|Joey Dunlop Tribute from the TT Website
As Reported in The Guardian
A race too far for Ireland's
Pete Nichols pays tribute to Joey Dunlop, who died
Joey Dunlop's name was synonymous with one event. In the Isle
of Man Tourist Trophy races all the records, bar one, belonged to the publican
from Ballymoney. His first victory came in 1977 in the Jubilee Classic - his
second year racing on the island - and for the next 23 years he continued on
the greatest victory roll in motorcycle sport.
In all, he took the
chequered flag in 26 TT races. Three were added last month when he was three
months or more into his 49th year. It was a measure of how far he was above the
rest that the next best tally was a mere 14 wins and belonged to Mike Hailwood,
the imperious rider who once won seven world titles in a row.
was a race too far for Dunlop yesterday when he was killed in a road race in
Estonia, a non-championship meeting which had begun the day before when he had
won the 600cc supersport event. Yesterday he won the 750cc superbike race
before fatally crashing on the second lap of the 125cc event. Typically he was
leading the race.
In the Isle of Man the only record that Dunlop
couldn't claim was the track record. That belongs to Carl Fogarty, who once
memorably rode the snaking course around Snaefell mountain - from Douglas
through Peel and Ramsay and back to Douglas - at an average speed of 123.61mph.
But as Fogarty once said: "When I raced in Ireland the fans used to say,
'You'll not beat Joey,' and most of the time they were right."
starting racing on a 199cc Tiger Cub for which, in 1969, he paid £50. It
was the beginning of a passion that would rule his life. His first two TT
victories came on Yamahas, but Honda would be the ally from 1983 on, the plain
yellow helmet a beacon to the supporters who idolised the Irishman.
passion mirrored theirs: in 1989 he arrived at the island on crutches ready to
race, but the organisers gave a blank refusal.
Another man might have
chosen another sport, or at least another venue to make his name, for there can
be no more fearsome challenge in mainstream sport than the 37-mile circuit
which swoops down dales and up hills and is bordered by stone walls, lampposts,
sheep fencing, houses and sheer drops.
On a conventional racetrack you
can slide off into the gravel and walk away. On the Isle of Man the secret is
to stay on the bike. "It's a dangerous track. You have to be cautious. If you
do that it's the most exciting fortnight of your racing career," he said.
His mastery of the island course was such that it seemed to hold back
time. Two years ago he had arrived for the week of racing severely bruised and
beaten by a tumble in the 100-mile Tandragree road race, the fall breaking his
pelvis, collarbone and costing him the third finger of his left hand.
The wedding ring had to change fingers. Yet still there was a race to be won,
and Dunlop duly took the lightweight TT by the cosy margin of 47
Last summer on the Isle of Man was disappointing; tyre
problems and untimely tumbles left him winless and the mumbles from others
that, at 47, he might retire got a little louder. They were silenced in no
uncertain fashion last month when an inspired Dunlop rattled off three superb
victories; in the formula one, the lightweight and the ultra-lightweight
Dunlop's performance in the lightweight TT was extraordinary
for he finished over a minute clear on the field at an average speed of 116mph.
There were honours off the bike, too. In 1986 he was awarded an MBE for
services to motorcycling. Ten years later he was elevated to an OBE, this time
for his services to charity, including solo drives to Romania, Bosnia and
Albania in a van packed with food, clothes and medication. There was no song
and dance about the charity work, any more than about his track
Dunlop was an absolute pragmatist. "With me being
mechanically minded and working on my own bikes, you get to know things that
break, things that go wrong," he said.
In 93 years of TT racing, almost
180 riders have lost their lives on the island. Dunlop survived the dangers for
so long that it seems sadly ironic that he should lose his life in a race where
fatalities are hardly known.
Like the Isle of Man, the
Pirita-Kose-Kloostrimetsa in Tallinn, the Estonian capital, is a circuit
adapted from pub lic roads, but there have been no fatal accidents there since
1961, when the race was in its infancy.
But in his final race yesterday
Dunlop came off the bike, crashed into trees by the roadside and died
"I never really wanted to be a superstar," he said before
last year's races in the Isle of Man.
"I just wanted to be myself. I
hope people remember me that way." They will.
All of us at TT
Website wish to extend our sincerest and deepest sympathy to the family of
William Joseph, The Legend who's accomplishments will live forever.