s fastest road race at Dundrod next month, when he is determined to close out the major international meetings on a high after finding himself on the back foot at the North West and Isle of Man TT.
“The big bike shouldn’t be as much of a handful at Walderstown because it’s not a really bumpy track,” Dunlop told the News Letter.
“I always seem to do pretty well there so we’ll see what happens. I need more time on the bike before the Ulster Grand Prix.
“I’m not doing Faugheen this year, so Armoy will be next after Walderstown and then it’ll be the Ulster.
“We made a lot of progress with the bike at the TT but we could still do with more time on it before Dundrod and maybe we’ll try and do a test somewhere after Walderstown,” he added.
“You can push the boundary on a short circuit and find the limitations of the bike, but we missed out on that this year with no pre-season testing and sometimes it’s hard to know how far you can push: you can’t afford to be finding out where the limit is on the roads.”
Dunlop also intends to compete at the Southern 100 next week, which gets underway with opening practice on Monday.
Dublin rider Sheils won the feature Grand Final at Walderstown in 2016 after edging out Michael Dunlop, who misses out this year as the 15-time TT winner heads to the Isle of Man once more to defend his Solo Championship crown at Billown.
Tobermore’s Adam McLean is set to make his 1000cc debut at Walderstown on a Kawasaki ZX-10R prepared by MSS Performance.
McLean is a late entry for the event, where he will also compete in the Supersport and Supertwin classes.
Magherafelt’s Paul Jordan will be aiming to build on his excellent rostrum last Saturday at Skerries in the non-championship Open race on the Evolution Camping BMW.
Jordan is also entered in the Supersport and Supertwin races. The 25-year-old is set to return to the 125cc class at Armoy at the end of this month after agreeing to ride the Joey’s Bar Honda after Sam Wilson’s departure from the team.
Gary Dunlop, who manages the team, issued a statement saying he wished Wilson good luck for the future.
“We would like to wish Sam all the best in his new ride and thank him for all the results that he’s given us since the start – he’s an unbelievable talent.”
Roads close for practice at Walderstown on Saturday at 12.30pm and on Sunday at 8am for a 10-race programme.