The mysterious Michael Dunlop

Browse pages
Current page

1

Current page

2

Current page

3

Current page

4

Current page

5

Current page

6

Current page

7

Current page

8

Current page

9

Current page

10

Current page

11

Current page

12

Current page

13

Current page

14

Current page

15

Current page

16

Current page

17

Current page

18

Current page

19

Current page

20

Current page

21

Current page

22

Current page

23

Current page

24

Current page

25

Current page

26

Current page

27

Current page

28

Current page

29

Current page

30

Current page

31

Current page

32

Current page

33

Current page

34

Current page

35

Current page

36

Current page

37

Current page

38

Current page

39

Current page

40

Current page

41

Current page

42

Current page

43

Current page

44

Current page

45

Current page

46

Current page

47

Current page

48

Current page

49

Current page

50

Current page

51

Current page

52

Current page

53

Current page

54

Current page

55

Current page

56

Current page

57

Current page

58

Current page

59

Current page

60

Current page

61

Current page

62

Current page

63

Current page

64

Current page

65

Current page

66

Current page

67

Current page

68

Current page

69

Current page

70

Current page

71

Current page

72

Current page

73

Current page

74

Current page

75

Current page

76

Current page

77

Current page

78

Current page

79

Current page

80

Current page

81

Current page

82

Current page

83

Current page

84

Current page

85

Current page

86

Current page

87

Current page

88

Current page

89

Current page

90

Current page

91

Current page

92

Current page

93

Current page

94

Current page

95

Current page

96

Current page

97

Current page

98

Current page

99

Current page

100

Current page

101

Current page

102

Current page

103

Current page

104

Current page

105

Current page

106

Current page

107

Current page

108

Current page

109

Current page

110

Current page

111

Current page

112

Current page

113

Current page

114

Current page

115

Current page

116

Current page

117

Current page

118

Current page

119

Current page

120

Current page

121

Current page

122

Current page

123

Current page

124

Current page

125

Current page

126

Current page

127

Current page

128

Current page

129

Current page

130

Current page

131

Current page

132

Current page

133

Current page

134

Current page

135

Current page

136

Current page

137

Current page

138

Current page

139

Current page

140

Current page

141

Current page

142

Current page

143

Current page

144

Current page

145

Current page

146

Current page

147

Current page

148

Current page

149

Current page

150

Current page

151

Current page

152

Current page

153

Current page

154

Current page

155

Current page

156

Current page

157

Current page

158

Current page

159

Current page

160

Current page

161

Current page

162

Current page

163

Current page

164

Current page

165

Current page

166

Current page

167

Current page

168

Current page

169

Current page

170

Current page

171

Current page

172

Current page

173

Current page

174

Current page

175

Current page

176

Current page

177

Current page

178

Current page

179

Current page

180

Current page

181

Current page

182

Current page

183

Current page

184

Current page

185

Current page

186

Current page

187

Current page

188

Current page

189

Current page

190

Current page

191

Current page

192

Current page

193

Current page

194

Current page

195

Current page

196

Current page

197

Current page

198

Current page

199

Current page

200

Current page

201

Current page

202

Current page

203

Current page

204

Current page

205

Current page

206

Current page

207

Current page

208

Current page

209

Current page

210

Current page

211

Current page

212

Current page

213

Current page

214

Current page

215

Current page

216

Most motor sport enthusiasts think you need to be a bit, erm, unusual to ride in the Isle of Man TT. This isn’t strictly true, but Michael Dunlop is certainly one of the unusual ones. Interviewing the TT’s reigning king is a disconcerting experience of groping through one obscure answer after another, vainly trying to land a punch.

Not that I’d like to fight Dunlop. He’s a tough, stocky youngster with piercing, fearless eyes that say ‘beware’. On the race track his maverick character is given free rein.

He wrestles with his motorcycle like it’s a living thing, charging around the Manx roads, missing walls and trees by a sliver.

No one at the TT is more exciting to watch. Dunlop is the Marc Márquez of the roads, pushing closer to the edge than anyone else and reaping the rewards, although he doesn’t see it like that.

