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Isle of Man TT 2024: History-maker Dunlop perpetuates family name

Michael Dunlop has been a regular at the top of the TT podium for 15 years

With a deal in place early to ride a Honda Fireblade for Hawk Racing in 2023, the annual guessing game for race fans over which manufacturer he would compete for in the Superbike class was avoided and Dunlop appeared to display a renewed sense of purpose to go on a winning streak and further perpetuate the Dunlop family name.

While Dunlop has excelled at other meetings, including five wins at the North West 200, six Ulster Grand Prix triumphs, three Southern 100 Solo championships and 10 wins in the feature ‘Race of Legends’ event at the Armoy national road races staged near his hometown, he has made no secret of the fact that his primary focus every year is the Isle of Man TT.

In common with most road racing fans, he regards that as the pinnacle, the Olympic gold medals of the sport.

Right from the offset in 2023, Dunlop appeared even more focused than usual, particularly determined and single-minded in his approach to the task in hand, shunning the limelight where possible.

He produced some scintillating lap times from the ‘get-go’ in qualifying, making a particular statement by unofficially smashing Hickman’s five-year-old absolute course record.

By the time he scored his first couple of wins, there was a palpable sense in the paddock that history beckoned, that something special was unfolding as Dunlop set out on a seemingly relentless march towards rewriting the history books.

Michael remained guarded on the issue of matching or overtaking his uncle’s long-standing record, aware that the vagaries of TT racing meant nothing could be taken for granted, also likely playing the matter down through an awareness of the sensitivities of surpassing the total achieved by the most revered and respected road racer of all time.

He repeatedly refused to be drawn on the likelihood of becoming the most successful ever TT rider, preferring to limit his comments to delight at the achievement of winning each individual race for its own sake and thanking his loyal band of sponsors and mechanics for their continued support and hard work.

In recent years it appeared that Hickman and Harrison had raised the bar in the celebrated ‘big bike’ races in terms of results and lap speeds.

Dunlop appeared to have fallen behind, as niggling injuries and late deals for rides in the Superbike class proved contributory factors which combined to thwart his efforts.

It was appropriate then that his return to the summit in the Superbike class came in the livery of long-time backers Hawk Racing.

The established British Superbike team have come to his rescue at the last minute on more than one occasion after plans to ride other bikes fell through.

In the end Dunlop’s four-timer saw him fall narrowly short of the wins benchmark last year but 2024 proved to be the one where he created history.

At just 35 years of age, he has time on his side to forge ahead in terms of extending his record even further.

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Written by Joseph

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