MICHAEL DUNLOP, youngest son of the late Robert Dunlop and very much a rising star at this year’s TT with three top-ten finishes, is the latest big name to throw his hat into the ring at the Manx Grand Prix classic races run on the Isle of Man’s Mountain Course in the final week of August.
Michael will ride a notably quick 350cc Aermacchi Ala D’Oro in the MGP Junior Classic on 27 August. This is the same machine on which his uncle Joey Dunlop came second in the event in 1994 but it has since been lightened and makes a lot more power. Robert Dunlop had signalled his intention to race this Aermacchi at the 2008 MGP prior to his death in May’s North West 200 and Michael has taken over his father’s entry with the consent of the organising Manx Motor Cycle Club.
He will be joining two other top-level TT performers in the MGP classics. Gary Johnson will be debuting a replica of Giacomo Agostini’s 1972 12-valve MV Agusta 500cc triple in the Senior Classic, challenging last year’s victor Ryan Farquhar on his DOHC eight-valve Paton 500c twin replica.
In the Junior Classic, Dunlop will be going against Farquhar - who came second last year on a CB350 Drixton Honda - and similarly-mounted first and third placemen Roy Richardson and Chris McGahan, both also TT regulars, as well as three-times TT winner Chris Palmer on a Seeley AJS 7R. Another leading contender will be Lawton Aermacchi-mounted Bill Swallow, who has previously won the event four times and still holds the 101.73mph average race record he set way back in 1996. Swallow is returning to race on the Island after an absence of several years.
The fact that the classic races (now effectively the main attraction at the MGP) are pulling riders of such calibre on ever-more-exotic and expensive race tackle has not gone un-noticed by the organisers. It is now pretty much an open secret that the MGP’s race classes for modern bikes are set to be reduced in future and more throwback elements such as Forgotten Era and Sound of Thunder introduced instead. An announcement is expected during this year’s MGP.