Author: Oli Rushby Photos: Pacemaker Press Posted: 22 Sep 2015
11 times TT winner Michael Dunlop is a sought after man for the 2016 road racing season with a number of teams expressing interest in securing the Ballymoney star’s signature.
The interest comes despite Dunlop’s difficult season this year, which saw him depart the Milwaukee Yamaha team during practice for this year’s Isle of Man TT.
2015 marked the first year Dunlop hasn’t won a TT since 2008. Riding for BMW after the Yamaha split, he crashed out of the final stages of the superbike race leaving him injured for the rest of the week. However, he did go on to take fifth in the Senior race, recording a 132mph lap in the process.
The Buildbase BMW outfit are keen to retain him for the 2016 season and have also offered the 26 year old an option to race some rounds of the British Superbike Championship, but this is by no means his only offer.
One of the biggest surprises in the hunt for Dunlop comes in the shape of Honda Racing. The two parties do have history, with Dunlop having raced for the Louth-based outfit in 2013, when he stormed to four TT victories.
Bike Social understands Honda boss Neil Tuxworth has approached Dunlop with an offer to ride alongside 23-times TT winner John McGuinness and Manxman Conor Cummins in a three-rider set-up next year.
Should Dunlop choose to return to Honda, the Louth-based outfit would boast a formidable line-up, with 34 TT wins and even more podiums between the team’s three riders.
It’s rumoured there are more offers on the table too, with Paul Bird, who ran Dunlop on a factory-backed Kawasaki in 2011, also reported to be interested in signing up Dunlop for next season.
The Cumbrian businessman enjoyed the taste of success once again this year with Ian Hutchinson storming to victory in this year’s Superstock TT aboard the team’s Kawasaki ZX10-R. However, with it likely the Hutchinson/PBM relationship will continue, it's not clear whether this option is much more than just a rumour.
TAS Racing have reportedly approached Dunlop about replacing his brother, William in their factory-backed BMW team but he’s said he has no plans to join the Northern Irish set-up.
Recent rumours also suggest he could also be approached by Gloucester-based Smiths Racing, who have successfully campaigned BMW and Triumph machinery in the past few years.
It appears the ball is in Dunlop’s court and as the man of mystery he is, who knows what he’ll choose to do for 2016. After this year’s troublesome team switch it’s likely Dunlop could stay put with Buildbase BMW, but having worked with Honda before, he could be tempted to switch if he believes it’ll bring a better chance of adding to his TT victory tally.