By Kyle White
Top Northern Ireland road racer William Dunlop is confident he can make a blistering start to the 2012 campaign as he aims to build on a successful debut season in the Wilson Craig Honda team.
Dunlop made impressive strides forward this year, particularly on the larger capacity machines, and the Ballymoney prospect feels he has more to give on the 1000cc Honda Fireblade at the international road races next year.
The 26-year-old last rode Craig's machine at the Macau Grand Prix in the Far East last month, where he made his debut at the famous race in China, finishing 13th – one place behind younger brother Michael, who won his second TT race with victory in the Superstock class in June.
Dunlop said: “It was good to get a run on Wilson's Superbike again and there bike hasn't changed since I last rode it. It only needs a few tweaks here and there for next year.
“I'll be riding the new 2012 Honda Fireblade in the Superstock class next season, but I'm not sure if we're getting the new Superbike model - maybe we'll just stick with the old bike.
“It was one of the fastest bikes through the speed trap at Macau and I've always said how much I enjoy riding it. I'll be able to hit the ground running next year for a change and I'm really looking forward to another season with Wilson.
“I know the team now and I'm comfortable on the bikes, so come the North West 200 [May 19] we should be more than ready.”
Reflecting on his first taste of racing at Macau, Dunlop – whose late father and Ulster road racing legend Robert won the even in 1989 – said he was always on the back foot after inclement weather hampered qualifying.
He made an uncharacteristic mistake in free practice, crashing out at Fisherman's when tailing Bruce Anstey on Clive Padgett's Honda.
Dunlop escaped unhurt but admitted afterwards that even an apparently minor accident could have severe consequences at Macau.
“It's the kind of place where you could fall off at 50mph and end up seriously hurt or worse,” he told Crash.Net.