Posts Tagged ‘Michael Dunlop’

It’s usually dangerous to draw too many conclusions from the NW200 about likely outcomes at the TT. Alastair Seeley’s dominance at the Causeway Coast is one reason. Seeley consistently mops up at the North West but doesn’t do the TT. Despite that, there are maybe some pointers to be found.

I don’t want to go any further though without saying that the most important thing is the wellbeing of the woman who was seriously injured in Saturday’s three-bike incident. I felt too many people were too quick to ‘move on’ from this desperate accident. ‘The helicopter got away, how soon can we get back to the racing?’ No, that’s not the right way to go. As I write, over 24 hours has passed and the woman is still on the critical list in the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast. I sincerely hope she makes a good recovery. The same thoughts go to Stephen Thompson, also rated critical having been involved in the same incident.

We can’t tip Seeley for success at the TT, but we can say that his Tyco/TAS team have got the BMW working well. If that level of preparation carries through to the team’s BMWs on the island, then their TT experts William Dunlop and Guy Martin should prosper. William has the edge on Guy at the moment and Guy will have to be properly focused on the island. His ‘boring boring’ rant was out of order and also out of character, more a sign of frustration than anything else. I’d love Guy to win in what he says will be his last TT – although he hinted in a BBC NI interview that he might have second thoughts. At the moment, I have to say I think he’ll do well to get on the podium, never mind win.

Michael Dunlop’s switch to Shaun Muir’s Yamaha team makes forecasting even more difficult. Much the same as Hutchy’s switch to Shaun’s outfit after his five-out-of-five on Clive Padgett’s Hondas, before injury intervened. Michael has done it all on Honda and BMW bikes – but Yamaha? Well, if I’ve learnt one thing, it is never to bet against M.Dunlop. He will be a major contender. So will John McGuinness and Conor Cummins on the Hondas. The North West confirmed Lee Johnston as a big player, winner of the Superstock on Saturday. And Hutchy looked pretty good too, thank goodness, third in the Superstock and second in the Superbike, both on Paul Bird’s Kawasakis. The weekend also reminded us that Bruce Anstey is very much in the frame.

It’s impossible this year to come up with a single overwhelming favourite so it looks like we’re set for a massively exciting TT with the victories being shared around a bit more than in recent years.

I hope Guy turns up with his mojo in good working order. And I do hope Michael doesn’t go for a repeat of a silly little stunt at the start of proceedings on Saturday when he seemed to be goading the excellent BBC reporter Stephen Watson into giving a gratuitous plug to Michael’s sponsors. Stephen dealt with it well, but come on Michael. If Stephen had fallen for your little trick he’d have been in big trouble with his bosses. If anyone had tried to make me do something which is a disciplinary offence, if not a sackable one, when I was at the BBC I’d have thought long and hard before giving him any live TV exposure again.

Update: BBC TV interview with NW200 Race Director Mervyn Whyte, May 18th 2015

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It is of course about engines and shocks and swingarms and brakes and tyres and pitstops. But it’s also about concentration. That special quality which most of us would like to have more of, especially when the going gets tough. The ability to place the mind in a zone that brooks no interference, no distraction, no deviation from a single goal. To trade not just on hope but on belief. To make the mind more than a receptor and filter of information, more than a decision-maker, but to make it a significant source of advantage in itself. This, I believe, is what is setting Michael Dunlop apart this week.

Irresistible force: Michael Dunlop at Kirk Michael today. photo: Alan Knight

Irresistible force: Michael Dunlop at Kirk Michael today. photo: Alan Knight

Watching him race to his fourth win in four races today, I was stunned by the man’s ability to keep up the pace for so long, knowing that fractions of a second counted, to keep hitting apex after apex, to run that Honda so smoothly on such an outrageous course, to deal with setbacks like a lock-up at the Bungalow and meeting traffic in Ramsey. It doesn’t matter how good a bike is, it’s the rider who makes the difference at this level. I know Hutchy won five out of five three years ago, and I saw Joey, McCallen, Hizzy and Foggy all race on the island, but I believe we are now seeing the greatest individual display of road racing. Michael is not just beating the course, he is beating brilliant riders who themselves are at the top of their game. McGuinness set a new outright lap record and today Anstey beat the old Supersport record, yet each was eclipsed by Dunlop M.

Sportsmen and women with outstanding powers of concentration tend not to be thought of as motorbike racers. Cricket fans will remember Bill Lawry, the most obstinate of opening bats for Australia. Ed Moses, the American 400 metre hurdler, would lie flat on the track before a race to compose himself in the zone. He was unbeaten in over nine years. Nick Faldo won his six major golf titles by thinking his way round the course as much as playing it. Michael has now produced this unique level of concentration on three separate days, four separate races, and 18 laps of 37.75 miles each, at an average speed in the region of 130mph.

One day to go. Whatever you have planned, cancel it. Do not miss the Senior TT on the Isle of Man this year.

 

 

Flipping ‘eck Michael! I admitted yesterday that I’d run out of adjectives so what do you do? Win two more TTs in a single day? Give us a break man. I can’t keep up and I’m not even riding a motorbike.

