TT 2019 treble winner, Peter Hickman and arch rival, Dean Harrison, the winner of this year’s Senior TT race, visited the famous Dundrod circuit in Co Antrim yesterday to launch the 2019 Ulster Grand Prix, which will take place on August 5-10.
Both men admitted they are eyeing the opportunity to reinstate Dundrod as the world’s fastest race track. "If the conditions are right and the track is good I think it can be the fastest again," Hickman said.
It was the Smith’s BMW racer’s 135.452mph lap in last year’s Senior TT that saw the title shift to the Isle of Man’s Mountain course, but Hickman thinks Dundrod has an advantage. "Overall I think the Ulster is a faster track with only one slow corner," he said.
Harrison, who can still lay claim to being the fastest ever rider around the Dundrod circuit with his 134.614mph mark set on his way to winning the 2017 Superbike race, agrees.
"I think it is a faster circuit and all we need is sunshine and a good close race and the lap record could go." the Silicone Kawasaki star said. But both men declared their principal focus was on race wins and podiums, rather than lap records.
"I would rather have a podium than a lap record even if it is a world record," Harrison smiled. Hickman and Harrison have dominated road racing’s leading events over the past two seasons and laid down emphatic markers at Dundrod.
Hickman was declared Man of the Meeting at the last two Ulsters after the Smith’s BMW rider claimed a 2017 treble in both Supersport races and the Superstock event. He was also the winner of the 2017 Dundrod 150 Superbike race.
Twelve months ago Hickman claimed UGP Supersport and Superbike victories, adding to the Burton-on-Trent rider’s tsunami of success since his move from just BSB to the roads in 2014. The 32-year-old is now a multiple race winner at the NW200, TT and Macau as well as the Ulster.
Harrison has taken the fight to Hickman, winning a Supersport TT in 2017 and the Senior race last month on the Silicone Kawasakis. Another lap record in last year’s UGP Superstock event on the Silicone Kawasaki ZX-10RR means Harrison is the king of speed in both big bike classes at Dundrod.
The duo will go head to head in the Supersport, Superstock and Superbike classes this time around with Hickman campaigning a brace of Smith’s BMW S1000RRs in the big bike classes plus the Trooper Beer Triumph in the 600cc class. Harrison will be Silicone Kawasaki mounted in all three divisions.
"Dundrod is a track that suits my style because I like to carry plenty of corner speed and we are fairly certain we have sorted the water pressure problem we had on the superbike at the TT." Hickman explained, referring to the overheating issue on the Smith’s machine that forced him to slow in the Senior TT race to let Harrison through for victory.
"We are still learning with the new bike but we aren’t sure whether or not we will have a full superbike engine for the Ulster or will run the blueprinted engine that gives just 8bhp more than standard."
Both Hickman and Harrison are set for plenty of action as they prepare for this year’s Ulster Grand Prix. "I’ve BSB races at Knockhill, Snetterton and Thruxton to come and an outing in the French superbike championship testing for Dunlop tyres," Hickman explained.
Harrison will also compete at the BSB events plus competing at the Southern 100 in early July. "I approach every race in the same way," Harrison said, "I try to get on the podium and if you are in the right place at the right time the wins will take care of themselves."
Ulster Grand Prix racing schedule
UGP’s Bike Week events begin on Thursday, August 5, with practice starting on Wednesday, August 7. Qualifying will then begin the following morning.
The afternoon of Thursday, August 8 sees the start of the race programme, including the first of the meeting’s three Superbike races, plus action in the Supersport, Ultralightweight/Lightweight and Supertwins classes.
Superstock, Supersport, Ultralightweight/Lightweight, Superbike, Supersport, Supertwins and Superbike clashes provide the action of Saturday's seven-race programme.
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