Michael Dunlop commenced his bid for a record-equalling five wins at the Ulster Grand Prix with a brilliant victory in a gripping Superstock race.

It was Dunlop's second consecutive success in the class after he took the honours at Dundrod in 2011.

A dramatic four-way battle developed in the six-lap race, the first event on the programme at the 90th anniversary meeting of the legendary international road race, involving Dunlop, Welsh veteran Ian Lougher, Tyco Suzuki's Guy Martin and Bruce Anstey from New Zealand.

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Lougher, who started from the second row of the grid, hit the front on lap one from Anstey and Martin, with newcomer Lee Johnston - a double winner at the Dundrod 150 meeting on Thursday - in a superb fourth place ahead of Dunlop.

Lougher continued to lead until he was overhauled by Martin on the second lap as Dunlop began to make headway, slotting into third place on his McAdoo Kawasaki.

Martin remained in front at the end of lap three, but Dunlop - who started from pole position after lapping at 132mph in qualifying - was now right on his tail closely followed by Lougher and Anstey.

The leading quartet had now broken away from the chasing pack, with Manx rider Conor Cummins on the second Tyco Suzuki locked in a personal battle with Johnston as they disputed fifth and sixth positions.

Ulsterman Dunlop, who finished as the runner-up to John McGuinness in the Superstock race at the Isle of Man TT, put a move on Martin at the beginning of lap four as 49-year-old Lougher surged back into second place.

With a clear road ahead of him, Dunlop began to work hard and for the first time in the race opened a slight advantage of 0.5 seconds over Lougher, who had Martin and Anstey in close contention.

Dunlop slowly began to edge away at the head of the field and enjoyed a lead of two seconds at the Deer's Leap section of the 7.4-mile Dundrod circuit on the sixth and final lap.

Lougher now looked comfortable in second place as he had a one-second cushion over Martin, who was digging deep to secure the final podium spot with Anstey breathing down his neck.

Dunlop powered over the line to begin his bid to equal Phillip McCallen's 1996 record of five wins in a day in convincing style, with effervescent Lougher - 17 times a winner at the Ulster GP - securing a tremendous runner-up finish.

Martin held off Anstey to ensure he finished on the podium for Northern Ireland team Tyco Suzuki, with Cummins taking fifth.

Dunlop was in agony after the race as he contends with two slipped discs in his back.

He suffered the injury while working on his machines prior to the Armoy road races last month.