Michael Dunlop ()Michael Dunlop () © Copyright

The fastest man still alive

Isle of Man TT winner and course record holder Michael Dunlop tells us what it’s like to compete in the most dangerous sport on earth – and win.

There are few things in life, it seems, that faze motorbike racer Michael Dunlop. Whether that’s rocketing across the Isle of Man at 130mph or batting off awkward interview questions, it’s indisputable that Dunlop is hewn of the very same Isle of Man granite, which in part, serves as the island’s bedrock.

Dunlop is only 28 yet is a 13-time winner of what is probably the most dangerous sport, let alone race, in the world. The TT has claimed the lives of 251 people – everyone from competitors to spectators and in between – since its inception in 1907 and averages four deaths per year. 

He holds the record for the fastest lap of the Snaefell Mountain Course ever, “37 miles of pure terror” as one Sports Illustrated journalist put it, completing a single lap in 16 minutes and 53 seconds (at an average speed of 133.96mph).

His uncle Joey Dunlop, the Isle of Man TT wins record holder and considered one the greatest motorbike riders of all time, died doing the sport that Michael loves, as did his racer father Robert Dunlop. As if these personal tragedies weren’t enough, off the track he has endured a slough of problems too, with bailiffs, depression, insecurity…

Ahead of this year’s TT and after the release of his book Road Racer, It’s In My Blood, we caught up with Dunlop to find out what continues to drive him. 

 

Hi Michael. So you probably get asked this question a lot, but why race around a small island at 130mph?

I just like racing motorbikes, that’s the long and short of it. I like riding my motorbike whether it’s dangerous or not, that’s just my cup of tea really. I’ve been interested in motorbikes since day dot. I just knew it was going to be something I was going to end up doing, especially as I was born and bred into it.

What does it take to get onto a bike and race around the Snaefell course? Do you have to be a bit crazy?

It seems to me that there are more BSB (British Superbike) type riders taking on the TT now, so it feels like me and my brother are the only real road racer types left competing and getting to the top of the game. It’s kind of cool like that, and it’s as hard as competing on [track]circuits in the UK; road racing is very different though. What does it take? I don’t know to be honest.

Michael Dunlop ()

 

Do you remember a race at all, or does it whizz by you?

Yeah, of course you remember stuff and it doesn’t just go past in a blur – that’s what it takes to be good, knowing what you have to do at all times and reacting accordingly.

Maybe you have to be a bit crazy then. Do you ever think about how dangerous it is?

I keep getting asked all these questions about this, and I’ve had a 100 different telephone calls asking me the same thing – this is why I wrote the book and why I want people to pick up the book and read it, you know? It’s just my cup of tea. People have had family members killed in a car crash, they don’t not get in a car ever again, do they? I race motorbikes competitively and that’s where I get my buzz. 

Interesting analogy that…

Bad things happen, but hey, that’s life; the world isn’t going to stand still for you. I wouldn’t change it for the world.

You’ve experienced more trauma in your lifetime than most, because of racing, and it was well publicised the amount of pressure you had to deal with off the course. How did you cope?

Everyone falls on hard times but you just have to battle through. I felt a lot of pressure at that time but I just had to deal with it.

Does racing not just give you a buzz but a release, then?

When I put my helmet on it’s just me and my motorbike. There’s nobody else there with you when you’re on the road. It’s something I get freedom from; there’s nothing else that goes through my mind other than winning a race.

You’ve written a book that talks about your life so far – what was that like for you?

It was all right. The guys who helped me make it worked hard and did all the graft with it, so I’m very happy with it.

Did you learn anything about yourself doing it?

Nope. Not really.

How long will you race on for? 

I don’t look at the future, I only look at today. Something could happen tomorrow so I don’t worry about it – what’s the point? 

 

Michael Dunlop’s Road Racer, It’s In My Blood, is out now (Michael O’Mara Books Ltd. RRP £20)

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