|Joey Dunlop Tribute from the TT
Joseph Dunlop MBE and OBE
KING OF THE
Say the name Joey Dunlop to
any true bike fan in almost any part of the world and they will know instantly
who you are talking about. Not some here-today-gone-tomorrow, manufactured
superstar with an ego to match his pay-cheque, but a quiet, shy
part-time publican from a small town in Northern Ireland.
worlds greatest living sportsman, the words of Big D,
Irelands loudest commentator are an apt description of this most
remarkable of men. William Joseph Dunlop MBE OBE, is the greatest motorcycle
racer that has ever lived. I say that without shame or without doubt.
was, and will remain, a hero to hundreds of thousands of people, young and old
alike, in every far-flung corner of the world. He inspired generations of young
Irishmen to take up motorcycle road racing, and can almost single-handedly take
the credit for the strength of the road racing scene today.
wouldnt dream of it. In fact he would be embarrassed beyond belief at the
very mention of such a notion. The man was modest almost to the point of
self-denial. He never wanted the limelight, the fame or the attention. Joey was
a reluctant hero. He just wanted to race bikes and to win.
legend all started rather inconspicuously aboard a £50 Triumph Tiger Cub
at Maghaberry in 1969, as a bit of fun with my mates. It was the
mid 1970s before Joey established himself as a regular winner, and from
that point on, he never looked back. He entered his first TT race in 1976:
It was wet, I rode a 250, and Id never been round the circuit
before, even in a car. I remember coming up to Ballacraine and didnt know
whether to turn right, left or straight ahead! Amazingly, and perhaps as
a foresight of what was to come, he finished all three races he started in,
including a good 16th position in the Junior 350 event aboard a new 350 Rea
Yamaha. The following year, still a virtual unknown at the TT, he beat all the
favourites to take the 1977 Jubilee TT aboard a privately-entered TZ 750
Yamaha. A few barren TT years followed before he won the 1980 Classic 1000cc
race, again Yamaha-mounted.
That same year he joined the works Honda
team-with Honda boss Bob McMillan promising him bikes for life-to
begin a 21 year association, making him Hondas most loyal servant bar
none. The men in suits at Honda tried to change Joey, his unkempt appearance
and almost incoherent accent not really conforming to the Honda image. But it
was soon apparent that they were wasting their time, and they left him pretty
much to his own devices, supplying him with the machinery required to do the
And do the job he most certainly did. As well as winning countless
Irish road races, including the Ulster GP and North West 200, he started
winning TT races for Honda in 1983, beginning a winning run in the F1 event
that was to last for 6 consecutive years from 1983-88 during which time he was
F1 World Champion on 5 occasions.
But the genius of Joey Dunlop extends
much further than his many big-bike wins; equally at home on any bike from
125cc-1000cc, Joey was easily the most versatile rider of his generation . How
many of todays WSB or GP riders could do a 120mph lap of the TT course on
a 1000cc V-Twin, jump straight off that onto a 125cc bike, and do a 107mph lap
? None. Joey and his raw, unadulterated talent stand alone.
At home in
Ireland, Joeys record on the pure roads circuits will probably never be
bettered. He was victorious in 24 Ulster Grands Prix, 13 North West 200s,
and countless other races in the domestic series, including 17 wins here at the
Skerries 100, making him the joint record holder for the most wins along with
the great Raymond McCullough. Indeed Joey still holds the course lap record of
105.95mph, set in the 1999 Grand Final race, one of the most thrilling road
races I have ever had the privilege to witness. It will be a long, long time
before that lap record is bettered.
On the Isle of Man, Joeys
final tally of 26 TT wins will never be surpassed. 12 more wins than his
nearest rival, and the only rider to win a hat-trick of hat-tricks at the TT,
Joey had infinitely more talent than any rider on the current scene around the
circuit which he made his own. I have spent many an evening or afternoon
watching as Joey came around lap after lap, on the same line every time,
totally at one with the bike, be it a 125cc single or a 750 4-stroke. Smooth
doesnt even begin to describe his riding style: Joey was pure poetry in
His greatest ever win came this year, his 32nd year of racing,
in what was to be his last ever TT race meeting. His victory in the F1 race on
a totally new, ill handling Honda VTR SP1, which he had hardly ridden before,
was the crowning glory of a glittering career. He and his family received a
standing ovation at the prize presentation, the likes of which will never be
seen or heard on such a scale again.
But there was another side to Joey
that only his closest knew so well. A quiet, devoted family man with 5 children
to his childhood sweetheart Linda, the pair recently renewed their marriage
vows in the same church in which they were married all those years
Although he was awarded the MBE for his services to motorcycle
sport, it was perhaps his OBE for charity work which best gives an insight into
this remarkable mans persona. Twice he has travelled with aid to Bosnia
and once each to Romania and Albania, all under his own volition and all at his
own expense. He would travel around the Ballymoney area in his own van
collecting food and clothes from locals. When the van was full, he set off to
wherever he was going. No fanfare. No razamatazz. Just Joey and a battered van
full of aid, destined for those less fortunate than himself. Such a simple
gesture. Please take a few moments to think about this.
humble, decent acts only served to deepen the enigma and mystique that
surrounded the quiet Irishman known universally as Yer Maun.
I am going to miss Joey hugely. His death has been an abominable
tragedy beyond words. Such a great man did not deserve to lose his life in an
unimportant race in a little-known part of the world, thousands of miles form
his loved ones. I do know one thing though: if he could have chosen to go any
way, it wouldve been in the saddle of a Honda. Joey died a happy and
content man, doing what he did best. Several times he was told he should
retire, to which he replied, Its what I do best. Its in my
blood. Its what I like and until I feel I cant do it any more
Ill keep on.
Everyone has their favourite memory of Joey
and mine will stay with me for the rest of my days. It was at the Southern 100
on the Isle of Man in 1999, and I stood watching Joey working frantically on
his bike in order to make the next practice session. A man with a young son
approached Joey and asked if his son, who was probably no older than four could
have his picture taken with him. Joey smiled, downed his tools and lifted the
boy upon to the petrol tank of his bike and sat smiling on the saddle himself
whilst the overjoyed father took the picture. The man thanked Joey, who smiled
and carried on working flat out on the bike. That young child now has a
keepsake that he should treasure forever. And that for me summed up Joey as
person: humble, kind and someone who always had time for anyone.
clichés and phrases have been synonymous with the name Joey Dunlop over
the years and it would be all to easy to conclude with one or two of them.
Instead however, I feel the final words should go to the man who asked for so
little throughout life, but gave so much to so many.
really wanted to be a superstar. I just want to be myself. I hope thats
how people remember me. We certainly will Joey. We certainly will. God
Yer Maun -
William Joseph Dunlop - R.I.P.
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