Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 17 April 2014

King of the road

New books commemorate the 10th anniversary of racing legend Joey Dunlop

Mac McDiarmid’s authorised biography

The charity work that Joey Dunlop did in private – his way was without fuss and no hullabaloo – has, fittingly, continued after this death.

The 10th anniversary of his racing accident in Estonia is next month but I’m sure that a building in the Isle of Man would mean more to him than the plaque erected at the road side to mark the place where he was killed.

In trying to guess what Joey would have thought I assure you that I do so most humbly. However, I’m certain that the building, bought by the Isle of Man based Joey Dunlop Foundation, established up after his death, would have pleased him greatly.

Last year the Foundation purchased Braddan Bridge House, close to his beloved TT course and converted the property into three self contained apartments. Why? Well, the answer is contained in Mac McDiarmid’s excellent book, Joey Dunlop, His Authorised Biography, 10th anniversary reissue, Haynes Publishing, £25.

McDiarmid writes: “In discussion with Linda (Joey’s widow) it emerged that Joey had expressed a wish to promote the needs of disabled people and in particular families with children.”

The official opening is planned for during the TT next month and it’s truly a measure of the great man that the good work he did during his lifetime has inspired so many people to continue it long after his death. I hope you all bought ballot tickets at the Joey Dunlop Foundation stall in the pits during race week at the NW 200.

McDiarmid’s book has an additional, brief Epilogue added to the end of the original publication. For those not familiar with his work, he once edited Bike magazine and he’s one of the best motorcycle journalists writing today.

You might not have bought the book the first time it was released but on re-reading it again I believe it has stood the test of time very well. McDiarmid is a former TT competitor and while we all have admired Joey’s skills on a race bike, particularly bikers like ourselves, I’m sure that for an ex-racer like McDiarmid his appreciation was even greater.

Watching the recent NW 200 races the thought came to me, and not for the first time, about the massive void Joey’s death has left in Irish road racing. We have some excellent riders like Ryan Farquhar, to single out but one, but none of the stature of Joey.

Carrickfergus based rider Alastair Seeley occasionally rides road circuits and on the international circuit we have two tremendous talents in Jonathan Rea in World Superbikes and Eugene Laverty in World Supersport. They have decided to stick to tracks.

But not to see that famous yellow Arai helmet, even after 10 years, still takes some getting used to. There was a mystique to the man that we’re still trying to uncover. Probably Mac McDiarmid gets closest to pulling the veil back in his book. Highly recommended.

Another 10th anniversary re-issue is also published, this time from Stephen Davison, a local professional photographer who has a tremendous empathy with bike racers and this is reflected in his work which is used world wide.

His book, Joey Dunlop, King of the Roads, The O’Brien Press, £16.99 or 19.99 euros, is considerably updated and includes new material and many unpublished photographs and intimate portraits.

Stephen also writes well and his words, in extended captions, often bring an insight to his pictures. Among the pictures that stand out for me is one that Davison took at the Ulster Grand Prix at Dundrod.

The image, presented over two pages, is of Joey racing towards him, the bike displaying the famous no 3 on the front of the fairing, his yellow lid just above the ‘bubble’, and elbows neatly tucked in as ever. The accompanying paragraph reads:

‘Standing on the bank at Dundrod on a typically grey day in 1975, I heard, for the first time, the spine-tingling roar of racing bikes hurtling down the Deer’s Leap before they broke into view under the trees at Cochranstown. This picture was taken at the spot where I watched that first race.’

For me that photograph sums up the great Dunlop. Davison’s words, too, ring a familiar bell because I saw my first Ulster at Cochranstown, only it was 11 years earlier. I still have that race programme.

Davison has also published a special calendar which runs from July of this year to December 2011. It contains 18 iconic shots of Joey, many of which I think purchasers will want to have framed. It’s available from Waterstones, Coleraine, Cameron’s, Ballymena and Stewart Millar outlets.

Do not regard the two books as rivals, in fact they complement each other. My advice, if you haven’t got either, is to buy both and the calendar too.

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