Belfast Telegraph

William Dunlop will let his bike do the talking

By Paul Lindsay

Despite high-profile moves for Ballymoney road racing brothers William and Michael Dunlop during the off-season, to Tyco Suzuki and Buildbase BMW respectively, their contrasting opinions and personalities have been somewhat conspicuous by their absence of late in the media.

Michael Dunlop can normally generate headlines just by getting out of bed in the morning.

But since confirmation early February that he would ride for the German manufacturer this season – ending nonsensical speculation of premature retirement – he has almost gone to ground.

Strangely enough, there was no Spanish testing appearance at either Almeria or the well-run Pro Test at Cartagena to familiarise himself with the Buildbase BMWs he will ride this season. ,Although if the paddock grapevine is correct, he did get a low-key run out at Mallory Park on Tuesday – which would make sense, now that team owner Stuart Hicken has taken over management of the circuit with former racer Eddie Roberts.

Granted, brother William has never been one to court the limelight, preferring the more subtle approach, and that's exactly the route he has taken with new employers TAS Racing.

Unlike his younger brother, William has enjoyed two trips to Spain with Hector and Philip Neill's Tyco Suzuki team. Two days at Almeria with Guy Martin, were followed by two days at Cartagena alongside new team-mates John Hopkins, Josh Waters and Taylor Mackenzie.

And just this week, team manager Philip Neill showed his commitment to the cause by flying in Stewart Johnstone, the team's technical expert and British Superbikes crew chief to new BSB star John Hopkins for a one-on-one day with Dunlop at Kirkistown.

Philip relates: "I think William surprised himself at Kirkistown under the guidance of Stewart Johnstone. They put in a lot of work in different areas and he said himself, he's really enjoying both our Superbike and Supersport machines."

Johnstone has worked with some of the best in the business and some experienced onlookers at Kirkistown were also very impressed with how Dunlop has adapted to Suzuki machinery and the way of life at TAS Racing.

Dunlop's schedule of races has yet to be decided. Neill would confirm the three internationals and Cookstown, but the Ballymoney rider is expected to take in a number of National Road Races and possibly even a run out at Easter.

Outside the Suzuki camp, Dunlop is also known to be looking at the potential of running his Delaney 125cc Honda this season. But Neill isn't so sure it's the correct direction for William.

"I certainly wouldn't stop him riding his 125," said the Monerymore-based Tyco Suzuki team boss.

"After everything he has learned working with Stuart to perfect his riding style on a Superbike, he could potentially take a step backwards by riding the 125."

Recounting a past experience with another high profile Ballymoney man, Neill said: "I remember working with Adrian Archibald and he had to make various sacrifices to win a TT. It wasn't what he maybe preferred to do, but he wanted to win a TT more, so he adapted."

Despite having taken high-profile Aussie Josh Brookes to the TT last year, collecting the top newcomer's prize with an astonishing lap of over 127mph, Neill is equally excited to have Dunlop in his rank and file this term.

"It's an exciting development for us. Of course we have excitement in abundance with Guy Martin, but William does add an important local angle to our team, which I feel we have been missing for quite some time at the TT."

Showing respect to Brookes, he added: "Yes, last year working with Josh Brookes was exciting, bringing such a high-profile newcomer to the TT, but I've always wanted to be back to working with a local rider and to have William Dunlop partner with Guy Martin is the ideal scenario."

Belfast Telegraph


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