Belfast Telegraph

Why Michael Dunlop has much to think about

By Paul Lindsay

It's the beginning of the silly season with more talk of 'who will ride where' in 2014 than reflecting on another superb year for Northern Ireland riders and teams.

This weekend the Sunflower Trophy Races pretty much closes the curtain on the 2013 motorcycling year – apart from those who will make the trip to Macau in November and Michael Laverty competing on the MotoGP scene – but let's have an in-depth look at road racing's most sought after signature.

He's the biggest name in Irish motorcycling. As a matter of fact he's the biggest name in pure road racing bar none.

But unfortunately since his phenomenal four-timer at this year's Isle of Man TT in June – the 24-year-old has pretty much put a blanket embargo on anything press related.

If you haven't guessed already – the rider I'm referring to is Michael Dunlop.

He's gone underground, metaphorically speaking, to make his own decisions on what route is best to take when the season kicks off next April at the Cookstown 100.

Like many of his fans, I also find it strange that he would even consider leaving the Honda family that also assisted his uncle Joey to so many of his 26 record breaking TT wins.

Dunlop is a complex character who doesn't conform to the usual standards within the sport and has proved in the past – much to the disproval of the leading manufacturers in the game – that riding one make of machinery is no longer required to be at the top of your game when it matters.

For 2014 Dunlop is rumoured to be in talks with almost every manufacturer currently racing on two wheels bar Aprilia, and despite the recent speculation surrounding him joining certain Yamaha, BMW and Suzuki teams, I will be very surprised – when the dust settles – if he walks away from Neil Tuxworth's Honda Britain set-up. Currently operating under the guise of Honda TT Legends.

Dunlop, like Guy Martin, is an ambivalent character with a deep-seated aversion to the corporate world. And with less money being paid by manufacturers in the current climate, the 24-year-old believes he can make 'more coin' and win more international races from running his own MD Racing team in 2014.

That scenario allows MD to hand-pick his race programme, and as someone very close to him told me earlier this week: "Michael has never had to conform to any rules and regulations in his life, and with his tangible talent on a motorcycle, he's been fortunate enough to never have to look for a normal nine-to-five job."

The aforementioned confidante also said: "Honda will not want to lose him but if any of the other major manufacturers want his signature, they will have to allow Michael to do things the Michael Dunlop way; it's as simple as that."

I suppose for the aforementioned team managers and owners, it's a case of: 'If you want to almost be guaranteed a TT win in 2014, then Michael Dunlop must be at the top of your shopping list.'

As we all know, with the correct package or packages, five wins in a week at next June's Isle of Man TT is not beyond him. When Ian Hutchinson did it in 2010 many people said good fortune favoured him all week.

Dunlop seems to make his own good fortune through sheer talent and bloody mindedness. And he fully believes that TT domination Dunlop style is coming back to greet us – it's just a matter of which livery will he be in? Or in Michael's case, possibly a mixture of them all ...

Belfast Telegraph

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