Isle of Man TT: Michael Dunlop out to continue Mountain domination
Given his record of recent years, and his surprising last minute split from Yamaha, all eyes will be on Michael Dunlop at the 2015 Isle of Man TT.
The 26-year-old quit the Milwaukee Yamaha team two days before racing starts and now rides the Buildbase BMW Superbike he rode to victory last year.
Dunlop secured four wins at both of the last two TT meetings and is sure to figure strongly in every class.
He is set to begin his campaign in Saturday's six-lap Superbike race.
Dunlop had been suffering mechanical issues with the new Yamaha R1 machine at the North West 200 and TT practice.
He will now ride his own superstock spec BMW in the Superstock race and a 600cc Honda in the Supersport events, as well as wearing the Buildbase BMW livery in the Superbikes.
Among those expected to challenge Dunlop's superiority are his brother William and Tyco BMW team-mate Guy Martin, both chasing their first TT successes on the Mountain Course.
The pair have expressed satisfaction with the Northern Ireland team's switch to the German manufacturer, with the elder of the Dunlop brothers hailing his machinery for this season as "the best I have ever had".
|IOM TT solo lap records (average speed)|
|Superbike||Bruce Anstey (2014) Honda 132.298mph|
|Senior||Michael Dunlop (2014) BMW 131.668mph|
|Superstock||Michael Dunlop (2013) Honda 131.220mph|
|Supersport||Michael Dunlop (2013) Honda 128.666mph|
|Lightweight Supertwins||James Hillier (2013) Kawasaki 119.130mph|
|TT Zero (electric bikes)||John McGuinness (2014) Mugen 117.366mph|
William should be a leading contender in his favoured Supersport class aboard a 600cc Yamaha, with the much-in-demand Martin switching to a 675cc Smith's Triumph for the two smaller capacity outings.
New Zealander Bruce Anstey is likely to feature at the top end of the leaderboard on his fleet of Padgett's-prepared Hondas, a year after setting a new absolute lap record at 132.298mph, a speed which he believes could have been better but for losing a few crucial seconds.
John McGuinness and Manxman Conor Cummins fly the flag for the official Honda outfit in the two 'big bike' events, with the Morecambe man, a 21-time winner, keen to make up for lost time after a broken scaphoid hindered his efforts 12 months ago.
Meanwhile Yorkshire's Ian Hutchinson, the only man to achieve five victories in one week back in 2010, displayed a welcome return to form after years of serious injury with a couple of podium finishes at last month's North West 200.
The Bingley man spearheads the Paul Bird Motorsport Kawasaki challenge in the Superbike and Superstock events, but is another who moves to a Yamaha for the two Supersport races.
Two-time winner Gary Johnson crashed out while pushing for the lead in the Superstocks last year, but will have high hopes of adding to his tally of victories on board his GBMoto Kawasakis and Mar-Train Racing 600cc Yamaha.
|Most wins in all solo classes|
|11||Michael Dunlop, Steve Hislop, Phillip McCallen|
|10||Giacomo Agostini, Ian Lougher, Stanley Woods|
|9||Bruce Anstey, David Jefferies, Charlie Williams|
James Hiller retains his ride under the Quattro Plant Kawasaki awning, while Michael Rutter continues his partnership with Bathams BMW for the blue riband class.
Among those seeking a first podium place are Cookstown Burrows Engineering recruit Jamie Hamilton and Lee Johnston, who campaigns BMW and Triumph bikes with backing from his 'day job' employers East Coast Construction.
Last year's Lightweight victor Dean Harrison represents the official Yamaha UK entry in the blue and white Mar-Train colours, while Dan Kneen breaks new ground as Anstey's team-mate in the Padgett's outfit.
Australian Cameron Donald also rides in the Padgett's livery in the 600cc jousts, but is Norton-mounted for the Superbike and Senior races.
Peter Hickman became the fastest-ever newcomer by lapping at an average speed of over 129mph last year and is fit to return to the saddle after being forced to sit out the North West 200 through injury.
His fellow Lincolnshire man Ivan Lintin will have high hopes after sealing a deal to ride for the RC Express Kawasaki outfit, while Keith Amor and Ryan Farquhar are back in the 1000cc classes following their partial return to the track last year, after initially retiring in 2012.
Farquhar also takes in the Supertwins category and is expected to be one of the main challengers for the top step of the rostrum.
|2015 Isle of Man TT race schedule|
|Saturday 6 June 11:00 BST TT Superbike race - 6 laps||Wednesday 10 June 10:45 BST TT Zero - 1 lap|
|14:00 Sidecar Race 1 - 3 laps||12:00 Supersport Race 2 - 4 laps|
|14:30 Sidecar Race 2 - 3 laps|
|Monday 8 June 10:45 BST Supersport Race 1 - 4 laps||Friday 12 June 10:15 Lightweight TT Race - 3 laps|
|14:00 Superstock Race - 4 laps||13:00 Senior TT Race - 6 laps|