A man who has been described as the "best motorcycle street racer in the world" will be coming to New Zealand for the first time later this year.
The world-renowned Cemetery Circuit races, around the closed-off public streets of Whanganui each Boxing Day, will this year feature the rider who has for a number of years been setting alight the equally-famous Isle of Man race circuit, Northern Irishman Michael Dunlop.
The 27-year-old Dunlop is the latest in a long line of exciting, headline-grabbing athletes who have been drawn to the tricky Cemetery Circuit in recent years, with Britain's Guy Martin, Liechtenstein rider Horst Saiger and British women’s champion Maria Costello just a few of the other star attractions that Cemetery Circuit organiser Allan 'Flea' Willacy has managed to entice to New Zealand in recent years.
The Cemetery Circuit event on December 26 will again be the third and final round of the popular annual Suzuki Series, which kicks off at Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park near Taupo on December 4, then takes riders to Manfeild for round two on December 11, before its traditional Boxing Day finale on the public streets of Whanganui.
The highly-respected Dunlop will also race at Manfeild's round two of the Suzuki Series, although it is the Robert Holden Memorial Trophy, given each years to the Cemetery Circuit feature race winner, that he craves most.
Willacy said Australian motards riders and more solos and sidecar racers from the United Kingdom, including World Champion/IOMTT winners, are still yet to be announced.
The Suzuki Series formula one class champion in 2014, Saiger, from the German-speaking principality of Liechtenstein, nestled between Switzerland and Austria, has also indicated that he will return to race again this year.
However, much of the spectator focus this year will likely go on Dunlop, who will choose between racing a Suzuki GSX-R1000 superbike or the "more upright street-style" Suzuki GSX-S1000, supplied by Suzuki New Zealand.
From Ballymoney, in Northern Ireland, Dunlop is a part of a legendary motorcycle racing dynasty. He is the brother of fellow world class rider William Dunlop, son of the late and great Robert Dunlop and nephew of the late former world champion Joey Dunlop.
A 13-time winner around the Isle of man, Michael Dunlop is the current solo-machine lap record holder for the mountain course around the Isle of Man, set during the 2016 Senior TT in June, circulating in a hot time of 16 minutes 53.929 seconds at an average speed of 133.962 mph (215.591 km/h).
Dunlop was the first rider in the history of the Isle of Man TT to achieve a lap of the course in under 17 minutes.
Widely regarded as one of the most tenacious competitors in motorcycle racing, Dunlop's aggressive style has endeared himself to fans over the years and his appearance in New Zealand this summer will surely add numbers to his massive fan base.
"The impending arrival of Michael Dunlop for the Suzuki Series is fantastic news," said Willacy. "He is a true superstar of the sport and has been described as the best street road-racer in the world, with a total 22 TT podiums to his credit.
"We are thrilled to be able to report that a rider of this calibre is coming here to race."