On the road circuits he leaves spectators waiting in anticipation with often unpredictable riding style and this year he proved his off-road life is just as nail-bitingly unpredictable. Just like a Hitchcock movie, there’s no telling how the feisty Ulsterman’s plot will play out - even though, deep down, we know the ending.
As the fastest TT racer it’s inevitable that his sponsorship movements will be closely-watched. So when the Ballymoney rider was set to test the Suzuki for Hawk Racing at Cartegena earlier this year it was assumed that deal was done.
But Dunlop then announced he was splitting for Hawk only days after testing.
Nobody knew what he would do, or with whom. The odds were cut short that a BMW would be his steed but who would be running him. Tyco, as it turned out.
As Phillip Neill said: “We’ve been talking with Michael for more than four years. Michael’s a local lad and we’re a local team and we’ve been having a chat every year but for one reason or another we never did the deal before now.”
According to reports, Dunlop was apparently disappointed with the speed of the GSXR during testing at Cartegena and further frustrated when certain parts did’t arrive in time for the test.
But reasons aside… Dunlop and TAS Racing / Tyco are now an official outfit. And, like any happy union, both parties have had to make compromises.
“Michael does a great job of managing his own team and he’s very loyal to his own sponsors so we had to work out a way in which he would keep them happy.”
The compromise being that Dunlop will ride a TAS Racing / Tyco’s BMW 1000 for the Superstock race with Carl Cox colours. For the Senior and Superbike he’ll ride the fully - and solely backed - TAS Tyco BMW S1000RR. And for the Supersport he’ll ride his own personally-prepped Honda with his own team, MD Racing. For the Lightweight TT he’ll ride a Kawasaki. Like Mike Hailwood, Michael is will - and can - race as many different marques as possible.
But these subtle sponsorship negotiations were vital to bonding two very focused parties: Michael Dunlop is notoriously independent while TAS / Tyco is supremely professional.
“People have this perception of Michael as being very hard or difficult to work with but he’s not - but he just has a race psyche. I’ve never known anyone whose perception of them is so distant from the realty as I have with Michael. He likes to present himself in a certain way when he’s racing but that’s just because he knows what he wants and he’s direct in how he delivers that.”
And this extends to his feedback to the team, as Neill says: “He is so clear with what he thinks about the bike and how it should be adjusted. He’s very experienced mechanically too so that’s a good thing.”
Dunlop is no stranger to the S1000RR. It was on this machine that he smashed the outright record of 133.393mph, achieving the first sub-17 minute lap of the TT course in its history.
“The S1000 is just a solid machine and it’s now in its 18th issue as a model. That’s impressive and shows what a good package that machine is. You can’t change too much on it but we have made some changes to suit Michael.”
Those changes include - most crucially for the IOM TT - suspension set-up. “Michael is an aggressive rider, he jumps all over the bike so we need to find a balance between a good chassis set-up and power delivery.”
So on this machine, with one of the slickest teams in the paddock, and the fastest TT racer on the planet, TT 2018 is already looking good for Michael.But then, who knows. He is, after all, the master of suspense.