After three increasingly impressive performances in the first three solo races at this year’s Isle Of Man TT, the Michael Dunlop we have been watching tackle the Mountain Course this week seems to be signalling a clear message of intent to the rest of the road racing field.
Following in the footsteps of his father Robert and his uncle Joey, who achieved a combined record of 31 wins and 54 podiums at the TT, and an astronomical amount of wins on road circuits across the world, Michael had already won three races on the island before this year’s event.
Despite this already impressive record on the Island, his frustration (and clear intent) was always apparent when it came to the Superbike class, as his two wins in Supersport and one in the Superstock class might have been perceived as “easier” wins by more cynical men than myself.
From more humble privateer beginnings, working out the back of a van at every race meeting and making every penny count, Dunlop’s teams this season are a stark contrast. Riding for Honda’s TT Legends team in the World Endurance Championship and road races, the HRC-backed effort echoes his Uncle Joey’s many years of Factory support from Japan.
In addition, his MD Racing team outfit, which prepares the Supersport and Superstock machinery, looks anything but an amateur effort.
All this has surely helped Michael prepare for each race, but the biggest piece of the puzzle is the man himself. Having lost around 40lbs since last year’s races, a visibly trimmer Dunlop is not only fighting fit, but thinking like a champion.
In one post-race interview in the winner’s enclosure this week, he commented on himself last year as being “a ballbag” in comparison to the new and improved Micky D that we are all witnessing this year.
Always adopting an aggressive position on the motorcycle, Michael continues to look like he is the boss in the bike and rider partnership, but this year the aggression has been joined by an almost effortless level of control and precision, looking less ragged than we’ve ever seen him ride.
This has been noticeable from every vantage point; whether it’s the jump at Ballacrye, the undulating Lezayre, or the turns at Quarterbridge and Creg Ny Baa that could be taken from numerous short circuits around the world.
Yesterday’s double on the Mountain course drew Michael level, then ahead of the tally of his father, the great Robert Dunlop, ensuring that the Dunlop name continues to live in road racing legend. At the tender age of 24, could Michael reach the dizzy heights of his Uncle Joey’s 26 victories at the TT?
Photo: © 2013 Richard Mushet / Mushet Photo – All Rights Reserved
Richard Mushet is a British photographer who has been known to cover motorcycle racing in it’s many forms. You can view his site here, and follow his Facebook page for more frequent updates over here: MushetPhoto.