“It’s just the way I ride the motorbike; it’s natural,” says the 26-year-old from Northern Ireland. “You get moments when you think, ‘Aye, that was a bit close’, but you never dwell on them too much. You get used to it, so you just keep going, keep your head down and keep at it.”

A lap of the TT course is 37.75 miles of twisty, bumpy B-roads that includes about 250 corners. Most TT riders have parts of the course they long for and other parts they dread, usually because even they get scared. Not Dunlop.

“I don’t look at it like that,” he adds. “I just get on with the job. In road racing the course is lined by trees and hedges, that’s what you’ve got, so you have to know where you’re at. It’s not like short circuits where you can run off the track. It’s one of those things: you’ve got a small margin for error. That’s just the way it is. I sit and ride the motorbike, I don’t think much about it.”

Dunlop won his first TT in 2009 and has dominated the event over the past two years, winning four TTs in 2013 and another four last June. And all this despite switching machinery every year. Dunlop likes to do things his own way, and why shouldn’t he? He likes to work on his own bikes and doesn’t like the feel of a corporate straitjacket. This might partly explain why he’s switched manufacturers three times in as many years, from Honda in 2013 to BMW last year and Yamaha in 2015.

TT race week comprises five big races: the Superbike and Senior, both contested on 1000cc machines in full-race specification, two Supersport races for 600s and the Superstock race for 1000cc superbikes in near-showroom spec. Over the past two years Dunlop has triumphed in all but two of these 10 races, winning across all three classes.

“It doesn’t matter what I’m on, I just like riding my motorbike. I like riding the big bikes, I like riding the 600s, I enjoy them all. A bike’s a bike,” he deadpans. “I used to enjoy riding the 250s and 125s too, but they’re just another motorbike, really. I enjoy racing, so that’s what I tend to do.”

Of course, it’s impossible to write about Dunlop without considering his family history. His father Robert and uncle Joey were road racing royalty. Joey is the TT’s most successful protagonist, with 26 TT wins, the last achieved at 47 years of age, just months before he lost his life in a minor street race in Estonia. Robert won five TTs, the last of them after suffering horrific injuries in an accident in the Manx village of Ballaugh. He returned to the TT several years after the crash, with the front brake lever switched to the left handlebar due to his injuries. He was killed during practice for Northern Ireland’s North West 200 in 2008. The very next day Michael disobeyed orders from the organisers, raced and won the 250 event.

Dunlop is not a fan of last year’s brilliant documentary Road, which tells the story of the Dunlop dynasty, because he thinks its message is clear – that he will end up the same way as his father and uncle. Never mind what happened to his forebears, Dunlop is destined to continue spurning the greater safety of short circuits in favour of the real thing.

“The roads are what I’m used to, it’s what we do. I’m not against short circuits, I just don’t do it. Why do I like doing the TT? I don’t know what it is, there’s something nice about the place. It’s got everything in it and I’ve got a buzz for it. When you’re on the bike you realise what point you’re at and where you want to push to – it’s all in the mind when you’re racing. You just keep your head down and try to do what you can.”

Dunlop will be keeping his head down and doing what he can throughout TT race week, which runs from May 30-June 5. As usual, ITV4 provides coverage.

While smaller Formula 1 teams continue to beg for a bigger slice of the sport’s financial cake, MotoGP has announced a huge increase in funding for its smaller teams.

From 2017, rights holder Dorna will increase its investment in the grid by about 30 per cent, underwriting the machinery costs of all non-factory teams. In effect Dorna has admitted that most teams cannot find the necessary budget to contest a hi-tech championship. This has been the case since tobacco sponsorship disappeared almost a decade ago. Dorna will negotiate a lease price for factory-spec machinery from the manufacturers, who must make several bikes available to satellite and private teams. These costs will be covered almost entirely by Dorna.

“This way the teams will save economically and the competitiveness of the championship will be ensured,” says the CEO of Dorna, Carmelo Ezpeleta.