BMW Motorrad Motorsport
Belfast, Northern Ireland, 12/08/2015, BMW Road Race Challenge
The international road racing scene assembled at the Dundrod Circuit near Belfast in Northern Ireland last weekend. The Ulster Grand Prix was the next highlight of the road racing season. The event is one of the four major international events, which make up the new BMW Combined Road Race Challenge (BMW RRC). The Dundrod Circuit, which is just short of 12 kilometres in length, is a real high-speed layout, and the Ulster Grand Prix is justifiably regarded as the fastest road race in the world.
The main day of the event was the Saturday, which featured one Superstock and two Superbike races. The “Dundrod 150 Superbike Race” had already been held on the Thursday evening. The BMW riders were able to exhaust the full potential of their powerful BMW S 1000 RRs, making their mark on the race for 1,000 cc bikes. From a BMW point of view, the highlight was undoubtedly the Superstock race, in which the RR riders occupied all of the top six positions.
In Saturday morning’s Superstock race, which opened the main day of racing, the BMW riders achieved an historic success: the top six positions all went to RR racers. Lee Johnston (ERC/Burdens) came out on top, after a breath-taking duel with fellow BMW rider Peter Hickman (Briggs Equipment BMW), with a lead of just 0.09 seconds. On the way to his first Ulster GP win, Johnston clocked an average speed of 132.793 mph (213.710 km/h) on his BMW S 1000 RR – a new Superstock lap record.
The third spot on the podium went to Michael Dunlop (MD Racing). He dropped back to fifth place at the start, but worked his way up through the field and applied pressure to the leading pair of Johnston and Hickman in the second half of the race. However, he dropped off the pace again slightly towards the end and eventually came home third, six seconds off the lead.
His brother William Dunlop (Tyco BMW) came home fourth on his BMW S 1000 RR, while Keith Amor (Rig Deluge BMW) and David Johnson (Ice Valley BMW) finished fifth and sixth to complete the top six.
The first of the two Superbike races on Saturday saw Johnston and Hickman involved in a thrilling five-way battle for the lead. However, the race had to be suspended after a crash on lap six. The positions at the end of lap four were taken as the final result, as this was the last lap that the entire field had completed. Johnston finished third to take his place on the podium, with Hickman finishing fourth. William Dunlop was awarded sixth place, with his brother Michael Dunlop seventh.
The second Superbike race was Hickman’s big moment: he claimed his first victory on the international road racing scene. Heavy rain shortly before the start saw the race reduced to just four laps. With the track drying out, Hickman immediately took the lead on his RR. The BMW rider held onto this lead right through to the finish, despite coming under pressure late on. Hickman, making only his second appearance at the Ulster GP, successfully defended the lead to come home 0.028 seconds ahead of Honda rider Conor Cummins.
“I don’t know what to say – it has been a more than fantastic day! To sit here as the winner of an international road race – and a Superbike race at that – is mega,” said an overjoyed Hickman. “Conor really put me under pressure on the final lap, and I had to ride more aggressively than I would have liked in the final few corners. However, I saw on the big screen how close he was, and had to push to get the win.”
Michael Dunlop was third again, while Amor finished fourth on his BMW S 1000 RR. Tyco BMW rider William Dunlop completed the top ten in tenth place.
Unfortunately, the Ulster Grand Prix came to a premature end for one of the big favourites: Guy Martin suffered a big crash in the “Dundrod 150 Superbike Race” on Thursday. The Tyco BMW rider had dominated proceedings up to that point. He felt very comfortable on his BMW S 1000 RR, clocking the fastest times in the practice sessions and securing pole position for the Superstock race and the two Superbike races on Saturday.
In Thursday evening’s “Dundrod 150 Superbike Race”, it initially looked as though Martin might well add another success to his already impressive record at the Ulster Grand Prix. However, he crashed out while leading on the final lap, suffering fractured vertebrae, ribs and sternum. “I am already feeling better,” Martin reported, having been operated on in hospital. “I feel good so far. This is part and parcel of the job. I need a bit of time to recover, but think I should be able to get back to work again in a few days.” The entire BMW Motorrad Motorsport community wishes Guy a speedy recovery!
The race was suspended after Martin’s crash, and the positions after four laps taken as the final result. This put Hickman in third place on his Briggs Equipment BMW S 1000 RR. Amor was fifth, William Dunlop sixth.
The event was overshadowed by a fatal crash in Saturday’s second Supersport race, which saw Scotland’s Andy Lawson lose his life. We would like to express our deepest sympathy to his relatives.