There had been talk of him retiring from motorcycling — but the mercurial Michael Dunlop has now put those rumours to bed by signing a lucrative deal with BMW Motorrad UK and Hawk Racing.
The seven-times TT winner told the Belfast Telegraph he was delighted to have put pen to paper for such an influential team, and is looking forward to making an impact in 2014.
“Having tested the machine recently, the BMW S 1000 RR certainly has the speed for the TT and with my experience and the support of this new team, I know we have a race-winning package,” said the Ballymoney man, who admitted that he had considered taking a break from motorcycling.
Dunlop, who won the Malcolm Brodie award at the recent Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards after a terrific season in 2013, said: “I really had thought about sitting out this season; in fact I had deliberated taking in a few car rallies with a Mark 2 Escort I have at home, but I have found a team that I am really comfortable with.”
The superbike Michael will ride will be similar to the machine that Italian Marco Melandri and Chas Davies rode in the 2013 World Superbike Championship.
This year brings the 75th Anniversary of George Maier’s historic win of the Senior TT in 1939 — the first and only TT victory by the German manufacturer.
Dunlop, who won four races in succession during last year’s TT festival when riding Honda machinery, will be keen to give his new team their second TT victory come June.
Of course everyone anticipated that Dunlop would automatically re-sign for Honda this season, but it wasn’t to be and the unpredictable talent, who set two new lap records during the TT, did not get flustered when no sign of a 2014 ride appeared to be coming his way.
However they say that all good things come to those who wait and Dunlop has got the deal he harboured.
The recently-crowned IFS international and national road racer of the year and the man granted the Freedom of his home town said: “Yes, I won four races last year at the TT including my first superbike victory, but the Senior TT is the Blue Riband race and I have my eyes set on that this year, having finished second last time out.
“That is an ambition of mine and I feel that the BMW Motorrad Motorsport/Hawk Team give me a good chance.”
It is all systems go now for arguably the most talented road racer in the world as he prepares for what is sure to be an enthralling encounter at the TT where he looks to wrestle the King of the Mountain crown from his ex-Honda Legends team mate John McGuinness and adds extra spice to the 2014 season with a new high-profile manufacturer joining the mix.
In addition to the Superbike machine that will run in BMW Motorsport livery the 24-year old Ballymoney rider will also have a Superstock BMW that will run in MD Racing colours for what is shaping up to be an exciting and highly competitive international road racing season.
The BMW/Hawk Racing Team will be jointly managed by BMW Motorrad UK and Stuart Hicken fresh from the Buildbase BMW Teams best performance in British Superbike Championship.
Hicken, who in the past has had John Laverty competing in his BSB squad and is no stranger to Northern Ireland having had his team compete in the Sunflower Trophy Races at Bishopscourt, said: “We are extremely pleased to have assembled such an experienced team, which we have been working on for a while.
“I genuinely believe that with Michael, the technical expertise from BMW Motorrad Motorsport and the BMW S 1000 RR we have secured all the elements we need to compete at the sharp end and challenge for a great result at the TT.”
Lee Nicholls, the BMW Motorrad Marketing Manager was equally enthusiastic about the new recruit.
“We are so pleased to have secured Michael Dunlop to ride for BMW/Hawk Racing,” he said.
“His record speaks for itself and we are confident that, on a BMW S 1000 RR he can dominate on the roads this season.”