Dunlop sets its sights on the joy of Kirkistown

Motorcycle racing kicks off today in Northern Ireland with the first meeting of the year in Kirkistown, County Down, where a group of top riders are entered.

Allymoney’s Michael Dunlop is the most prominent name on the entry list for the Belfast and District Club President’s Cup event, where the 19-time Isle of Man TT winner is expected to be joined by the winner North West 200 record-breaking Alastair Seeley, who is contesting a full season at home for the first time since 2009.

Carrickfergus man Seeley will ride the IFS Yamaha machines in the Superbike and Supersport classes as he keeps himself busy on the national stage after failing to clinch a suitable race in the British Championship.

The former British Superstock and Supersport champion will enter the new campaign as a favorite, but Seeley faces formidable opposition today upon his return to Kirkistown.

Derek Sheils, who was crowned ‘King of Kirkistown’ last September at the only short circuit meeting in Northern Ireland in 2020, looks back on his BMW backed by Roadhouse Macau, while rising talent Jason Lynn will aim to ruffle the feathers of the big guns established on the J McC Racing Suzuki.

Adam McLean of McAdoo Racing is another dark horse as he uses the event to familiarize himself with the new Kawasaki ZX-10RR ahead of Armoy’s road races this month.

McLean said: “We’re going to be focusing on the Superbike mainly this weekend and ideally we could have done with a little more time on the big bike so we’re really using this weekend for the mileage.

“We’re not going to bother with the Supersport bike in Kirkistown, but we’re going to be doing the Supertwin races.

“The Kawasaki is the new 2021 bike and I’ve only done a few laps on it, so we need as much time as possible before Armoy.”

Mullingar’s Derek McGee is making his comeback after being absent last season, while fellow South Irishman Michael Sweeney, Alistair Kirk, Ryan Gibson, youngster Cameron Dawson and veteran Jeremy McWilliams are also on the list.

Meanwhile, Glenn Irwin is eager to regain some ground at Knockhill in Scotland this weekend in Round 2 of the British Superbike Championship.

Carrick’s man is ninth in the standings after the first round at Oulton Park.

Honda rider Irwin said: “The tests at Knockhill were good and I think we have improved the bike since then and moved forward.

“I felt strong during the tests even though we haven’t raced there since 2019, and after missing a year there I think it helps because everyone is in the same boat.”

Today’s first race is at 4.30 p.m. and tomorrow’s BSB races at 1.30 p.m. and 4.30 p.m.

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