The new Irish road racing season rolls on with the KDM Hire Cookstown 100 as a quality line-up prepares to battle for honours around the 2.1-mile Orritor course.
MotoGP presenter Suzi Perry is in attendance as a special guest of the organising club but Honda Racing star Guy Martin is set to steal the limelight once more.
Martin’s roads debut on the new Fireblade SP2 Superstock machine lasted less than a lap in the Superbike race last weekend at Tandragee, where he tangled with Paul Jordan as he made his first appearance at the Co Armagh event in 12 years.
Martin, though, will have higher expectations at Cookstown, where he has been a prolific winner in the past.
A regular at the Co Tyrone meeting for former team TAS Racing, Martin chalked up a Superbike double the last time he raced at Cookstown and the Lincolnshire rider will be gunning for the rostrum at the very least.
The 35-year-old also lines up in the Supersport class on a Honda for Wilson Craig Racing.
However, Derek Sheils will be a tough nut to crack. The reigning Irish Superbike roads champion opened his account in style at Tandragee, clinching a comfortable victory on the Cookstown B.E. Racing Suzuki.
Sheils won both premier races at Orritor in 2016 and the Dublin rider will head into the event as the favourite in the Open and feature Superbike races.
His opposition includes Ballymoney’s William Dunlop, who this week was confirmed on Yamaha Superbike and Superstock machines for the rest of the season.
Dunlop will contest the 1000cc classes under the Temple Golf Club banner and is set to ride the Superstock R1M again this weekend after impressing first time out on the bike at Tandragee, where the 31-year-old finished second behind Sheils.
“I’m looking forward to Cookstown this weekend now that I’m sorted with bikes,” Dunlop said.
“I’ll be riding the Superstock Yamaha again and the bike felt good at Tandragee. We’ve a few changes to make and I was confident of going faster in the second Superbike race at Tandragee, but then it was called off.
“It depends what mood I’m in when I go to Cookstown. Sometimes I go well there and other times I struggle a bit, so we’ll see what happens.”
Dunlop will also continue to ride his own IC Racing/Caffrey Yamaha Supersport machine and will be out to turn the tables on Derek McGee, who won the 600cc race in the damp conditions at Tandragee on his Yamaha.
“The 600 was really flying and I took pole in qualifying even though I was running in a new engine,” said Dunlop.
“I lost too much ground at the start of the race to Derek and he was just a dot in the distance. I didn’t make a great start so we’ll have another go at Cookstown.”
McGee will also be a major contender on his Kawasaki Superstock machine in the Superbike class, when Magherafelt man Paul Jordan will make his 1000cc bow on the Evolution Camping BMW S10000RR Superstock bike.
Jordan tested the bike at Kirkistown this week for the first time and is eager to make his presence felt, particularly in the Supersport and Supertwin races.
He was named the man of the meeting in 2016 and the 25-year-old says he is targeting the podium at his home race as he continues to prepare for his Isle of Man TT debut.
New McAdoo Racing signing James Cowton will be aiming to deliver a strong result for team owner Winston McAdoo, who lives on the Orritor course.
Cowton will ride a full table of Kawasaki machines and is expected to be a leading candidate for the top step in the Supertwin race.
Stroud’s Dan Cooper is also an interesting addition to the grid as he makes his Cookstown debut and the English rider could prove to be a dark horse in the Supertwin race on his Kawasaki.
Roads will close at 10am sharp on Saturday for racing.