Michael at the Gooseneck in the Superstock TT. photo: Alan Knight

Michael at the Gooseneck in the Superstock TT. photo: Alan Knight

Mind, I’ll admit that the old course owed you one. More than one, actually. Remember last year? Leading the first Supersport from the start on the McAdoo Suzuki when you had to retire at Ballig on lap three. Then there was the year before. Same story, wasn’t it? Leading for two laps on the Streetsweep Yamaha and retired at Ballig, your favourite country retreat. It was worse that year because two days before you’d had to settle for fifth in the Superbike TT because a length pitstop dropped you down from second.  And what about the Superstock? Three years ago in that race you lost over a minute having a tyre changed and dropped from second to eighth. In 2009 you suffered three DNFs in the first three races and the Norton you were supposed to ride in the Senior didn’t shape up at all. Oh, yes, that old racing track owed you more than one.

And today you called in the debt. Because you had the determination, the guts and the skill to do so. That’s what champions are made of.

Karl Harrtis, Tower Bends, Superstock TT. photo: Alan Knight

Karl Harris, Tower Bends, Superstock TT. photo: Alan Knight

William Dunlop at Ballaugh, Supersport TT. photo: Alan Knight

William Dunlop at Ballaugh, Supersport TT. photo: Alan Knight

Destiny is spoken about a lot in sport. Mostly, the notion doesn’t stand up to close scrutiny. But with the Dunlop dynasty, it’s real. Destiny is in the DNA and today we saw its fulfilment yet again.

Michael’s vistory in the Superbike TT was simply sensational. He took control of the race from lap one in the way we usually associate with the maestro himself, John McGuinness. After that, he built up his advantage with the remorseless power of Muhammad Ali at his peak in a different sport. Michael was in a class of his own today.

Michael leads Cam Donald at Doran's Bend. photo: Alan Knight

Michael leads Cam Donald at Doran’s Bend. photo: Alan Knight

I love watching Michael Dunlop ride a motorbike. He is not just a competitor, he is a racer. He is a raw battler, a rider who burns with winning ambition. Whatever the weather, whatever the track conditions, Michael is up for a race.  And he goes for it with every part of his being. Heart and soul as well as head.

Five years ago I was on the Causeway Coast to see Michael win a most emotional victory at the NW200, less than 48 hours after the death of his dad, Robert, in practice for the same event.

Both Michael, then 20, and elder brother William were entered to ridethe 250cc race but both said they would withdraw after the accident. Then they changed their minds, only for William’s bike to break down before the start. Michael then took part in an amazing battle with Christian Elkins and John McGuinness before snatching the lead on the last lap and holding on to win.  If anyone ever doubted what a sporting victory can mean to a family, this raised the bar to a new level.

Today we were in that special Dunlop universe again. Honda marked the 30th anniversary of Joey’s first TT win for them by kitting out John McGuinness in replica bike, helmet and leathers. Wonder why they didn’t bestow the honour on Joey’s nephew? Wonder if Michael wondered the same thing? Whatever, Michael rode with the determination of a man who was going to leave nothing in the tank in his zeal to put the Dunlop name on top of the podium.

John McGuinness in Joey replica gear today. photo: Alan Knight

John McGuinness in Joey replica gear today. photo: Alan Knight

What a race. McGuinness confirmed his star status too. Many sportsmen would have backed off after picking up a penalty like that 60-second penalty and settled just for bringing the bike home, but John’s response, to set a new outright lap record, was simply breathtaking. And Josh Brookes proved he wasn’t just on the island for the publicity with a barely-believable lap of 127.726mph.

I’ve run out of adjectives. What a race. What a winner. What a dynasty.

Sensational debut. Josh Brookes on the Tyco Suzuki. photo: Alan Knight

Sensational debut. Josh Brookes on the Tyco Suzuki. photo: Alan Knight

Watched tonight’s practice from Braddan, terrific noise and atmosphere from the classics. The Classic Superbikes look and sound great, John Barton and Mark Buckley looked in good nick but Michael Dunlop

Michael Dunlop at Braddan

  wasn’t happy on his opening lap on the Suzuki XR69 and later pulled in in front of the church to make adjustments before carrying on. Wattie Brown was one rider who caught the eye, on the Petty Norton that he’ll ride in the Senior Classic. We had a moment of drama when Phil McGurk came off and slid into the air fencing. He picked himself up straight away but the bike was unable to continue and that was Phil out of the session. I was impressed by the efficiency of the marshals in dealing with the incident.

Caught up with Martin Bullock who is again fielding a strong team. Andrew Brady and Jonny Heginbotham retain their places from last year but have swapped bikes for the Junior. Andy won’t be riding in the Supertwins despite being listed in the raceguide.

Among the newcomers, Stu Hall from Wakefield is getting to know his Honda CBR600.

Stu Hall

 Stu (right) had only ridden it once before this Monday having bought the bike with the main aim of racing here at the MGP. Unlike many of the competitors who were weaned on the TT and the Manx, Stu had never been to the island until he came to watch the MGP last year. This year is Stu’s 20th in racing, a career which includes several outings on the Belgian roads at Chimay. Stu’s partner Susan, son Cameron and dad and mum Rob and Janet are here to support him.  He’s riding the Senior as well as the Newcomers but his entry for the Junior was rejected. “I don’t mind being in ther Senior and not the Junior,” he told me. “It means I’m involved for the whole week and I’ll get more practice laps.”

Manx Radio is providing regular live reports on practice from Chris Kinley at the Grandstand and the full commentary team will be in business at 5pm on Saturday with coverage of the two Newcomers races. The action starts at 5.30.