By Kyle White Belfast Newsletter
Michael Dunlop was in action at Bishopscourt Racing Circuit on a PBM Ducati Panigale V4R during a private two-day test on Friday and Saturday.
Dunlop was joined at the Co Down track by British Superbike rider Josh Brookes, although big-name signing Tom Sykes – who replaces Christian Iddon in Paul Bird’s squad – was not present.
Bishopscourt circuit manager Roy Biggerstaff said the PBM duo made the most of the dry and sunny weather at the weekend as they clocked up the miles on the Italian machines.
Ballymoney man Dunlop, the third most successful rider ever at the Isle of Man TT with 19 victories, will ride a factory-supported PBM Ducati in the Superbike and Senior races at the TT. The 32-year-old will also compete on the machine at the North West 200, which returns this spring from May 10-14.
He was originally due to ride the Panigale V4R for Paul Bird at the major road races in 2020 before the Covid-19 pandemic struck, scuppering his plans.
Dunlop is renowned for winning TT races for a series of manufacturers around the Mountain Course – including Honda, BMW, Kawasaki, Suzuki, Yamaha and Paton – and this latest challenge is one he will relish as he attempts to add another string to his bow with victory on the Ducati in June.
Dunlop previously worked with Bird in the past, teaming up in 2011 when he won the Superstock race on a PBM-prepared Kawasaki for his maiden big-bike success at the TT.
It is understood Dunlop will participate in the upcoming BSB tests prior to his first outing on the roads on the Ducati at the North West in less than two months’ time.
He raced BMW S1000RR machinery in the Superbike class for Northern Ireland’s Tyco BMW team in the two seasons prior to the worldwide coronavirus crisis, winning an emotional Superbike TT in 2018 following the death of his team-mate, Manxman Dan Kneen, in practice.
Dunlop returned to the roads at Armoy last July for the first time since the 2019 Classic TT.
In front of his home fans, he produced a virtuoso performance, claiming a sensational five-timer and a record ninth victory in the headline ‘Race of Legends’ event on the TAS Racing BMW M1000RR. He also shattered his 2013 outright lap record with a new benchmark of 106.945mph.