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Analysis

Why Dunlop’s “f***ing idiots” outburst should worry his Isle of Man TT rivals

Michael Dunlop’s quest to break the all-time win record at the 2024 Isle of Man TT was dealt a cruel blow in last Sunday’s Superbike race.

Michael Dunlop, Hawk Racing Honda

The Ulsterman made history in Saturday’s opening race day of the 2024 event when he won the first Supersport race of the event, which meant he equalled the all-time record of 26 victories held by his late uncle Joey Dunlop since 2000.

It’s been almost a quarter of a century since Joey Dunlop was killed at a road race in Estonia just weeks after his 26th and final TT win, but the legend has endured ever since.

That the record remains in the Dunlop family is a poignant piece of history, given what it has been through. Michael lost his uncle that day in 2000. In 2008, at the North West 200, his father Robert – a road racing icon in his own right – died in an accident. A few days later, Michael would win the 250cc race at the NW200. In 2018, Michael’s older brother William died at the Skerries races.

Coming into the 2024 TT, having gotten to 25 wins in a 2023 event that dispelled a lot of doubts around the 35-year-old, Dunlop admitted the all-time record was “playing on our mind all week”.

Moving onto win #27 looked assured 24 hours later in the Superbike TT. Dunlop took the lead on the second lap on the run to the Ballaugh sector split after a steady opening tour. Half a second up at this stage, but the end of the lap he was 9s clear and had set a new class lap record of 135.543mph before his first pitstop.

He emerged from this on lap three still in the lead and on the way into the pits at the end of lap four was 25.1s ahead of the chasing TAS Racing BMW of Davey Todd. Then it all went wrong.

A problem during a routine visor change meant the left sidepod clip on his helmet wasn’t full fastened. Dunlop came to a complete stop on Bray Hill, removed his gloves and his helmet to fix the issue, in an agonising 52s that saw him plummet from the lead to fourth.

“You f***ing idiots,” he shouts as he races to unfasten his helmet, a fan video caught. “D***heads! You fucking shower of f***ing idiots,” he concludes as he puts his helmet back on before setting off again.

 

Dunlop went on to finish fourth in a race eventually won by Peter Hickman, while on the final lap the incensed Hawk Racing Honda rider fired in a second-class lap record of 135.970mph – getting close to the outright record of 136.358mph set by Hickman last year.

Pitstops are high-pressure situations and it seems like Dunlop’s issue was a foul-up rather than an inherent problem. Some riders like having their visors changed while others swap their helmets. What Dunlop does at the pitstop during Tuesday’s Superstock TT will be telling.

By then, he’ll have cooled off and his focus will be fully on the next race. But that outburst shows just how much the TT means to Dunlop, despite having nothing left to prove. And the fire it lit within him, borne out by that 135.9mph lap, should only serve to frighten his rivals.

The top four in that Superbike race – Hickman, Todd, Dean Harrison, Dunlop – were the only riders in the field in the 135mph bracket. In fact, nobody else was even in the 133s. Clearly, that quartet goes into the week’s grand finale Senior TT as the undisputed favourites, with Hickman’s 136.358mph outright record under serious threat.

But what happened in the Superbike race will only serve to make Dunlop a more potent force. He’ll have plenty of chances to win again this week, of course. The remaining Supersport race on Wednesday will almost certainly be his – though Todd will bring a bit more with him having gotten some race experience on that Ducati V2 now, while Harrison put on a good show on the Honda.

In the Supertwin races, Dunlop has been strong on the Paton for a number of years and topped the class in practice week. But Hickman wasn’t far off on his improved Yamaha R7 package, on which he won at the North West 200 last month, and stands a very realistic chance of adding to his shock Supertwin TT victory from last year (after Dunlop and Mike Browne suffered mechanical dramas).

In Superstock, Hickman breached the 134mph barrier on it that bike spec at the end of practice week and was all-conquering on his stock BMW M1000RR last year while battling so many issues on the Superbike version. Winning both races, Hickman’s outright lap record was also set in the Superstock class.

There is some needle between Hickman and Dunlop in that class too. Last year, there were two protests lodged after both Superstock races against Hickman’s bikes for – what he described at the time – as “stupid s**t”. Both appeals were rejected.

Photo by: PaceMaker Press

And after Hickman struggled in the Supersport race last Saturday and admitted he simply wasn’t quick enough for most of the Superbike contest before it was turned on its head, he will certainly approach the Superstock class wishing to prove a point.

The Senior, though, is the one they all want to win and a Dunlop victory in it would be a fitting way to cap off an already historic TT for the family.

The competition will be fierce. Todd battled arm pump in the Superbike race, while Dean Harrison didn’t have that bike at the North West, and so faced an uphill task to get it into the ballpark for the TT. Having turned around their Superbike woes last year at FHO Racing, Hickman will likely also come into the Senior in a better shape.

Will that be enough to beat Dunlop, though? Looking at what he did in the first four laps of the Superbike race when everything was under control, and then the level he went to when it unravelled hints at a frighteningly high ceiling for a rider looking to leave the Isle of Man at the end of this week as the undisputed ‘King of the Mountain’.

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