Posted: 31 Mar 2014
Michael Dunlop has sent a clear message to his competitors as start numbers are released for this year’s two Supersport clashes. The Ulsterman dominated last year’s middleweight category, taking both race victories plus the race and lap records and now he says that he's looking to become the first person to lap the TT course at over 130mph on a 600cc bike.
A little over a month ago, it had seemed that Dunlop wouldn’t be racing at this year’s TT but now the Ballymoney man, who stormed to four TT victories last year, has a factory ride sorted for the Superbike, Superstock and Senior classes with BMW and will once again campaign his own MD Racing effort in the Supersport category.
To hit his target Dunlop must shave around eleven seconds off his own, already impressive, lap record of 128.666mph around the 37.75 mile mountain course. Starting once again with number six the twenty-four year old is confident of succeeding, stating that he made a couple of mistakes on his way to the fastest lap in last year’s second race.
“I’ve proved I can win TT’s on a Supersport bike and I’ve also got the lap and race records. But what I really want is to be the first person to lap at over 130mph on a 600cc bike and I think it is within my reach” said Dunlop.
“I need to take about 11 seconds off my best lap, which is a big ask. But my bike is going to be stronger this year and when I set the lap record I made a few little mistakes and lost quite a lot of time. So I know it is possible, it’s just about putting that perfect lap together for 37 and ¾ miles.”
With a record 99 approved entries in the Supersport category this year, Dunlop will face tough competition. The Supersport TT may not be his strongest race, but twenty-time TT victor John McGuinness cannot be ruled out as he once again leads the pack down Bray Hill. Teammate to the Morecambe Missile at Padgett’s Honda, Bruce Anstey will line up at number five and after putting up quite the fight with Dunlop last year, the Kiwi is expected to be a strong force again this time round.
Previously a strong force in the Supersport class with four 600cc wins to his name, Ian Hutchinson starts at number three on the Milwaukee Yamaha, joined by Josh Brookes at number 14. The Aussie hasn’t ridden a Supersport machine in six years but finished third in the 2008 Supersport World Championship.
There’s no fiercer competitor than a member of your own family and with two Supersport TT podiums already to his name, Michael’s elder brother Dunlop could be in for a shout of victory starting from eighth on the Tyco Suzuki. Fans’ favourite, Guy Martin will line up at number 4 on his GSX-R600.
Gary Johnson lines up at number seven on the Smiths Triumph alongside Michael Rutter, who returns to the Supersport class for the first time since 2009 lining up fifteenth as a result. Also returning for 2014 is Scotsman Keith Amor, who will start at number nine. James Hillier will start second on the Kawasaki ZX6-R with Manxman Connor Cummins setting off from his regular number ten.