BMW Motorrad Motorsport
Belfast, Northern Ireland, 03/08/2016, BMW Road Race Challenge
Next week throws up the next highlight of the international road racing season: the Ulster Grand Prix. The race at the Dundrod Circuit, with its long straights and minimal number of corners, is regarded as the fastest road race in the world.
The first Ulster Grand Prix took place in 1922. Since 1953, it has been held at the 12-kilometre (7.401 miles) Dundrod Circuit near Belfast. The current lap record is 3:18.870 minutes, which equates to an average speed of 132.039 mph (212.496 km/h). Given the many new records set at this year’s North West 200 and the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy, it seems safe to assume that this bar will also be raised.
The organisers can already point to one record: with 173 participants, the field is larger than ever before. The top favourites are two BMW S 1000 RR riders: Michael Dunlop and Ian Hutchinson. “The two guys that everyone has been talking about; Michael Dunlop and Ian Hutchinson will both be there gunning for the top step of the podium,” says race director Noel Johnston, confirming who the eyes of the expected 50,000 spectators will be on.
Dunlop has already won seven races in this year’s international road racing season on his Hawk Racing BMW S 1000 RR: one at the North West 200, two at the Isle of Man TT and four at the Southern 100. He also has six career victories to his name at the Ulster Grand Prix. His uncle, Joey Dunlop, is the legendary record holder with 24 wins.
His toughest opponent this season is fellow BMW rider Ian Hutchinson. The Tyco BMW man was also victorious at the North West 200 and won the Superstock race on the Isle of Man. He did not appear at the Southern 100. Hutchinson won three races at the 2010 Ulster GP, but then suffered his serious injury. He only returned to the Dundrod Circuit in 2014 and claimed two podium finishes last year. He is now looking to add to his tally of titles on the BMW S 1000 RR.
Dunlop and Hutchinson could be challenged from within their own ranks, in the form of BMW rider Lee Johnston (East Coast Racing). He won last year’s Superstock race, clocking a new lap record for Superstock bikes in the process. A new feature this year is the Superpole qualifying. The ten fastest riders from the practice sessions will go head to head in this individual time trial to determine the top ten starting positions. The Ulster GP also counts towards the BMW Motorrad Race Trophy as part of the BMW Combined Road Race Challenge (BMW RRC).