'I love winning': Michael Dunlop defies broken pelvis as focus switches to Ulster GP
Miracle man Michael Dunlop now has the Ulster Grand Prix in his sights next month after a double success against the odds in Saturday's superb Bayview Hotel Armoy Road Races which, once again, lived up to all expectations and then some.
Dunlop, using crutches when he wasn't on his bike, defied the pain and discomfort of his Southern 100 crash injuries - including a broken pelvis and other fractures - two weeks earlier to race to an incredible Superbike double.
He won the feature Bayview Hotel Race of Legends for the eighth time in succession, having earlier won the Hemelstudioflats Open race on his Tyco BMW.
If there were doubts that Dunlop (30) would even make his home meeting, he didn't share them despite suffering a broken pelvis and hip joint, injured shoulder and broken ribs in his Isle of Man spill.
He was only able to mount his machine with the aid of a step but, crucially, passed a medical which declared him fit to ride.
Now he has a further two weeks' recovery time ahead of the Ulster Grand Prix at Dundrod, where he will go up against rival Isle of Man TT kingpins Peter Hickman and Dean Harrison.
A man of few words, all he said was: "I love winning, that's the whole point of racing motorbikes.
"If I thought I wasn't quick enough I wouldn't be in the game, I wouldn't embarrass myself. It's been hard to come back. We'll keep pushing slowly but surely, but the problem with broken bones is that they just have to mend in their own time."
Impossible to ignore, Dunlop grabbed the headlines from Man of the Meeting Derek McGee, who recorded a Moto3 and two Supersport race wins plus podium finishes.
However, the Mullingar man was happy to deflect the glory. He said: "My true Man of the Meeting was paramedic Allister McSorley, who was paralysed following an accident here a year ago. It was heartwarming to see him getting back on a bike on Saturday to complete a lap of the circuit, as spectators, officials and competitors recognised his inspirational desire."
Allister, who was injured in a non-racing accident while acting as a paramedic at the course, said: "It was fun. It was my way of saying thank you to everyone who has helped me in the past year. My friends and team-mates in the MCUI Medical Team saved my life a year ago, they are legends."
Back to Dunlop and despite his obvious discomfort, the 19-time TT winner was simply superb on his home circuit. The first attempt to run the Race of Legends saw McGee lead closely followed by Dunlop and Derek Sheils before it was red-flagged on lap four after Darren Cooper, from Preston, crashed out relatively unscathed at Blaney Cross.
On the restart over five laps, it was McGee making the hole shot - but by the end of lap one Dunlop had the Tyco BMW in front and gradually eased away from the Kawasaki of the Mullingar Missile, who was under attack from the Burrows Engineering/Richardson Kelly Suzuki of Sheils.
Sheils made his move past McGee on the final lap to finish 2.642 seconds behind Dunlop with McGee holding onto third ahead of Michael Sweeney, Dominic Herbertson and Shaun Anderson.
Earlier in the day in the seven-lap Open race, Dunlop, from the second row of the grid, was soon into the lead as he eased ahead of Thomas Maxwell on lap one and took over Sheils and McGee on lap two.
He delighted his legion of fans lining the three-mile circuit by taking a four-and-a-half-second victory over Sheils, Sweeney, McGee, Maxwell and Herbertson.
Not bad for a man who had checked out of hospital on the Isle of Man 16 days earlier.
His appearance at Armoy surprised many, but you write off Dunlop at your peril and his victories will certainly do his confidence a power of good as he heads for the fonaCAB Ulster Grand Prix in two weeks' time.
On lap two of the Open race, 2018 Manx Grand Prix heroes James Chawke and Michael Browne had a coming together in the village and crashed out with superficial injuries.
On Friday night, McGee won the first Supersport race by a fraction of a second with Paul Jordan alongside him as they flashed past the chequered flag only for the pair to collide at the chicane.
Both walked back to the paddock, but Jordan was only returning to racing after suffering a nasty hand injury at Anglesey and decided to sit out Saturday's racing, leaving McGee to race to an emphatic 5.3-second win on his B&W Diamond Cutting Kawasaki over the ever-consistent Sweeney, with Sheils filling third spot on the rostrum.
Dunlop, fourth in Friday's race, never got going. His Honda stalled on the line and was pushed off to the side of the track.
Browne, Chawke and Darryl Tweed completed the top six.
The Faraldo Racing ex-GP Moto3 Honda gave McGee his hat-trick at the meeting and a new lap record of 90.190mph in the seven-lap Moto3 race, some 20 seconds clear of the Joey's Bar Supporters' Club M3 Honda of Gary Dunlop, who had to come from the back row of the grid after qualifying problems, with Melissa Kennedy third some three seconds behind Dunlop.
McGee was denied a four-timer when he was forced to retire on the penultimate lap of the Supertwin race. That handed victory to Andy Farrell from Skerries.
Road race debutant Ryan Fenton from nearby Ballymoney won Saturday's Senior Support race by a tenth of a second from long-time leader Andy McAllister with Friday night's winner Tommy Henry in third, while Vinny Brennan was winner of the Junior Support race which opened proceedings on Saturday.
Barry Davidson was a treble winner in the 350cc Junior Classic, 500cc Classic and the Supersport 300 class while Brian Mateer held off Richard Ford by a third of a second to win the 250cc Classic class.
Clerk of the course Bill Kennedy lent his name to the Senior Classic race in memory of brother Frank, who died in an accident at the 1979 NW200. It was won by Dominic Herbertson on his Davies Motorsport Honda.