Belfast Telegraph

Michael Dunlop geared up for his biggest challenge of the lot

By Paul Lindsay

The 2014 Isle of Man TT Races have been all about one man - the enigmatic and often bullish figure of Michael Dunlop.

With three wins from four podiums taking the Ballymoney man’s career tally into double figures, he has joined Italian legend Giacomo Agostini on 10 Isle of Man TT victories.

The only question left to ask is whether the hard-charging 25-year-old can be stopped in tomorrow’s blue riband Senior TT or the preceding Lightweight race for Supertwin machinery?

It’s almost a week since Dunlop’s demolition of his rivals during the opening race at the TT Festival in the Superbike encounter.

A last minute change from Metzeler tyres to Dunlop during practice week obviously initiated a shift in confidence for Michael — as he adapted to his new role as on-track marketing manager and emerging superstar for German giants BMW.

Saturday’s victory was their first solo win on the Island in 75 years, backed up by Superstock success on Tuesday with Michael’s home-made MD Racing team.

Having failed to win the World Superbike championship over a five-year period with such high calibre riders as Troy Corser, Ruben Xaus and Marco Melandri, and with a £10million spend, just how much is Dunlop’s Superbike and Superstock TT victories worth this week to

BMW and more significantly Michael Dunlop’s bank account?

Tyco Suzuki’s Guy Martin must be wondering what he has to do to win a TT race, after a near perfect performance with two laps in excess of 130mph, another two in the high 129mph bracket, all cemented together with a pair of slick pit stops.

Sadly it wasn’t enough for Martin who had to settle for his 14th TT podium, but yet again, a rung lower than would allow him to open his champagne. It’s just another thing Martin has professed he will not do until he makes the podium’s top step.

The Isle of Man event is normally dominated by the Japanese manufacturers, but with Dunlop exalting the Germans in the 1000cc category as the new Könige der Berge — Kings of the Mountain — and Gary Johnson taking the opening Supersport win for British manufacturers Triumph, they have struggled to make an impact at this TT.

In a twist of fate, it was Dunlop who handed Honda their only TT2014 win so far in yesterday’s Supersport Race Two.

Sadly for the most successful manufacturer in TT history, Michael opts to call his Supersport machine an MD Racing special after an acrimonious split with the UK arm of the company at the end of 2013.

Tomorrow’s blue riband Senior TT is the one race Dunlop desires victory in more than any other.

Last year he lost out to then team-mate John McGuinness, with the Ballymoney man questioning the commitment of his former team when a record equaling five-in-a-week was very much on the cards.

This time around the only thing I can see stopping him is a mechanical problem.

He is quite simply in a different league.

And with more to come from his BMW Motorrad S1000RR machine in terms of overall performance, I’d say Bruce Anstey’s new outright lap record, set in the TT Superbike race at a staggering 132.298mph, could also be under threat.

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