Posted: 11 Jun 2013
What is about the Dunlop family and their road racing prowess? They have been the phenomenon of the sport for decades with their dominance. It was Joey who set the standard, followed swiftly by his kid brother Robert, and then following their tragic deaths in the pursuit of their sport it is William and Michael the two sons of Robert who are maintaining the family pedigree.
How does it all come about? Road racing in Ireland is the buzz. All about speed, risk and hot action between the hedgerows – it is a way of life, some would argue a religion, others a way of bringing together communities with a common interest of the sport. And, for the riders, a case of throwing caution to the wind, taking the pain with the gain.
And at the heart of it all is the Dunlop clan of Ballymoney. Joey had done just about everything possible at the Isle of Man TT races where he is regarded as the legendary all-time “King of the Mountain” but already his nephew Michael has gone one better. Joey won three races in a week three times in his career on the Island, in 1985, 1988 and 2000, but this month Michael has stunned the establishment with his record-breaking pace taking four victories in the first four solo races of the festival and a determined second in the finale, the Senior TT.
It is a remarkable achievement by Michael who had confounded everyone back in 2008 when days after his father had succumbed to injuries sustained in a crash while practicing for the NorthWest 200, he defied the advice of race officials and raced. He won that race and dedicated it to his father, something he repeated during this year’s TT when he matched Robert’s five wins on the Island.
Michael still has some way to go to match the feats of his late, legendary uncle Joey – 26 TT wins, 24 victories in the Ulster Grand Prix and 13 times-a-winning at the NorthWest 200, not forgetting the five World TTF1 title, but he is now showing a maturing style.
Some observers noted that his aggressive style is at times on the ragged edge, with scary moments along the way around the notorious Mountain Course in his recent winning spree on the Isle of Man with his rivals, among them the 20 times TT winner John McGuinness left scratching their heads as they sorted their tactics to try and beat him.
Michael, the winner now of seven races in the Island, in his own carefree way summed up his most recent performances at the TT: “I’d bust my balls to win three races in four years, and now I have four in four days”! There is no doubting that this has been his year, and the starter for bigger things to come in the coming years, with maybe uncle Joey’s record of 26 TT wins coming under fire.
And, there is of course the growing challenges of William to take into consideration. He is the more reserved, smoother rider of the two brothers, but is a winner in his own right, a couple of successes at the NorthWest 200, plus four podium finishes at the TT. And, importantly they are both regulars at the sharp-end of the pack in Irish road race action. How do they do it? Well probably the best way is simply to go there and watch them, soaking up the unique atmosphere and excitement.That should give the real insight into the Dunlops and real road racing.