William Dunlop is targeting a maiden Isle of Man TT in 2014 after joining forces with Northern Ireland’s Tyco Suzuki team.
The 28-year-old joins Guy Martin at TAS Racing in a formidable international road racing partnership and intends to draw on the team’s TT know-how to boost his prospects of scaling the top step on the Mountain Course next June.
Dunlop will contest the North West 200, TT and Ulster Grand Prix plus the Southern 100 and selected Irish national meetings. His first competitive outing on the GSX-R machines is likely to be at the Moneymore team’s home event at Cookstown next April as a warm-up to the North West 200.
Dunlop has been honing his reputation at the TT in recent years, finishing on the rostrum in the Supersport class in the past two seasons and recording his first 130mph lap from a standing start in the Senior race this year.
And now with the backing of seasoned TT winners TAS Racing behind him, the unassuming Ballymoney man is hopeful he can secure his first Island victory with Tyco Suzuki next summer.
“My own goal is to try and get a win at the TT and also to get a decent result on the Superbike. I’m definitely capable on the big bike because I lapped at 130mph from a standing start in the Senior this year, but my fitness let me down and I wasn’t able to keep it up for six laps,” Dunlop said.
“I’ll be working hard on my fitness over the winter and I need to bulk up a bit as well. I’m really looking forward to riding the bikes for the first time, especially the Superbike.
“Philip seems to think my riding style will suit the bike and he believes in me as a Superbike rider.
“I sat down and had a good chat with him and he listened to what I had to say and was open to what I wanted to do,” he added.
“He wasn’t putting up any barriers and was prepared to work with me in terms of getting the team around me that I want and that makes a difference.”
Dunlop previously rode Suzuki machinery for Chris Dowd and Raymond Lilley in the past and believes he will make a swift transition to his new stable of factory bikes.
“The Suzuki has suited me well in the past when I rode a Superstock bike for Chris Dowd and I also went well on Raymond Lilley’s Suzuki,” he said.
“I set the fastest lap at Killalane on Lilley’s Suzuki six years ago, so I get on well with the bike but the main thing is the experience that the TAS team has, especially at the TT. They’ve won so many races at the TT and that experience is a big advantage.”
Dunlop has made his name in the Supersport class with victories at the North West 200 and Ulster Grand Prix and while there may be a perception that the GSX-R600 isn’t quite a match for the top Yamaha and Honda machines on the grid, Tyco Suzuki’s new signing thinks otherwise.
“I think the 600s are all pretty evenly matched and it comes down to the rider,” he said.
“There’s no reason why the 600 Suzuki won’t be a match for anything else next year because Guy holds the lap record at the Southern 100 and he won on the bike at the Ulster Grand Prix.”
Dunlop is also rubbing his hands in glee at the prospect of working alongside Lincolnshire star Martin, who stayed with the Ulster team for another season despite speculation he was set for a move to Honda.
“I’m really looking forward to working with Guy. I expect him to spur me on, especially on the Superbike because that’s his best class,” said Dunlop.
“Hopefully we can help each other and it’ll be good for me to be able to compare myself to him on the big bike.”
Team principal Neill, meanwhile - whose father Hector previously worked with Joey Dunlop - believes his new signing can challenge for wins at each of the three main road races in 2014.
“Our goal is now to help William achieve his first Isle of Man TT victory in 2014,” he said. “He’s a very talented rider and I believe he’s now at the right stage of his career to challenge for victories at all three internationals, and not just in the 600 class I might add, as he’s also a very good Superbike rider.”