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Michael Dunlop looks ahead as he opts to keep racing after William tragedy

 

Carrying on: Michael Dunlop has decided to continue racing
Carrying on: Michael Dunlop has decided to continue racing

By Roy Harris

Six months after his brother William tragically lost his life in an accident at the Skerries 100 road races, Michael Dunlop has announced that he will continue racing.

Michael - who has also lost his father Robert and uncle Joey to road racing incidents over the years - immediately took a step back from the sport as he came to terms with the loss of William, and spent the remainder of 2018 pondering his future.

The 29-year-old kept a low profile until he announced major plans for the Portstewart bar Shenanigans, and then recently attended the Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards to collect the Hall of Fame prize in memory of William.

William's partner Janine and mother Louise then attended the Cornmarket Irish Motorcyclist of the Year Awards last Friday night, where he was honoured with a similar award.

But Michael yesterday announced that he had decided to race on and he will join forces with TAS Racing for the second consecutive season.

Michael, who became the third most successful rider in Isle of Man TT history last June after taking his 18th victory in the RST Superbike race aboard the Tyco BMW S1000RR, said: "I'm looking forward to working with the TAS Racing boys again this year.

"We grabbed a Superbike TT win last year, which was a good start, and the goal this year will be to go after the Superbike and Senior TT wins on the Island.

"BMW has just launched a new bike, which I should be riding in the next few weeks.

"With the added improvements to the package and a second season with the same team, we should be in a good place to go after both big bike wins on the Island."

Dunlop's Superbike win last year lifted TAS Racing's total to 19 wins around the famous 37-mile Mountain Circuit.

Team manager Philip Neill said: "It's great for TAS Racing to secure another season together with our partners BMW and Tyco.

"It was important to continue with Michael; however, it was also important we took some time together to consider the best way to approach 2019 and we look forward to announcing further details soon."

The sad loss of William was not the first tragedy to befall the Dunlop dynasty, as William and Michael's father Robert died in a practice accident during the 2008 North West 200.

Their uncle Joey also died in a racing incident in Estonia in 2000.

Michael became the first man in TT history to lap the Mountain Circuit in under 17 minutes on his way to a 2016 Senior TT victory and an outright lap record of 133.962mph. He is regarded as one of the most determined riders in motorcycle racing.

His legion of fans will be delighted to welcome him back, although many will also welcome his return with trepidation given the very nature of the sport.

Both TAS and Michael are winners and their combination last year was a long time in the making, so to see the partnership coming together again for 2019 certainly adds spice to the competition for TT honours come June.

Meanwhile, Jonathan Rea had a strong World Superbike test for the Kawasaki Racing Team, finishing fastest after two days at Jerez where he was 0.212secs ahead of Alex Lowes and half a second ahead of new team-mate Leon Haslam.

Rea said: "That was positive. Priority was testing things, double checking things to make sure we are going in the right direction."

Eugene Laverty was in 12th on his Team Go Eleven Ducati debut.

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