Michael Dunlop: I'm not one to hold back in a race or in life, I'd rather tell the truth, get it out there; I don't tell lies... in the book I wanted to set it out the way it is
Ahead of our exclusive serialisation of his warts-and-all autobiography, Michael Dunlop explains why he has decided to lay bare his life and how he misses his father Robert - tragically killed in a racing crash - every day.
Michael Dunlop doesn't care one hoot how people see him. He's straight on that. Adamant. You can like him or loathe him. No bother.
In a world where most well-known personalities want to feel loved, there's something to be said for having that kind of take me or leave me attitude.
Talking to the 27-year-old motorcycling star from Ballymoney, he is not for changing any time soon, if at all.
Dunlop is one of the best in the business at what he does. He still feels the joy of being on a bike that he's had since he was a child but, as he races around roads at breakneck speeds, his biggest thrill comes from winning.
Some will tell you he'll do anything to be on the top step of the podium. Those same people see him as wild. For others he is daring. What is in no doubt is he is immensely talented and a master of his craft.
Ask Michael about his riding style and he'll tell you: "I'm just the boy who will go that wee bit extra."
Having chalked up 13 Isle of Man TT victories already, broken a host of records on the famous circuit and come home first numerous times at other big meetings such as the North West 200, going that "wee bit extra" has served him well.
Son of the late, great Robert and nephew to the iconic Joey, who also is no longer with us, Michael was determined to become part of the Dunlop racing dynasty. Along with older brother William, he has done just that.
For all those who put on a helmet and leathers to compete and risk their lives, the Dunlops remain the biggest attraction in Northern Ireland racing and beyond.
Last year William, a successful and gifted rider himself, told me becoming a dad changed his perspective on what he does. Michael still has the same ferocious desire that has been in him since he started out.
We are chatting as the sound of motorbikes roar in the background at Donington Park, where he is taking a break from speed practice for a British Championship round having joined the Bennetts Suzuki team for the season.
Dunlop is not a big lover of interviews. He can find them tiresome. The occasion for this one relates to the upcoming publication of his autobiography Road Racer: It's In My Blood, which is being exclusively serialised by the Belfast Telegraph, starting on Monday. It's an emotional, explosive and stunning account of Michael's eventful life to date. Bikes fans will love it, but this book is so much more than a sportsman detailing his incredible success and how he feels about it. Road Racer delves deep into the heart and mind of Dunlop and the tragedies he and his family have had to suffer and come to terms with.
I've read countless sporting autobiographies, with John McEnroe's candid life story You Cannot Be Serious the best of the bunch, but Dunlop's Road Racer, for sheer aching honesty, is up there with it.
Like the way he races, the book, ghosted by Jeff Hudson, is fast paced leaving everything out there for all to see. There's also a love story element, well three of them, with his adoration of his dad, motorcycling and the Isle of Man TT races to the fore.
In the Belfast Telegraph's exclusive serialisation you will read about:
• The day Michael's dad Robert died and the pain for him, his mum Louise and his family.
• Why Michael decided to race at the North West just two days after his dad's passing.
• Dealing with depression and quitting the sport he loved.
• The relationship between Joey and Robert Dunlop.
• Michael's favourite victory ever, and much more...
As we speak, my first question to Michael is why he wanted to write this book? The answer was typically frank.
"Everybody asks you the same questions, whether you are at events or races, and I think it was easier to put it all down in a book. Then everybody could get the answers they were looking for," he said.
"For years I have heard the same questions: why did you do this? Why did you do it that way? What were you thinking then? What was going through your mind at that moment?
"So, I decided to put it all out there about my life, and that's what is in the book."
On revealing all, even in the darkest hours, Dunlop stated: "I've never been one to hold back. I'd rather tell the truth and get everything out there. I don't want to tell lies because when you start that you end up getting lost in your lies. When you tell the truth there is nowhere to hide, and that's what I look to do in my life. I just wanted to set it out the way it is."
Whether the book changes some people's perception of him is irrelevant.
"I don't care how people see me and it will make no difference to me how they will feel about me after reading the book. I'm not bothered about that. People have their own opinions of me and I'm not sure them reading this book will change that," he said.
"There are haters in life and there are people who will like you. You have to live with that. At the end of the day I wanted to do the book this way. I haven't hid behind any doors and I was plain enough and straight enough about how different things in my life happened."
On the emotion of it all and writing about his dad's passing in 2008, Dunlop commented: "I live with that every day of the week. It's not something that goes away. Yes, writing the book brought up some memories, but I live with what happened every day anyway, so writing the book has not changed anything in that sense."
Michael's relationship with Robert was extremely close. He dedicates the book to his dad, who he describes as his "hero" and "inspiration", wishing more than anything that he was still around today.
"I wouldn't be where I am if it wasn't for my dad. Before my dad passed away he put me in a position to be someone and to do something. If it wasn't for him I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing," he said.
"My dad was a big inspiration for me. He was my idol and what I said in the book is how I went through life with him and after he passed away.
"Something like that will never go away. It will always be there. When I win races I wish he was still around to see it, but at the end of the day that's not the case."
Given he is only 27, I joke with Michael that there may be another book in him. Don't rule it out, but first things first. Dunlop is looking for a big season with his new machinery with the premier goal to claim more TT victories.
"The Isle of Man to me is the pinnacle. I suppose I see winning a race at the TT like winning a gold medal at the Olympics," said the Ballymoney man, who when he is not racing on two wheels enjoys nothing more than rallying on four.
"Don't get me wrong, other international events are all right, but in my view the Isle of Man is the best of the lot. To me it is put together just as well as Formula One. They are very professional over there, they bring lots of money to the area and I think they have it organised down to a tee, plus nothing beats the feeling of winning there."
Would he ever fancy following in the bootstraps of two-time World Superbike champion Jonathan Rea?
The reply: "Ach no… I don't spend enough time on short circuits to go down that route. I prefer to race on the roads and want to continue to do that. That's my life."