The Dunlop dynasty's fabulous half century of wins at Mountain Course event
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The Dunlop dynasty's fabulous half century of wins at Mountain Course event
[Image: DunlopDynasty.jpg]

The Dunlop dynasty's fabulous half century of wins at Mountain Course event

When Michael Dunlop won the Lightweight Supertwins race at the 2019 Isle of Man TT, it marked a remarkable milestone in the success story of the Dunlop family at the world's most famous road racing event.

The Dunlop name has been synonymous with competing - and winning - at the Isle of Man TT for four and a half decades, and that victory brought their overall tally of successes to 50.

The late, great legendary Joey Dunlop racked up a record 26 triumphs over the challenging and treacherous 37.73-mile Mountain Course, with his late brother Robert taking five wins and Robert's son Michael having amassed 19 victories to date.

Michael lies third in the all-time winners' list, with Morecambe legend John McGuinness second in the roll of honour with 23.

With the TT having been cancelled for a second year in a row, we thought this a good time to look back on the Dunlop dynasty's achievements and get the thoughts of 11-time TT winner Phillip McCallen and Steve Plater, who took two wins on the Mountain Course.

'Such a special person and a rider with so much course knowledge'

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Joey Dunlop secured his final 'big bike' win at the 2000 TT, aged 48

The first indication that Joey Dunlop would go on to become the most successful rider in TT history came when he put one over the factory teams by chalking up his first win as a 'privateer' on the 750cc Rea Racing Yamaha in the 1977 Jubilee TT in just his second year of competing at the event.

Three years later, the humble Ballymoney man followed that up by winning the Classic TT on the Rea-backed machine, then would go on to take six consecutive successes in the Formula One event, the traditional curtain-raiser of race week, between 1983 and 1988.

Two of those victories set him on his way towards hat-tricks at the event in 1985 and 1988 as Dunlop became the standard-bearer for the mighty Honda factory outfit.

In 2000, then aged 48, the hugely popular Northern Irishman rolled back the years by claiming his third treble, starting with a superlative ride to take the honours in the Formula One race for the first time in 12 years.

In total, Dunlop's outstanding tally read - Formula One (seven wins), Senior TT (four), Lightweight TT (five), Ultra-lightweight (five), Junior TT (three), Classic TT and Jubilee TT.

A bend at the 26th milestone on the TT course has been named 'Joey's' in recognition of his achievements.

The five-time Formula One world champion contested 102 TTs over a 25-year period between 1976 and 2000, standing on the podium 40 times, before his untimely death in Estonia in 2000. His legacy lives on however.

Steve Plater says:

"For one family to win 50 TT races is incredible and it all began with Joey. He was such a special person, as well as a rider, held in so much affection by all the fans and so unassuming.

"His knowledge of the Isle of Man course was encyclopaedic and he was so accomplished in the time trial format at the TT.

"He picked up a lot of wins on the lighter bikes at the latter end of his career but to ride as fast as he did on the big bike in his final TT in 2000 was amazing."

[Image: McAllen&Jpoey1.jpg]
Phillip McCallen and Joey had many exciting battles on the roads

Phillip McCallen says:

"Joey was just a natural bike rider and a natural road racer. He was so laid back and took to the TT straight away and made it look easy, which of course it isn't.

"His smooth style meant that he didn't even look like he was trying or going particularly fast. He was the master, the undisputed 'King of the Mountain'.

"He had a really good memory for corners, knew every single camber and bend. His circuit knowledge was such that he was always on the perfect line consistently every lap."

'A naturally gifted rider and so brave'

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Robert Dunlop was a five-time victor in the smaller classes at the IOM TT

Among his many career achievements, Robert Dunlop accumulated a then record 15 North West 200 victories, nine at the Ulster Grand Prix, a 125cc British Championship success, a second position in the British Supercup, the forerunner of the current British Superbike Championship, and a Macau Grand Prix triumph.

His five wins at the Isle of Man TT all came on smaller capacity machinery, victories in the Ultra-lightweight 125ccs in 1989, 1990 and 1991, then heroically again in 1998 after overcoming career - and life - threatening injuries in a horror crash on the Mountain Course in 1994.

1991 proved to be his most successful year at the event as he added a 250cc Junior triumph to his 125cc win. Sadly, Robert was killed in a practice accident at the 2008 North West 200.


"Although Robert was most renowned for his successes on the smaller bikes at the TT he picked up a fair few rostrum finishes on the bigger bikes too.

"He was a rider who underachieved given his skill level because of the injuries he picked up. To come back from the injuries he sustained and win again with the alterations he made to his bike was remarkable."


"Robert was such a naturally gifted rider who had a different style to his brother and was so brave to come back from the injuries he suffered.

"To return and race again on the island was an outstanding achievement in itself. To win again on the 125cc was mindblowing."

'Determination and versatility'

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Dunlop has won races for six different manufacturers at the TT

Michael Dunlop has proved a worthy successor to the legacy handed down by his uncle and his father, registering 19 victories over an 11-year period to take the family's grand total to a landmark half century.

His maiden march onto the top step of the podium came back in 2009 when he was victorious in the second Supersport event, run in changeable conditions and on greasy roads.

As of 2019, the Ballymoney man's roll of honour includes four wins in the Superbike class, three in the 'blue riband' Senior race, seven in the Supersport category, three in Superstocks and two in the Supertwins.

Dunlop has prided himself in achieving his victories on a wide variety of machinery - six each on Hondas and BMWs, three on Yamahas, two on Patons and one apiece on a Kawasaki and a Suzuki.

The straight-talking 32-year-old is renowned for his single-minded determination to win and made history by becoming the first rider to record a sub-17 minute lap of the Mountain Course in the 2016 Superbike race.

He holds the current lap record for the Supersport and Lightweight classes and chalked up memorable four-timers at the event in 2013 and 2014.

He has achieved many of his victories on machinery prepared by his own MD Racing team, with support from personal sponsors.

[Image: Plater&MickyD.jpg]
Steve Plater pictured with a young Michael Dunlop on the podium at the 2009 North West 200


"Michael has bags of talent - you can't argue with 19 wins - and he is still a young lad so he should have plenty more in him yet.

"Deep down I think he really wants more TT wins to get up to Joey's record and I firmly believe he is capable of it.

"He can ride any type of machinery to its full potential across all the various classes and looks looser on circuit than he is.

"He had a reputation as being a bit reckless early in his career but I don't believe he was ever out of control. I think he rides within his limits.

"I raced with him when he earned his first win in the Supersport class in 2009 and he was faultless in those damp greasy conditions. All the other riders were having 'moments' but he rode the perfect race and won easily.


"Michael has created his own determined style, distinct from that of his father and his uncle. All three have different personalities.

"He and his brother William had a lot to live up to because of the family name but Michael's skill is matched by his determination and drive. He can jump on any machine and win TTs."

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08-06-2021, 12:35 PM
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