Ulster Grand Prix 2016: Dunlop and Hutchinson to continue rivalry

Ian Hutchinson and Michael Dunlop are set to contend strongly at the Ulster Grand Prix
Ian Hutchinson and Michael Dunlop are set to contend strongly at the Ulster Grand Prix

Ian Hutchinson and Michael Dunlop will again go head-to-head in this week's Ulster Grand Prix meeting at Dundrod.

The pair dominated the Isle of Man TT in June, winning five races between them and building up a strong rivalry.

Among the other leading contenders are last year's hat-trick hero Lee Johnston and lap record holder Bruce Anstey.

Peter Hickman will hope to add to the Superbike success he secured last year, with Dean Harrison, William Dunlop and Conor Cummins also in the mix for wins.

Dunlop and Hutchinson look to add to win totals

Michael Dunlop has yet to be beaten in an international Superbike road race this year, having added a brace of victories at the TT to his North West 200 triumph on the Hawk Racing BMW.

The 27-year-old has not won at the Ulster Grand Prix since 2013, but his recent form is good, a four-timer at the Southern 100 including a win in the feature Solo Championship event, plus a double at Armoy, with a sixth straight success in the feature 'Race of Legends'.

In addition to the 'big bike' events, the Ballymoney rider will compete in the Superstock and Supersport outings, with Hutchinson likely to be the man to beat after enjoying a clean sweep of those classes at the TT.

The Yorkshireman flies the flag for the Tyco BMW outfit, but switches to the Team Traction Control Came Yamaha for what are likely to be two keenly contested 600cc races on Saturday.

Hutchinson hopes to bridge a six-year gap since the last time he stood on the top step of the podium at Dundrod.

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Action from the Ulster Grand Prix

Anstey's long-standing benchmark

Anstey's lap record of 133.977mph for the 7.4-mile circuit has stood since 2010, a speed he set while riding for Hector and Philip Neill's TAS team in the final Superbike race of a sun-soaked day.

The 47-year-old has 11 Grand Prix wins to his name and will hope to add to that tally as he rides the MotoGP-based RCV Honda which he campaigned over the Mountain Course two months ago.

The New Zealander will be joined in the Valvoline Padgett's Honda colours for the Superstock and Supersport events by Manxman Conor Cummins, who rides the Honda Racing 1000cc Fireblade in the Superbike races.

Meanwhile David Johnson, the fastest Australian ever around the TT Mountain Course, will be also be on board Hondas in the three main classes after securing a late deal to ride for the Wilson Craig team.

Johnston aims to hit top form

Lee Johnston
Lee Johnston won both Supersport races and the Superstock event in 2015

Johnston's attempts to find the form which propelled him to a treble over the County Antrim course last August have been hampered by injuries sustained in a crash at Scarborough in April.

The 27-year-old, who has taken in some British Supersport rounds this season, again rides for the East Coast Construction team. He finished fourth in a British Supersport race at Knockhill in July.

The diminutive Fermanagh rider, also a three-time North West 200 victor, campaigns BMWs in the Superbikes and Superstocks and a Triumph in the Supersport.

Bradford pilot Harrison enjoyed a successful TT week with his Silicone Engineering Kawasaki team and should challenge strongly for rostrum places and possibly a first Dundrod success.

Five-time UGP winner William Dunlop rides Yamaha bikes in the Superbike and Superstock classes, but switches to an MSS-prepared Kawasaki for the Superstock.

Hickman to take UGP win number two?

Peter Hickman
Peter Hickman has made a major impact at the international road races in recent years

Lincolnshire's Hickman followed up his maiden international road race triumph at Dundrod last year by taking the chequered flag at the Macau Grand Prix in November.

The 29-year-old, also a winner at the 2016 Silverstone British Superbike round, has continued to impress as part of the GB Moto Kawasaki team this season.

The 2014 Superstock winner Dan Kneen will hope to make up for lost time on board his fleet of Mar-Train Yamahas after missing the North West and TT with an injury sustained in a mountain bike accident.

In the absence of injured pair Ivan Lintin and Alan Bonner, English duo Steve Mercer and Jamie Coward assume rides with the RC Express Kawasaki outfit.

The event has a new title sponsor for 2016 in MCE Insurance and boasts a revised practice schedule, plus a new Superpole style qualifying session.

Ulster Grand Prix schedule

Wednesday 10 August - Roads closed from 10:00 BST to 21:30 for practicing

Thursday 11 August - Roads closed from 10:00 BST to 21:30 for practicing and five Dundrod 150 races - National Race (5 laps), Ultralightweight/Lightweight (5 laps), Supertwins (5 laps), Challenge Race (5 laps), Superbike (6 laps).

Saturday 13 August - Roads closed from 09:30 BST to 20:30 for seven-race Ulster Grand Prix race meeting: Superstock (6 laps), Supersport Race 1 (6 laps), Ultralightweight/Lightweight (5 laps), UGP Superbike Race (7 laps), Supertwins (5 laps), Supersport Race 2 (6 laps), Superbike Race 2 (6 laps).