Why ‘written off’ Michael Dunlop hasn’t crumbled under ‘Dunlop’ name pressure

Michael Dunlop refuses to compare himself to late great Joey Dunlop as he gets to within range of challenging his uncle's record of 26 Isle of Man TT wins

Michael Dunlop

Michael Dunlop says his ability to distance himself from the spectre of the ‘Dunlop’ family name has allowed him to avoid the pressure associated with it and remain potentially on course to exceed Joey Dunlop’s long-standing record of 26 Isle of Man TT wins.

The son of Robert Dunlop - a five-time TT winner - and nephew of Joey, Michael has proceeded to keep the family legacy alive to today as one of the world’s most decorated road racers, the Ulsterman notching up 19 TT wins to be placed third on the all-time list.

Moreover, his enduring success has been achieved against monumental personal tragedy with Joey, Robert and brother William, himself an eight-time podium winner at the TT, all losing their life in accidents during competitions over the last two decades.

Nevertheless, while Michael is greatly aware of the weight associated with carrying the Dunlop name, he says the approach of considering there to ‘only ever be one Joey Dunlop’ has allowed him to remain focused on his own successes.

“My name was the dominant name… Joey held it, my Dad held it and it was passed down to myself and William. There is a lot on that, but I don’t care what happens in the next five years, who you are or what you are, because there won’t be another Joey Dunlop. I won’t be another Joey Dunlop, I just carry the name.

“If people continue racing in 100 years time, Joey’s name will be brought up, you’ll never get away from that.

“I am never going to be what they were and even if I won 5000 races, it won’t be like anything that they have done. I am more in awe of what they have done and the TT has been fantastic to me but it won’t be a patch on what they were doing. 

“I’ll do what I can, if it is good enough then it is good enough!”

10 years to achieve 8 Isle of Man TT wins

Though John McGuinness has long been identified as the rider most likely to exceed Joey’s record of 26 wins on the TT having amassed 23 of his own up to 2016, the ‘Morecambe Missile’ has intimated he may retire fairly soon

As such, Michael - still only 32-years old - is perhaps best placed to succeed his uncle. 

Indeed, despite Michael suggesting many continue to write him off, he has established a consistently strong record at the TT since his debut in 2007, with four of those wins being achieved in 2018 and 2019 alone.

For the 2022 Isle of Man TT, Dunlop will compete in six races across four classes on four different motorcycles; Superbike/Senior TT (PBM Ducati Panigale V4 R), Supersport (MDR Yamaha R6), Lightweight (Paton) and Superstock (TBA).

“I think people have written me off and said I’m finished, but that’s how the game goes. I’m not that bothered, if I win no more races or I win 50 more, I have had a go at it and all I can say is that I gave 100% every time.

“Other riders probably write me off too but I’ve always tried and I have put a lot on the line for it. It’s been good, it’s been bad and it’s been ugly but at the same time I won 19 races and by the time I reached 30. Joey didn’t win his first TT until he was 27 or 28.

“I have enjoyed my career, I’ve played the games, I’ve had my fun and I have won races. That is what it was all about from day dot.”