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'It seems like last week': After 20 years, Joey Dunlop is still treasured on a level way above his incredible racing feats

 

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Dunlop in the colours of the Rothmans Honda during the Formula One TT. Photo: Simon Miles/Getty Images

Dunlop in the colours of the Rothmans Honda during the Formula One TT. Photo: Simon Miles/Getty Images

Getty Images

Road warrior: Joey Dunlop in action

Road warrior: Joey Dunlop in action

The thinker: Joey Dunlop alone with his thoughts at the 1995 Ulster Grand Prix Photo: Stephen Davison

The thinker: Joey Dunlop alone with his thoughts at the 1995 Ulster Grand Prix Photo: Stephen Davison

Home hero: Joey Dunlop on the RC45 Honda in 1999 at the North West 200 Photo: Stephen Davison

Home hero: Joey Dunlop on the RC45 Honda in 1999 at the North West 200 Photo: Stephen Davison

Last hurrah: Joey on the top step of his final TT podium with third-placed Denis McCullough and runner-up Robert Dunlop after the Ultra-Lightweight TT in June 2000. Photo Stephen Davison

Last hurrah: Joey on the top step of his final TT podium with third-placed Denis McCullough and runner-up Robert Dunlop after the Ultra-Lightweight TT in June 2000. Photo Stephen Davison

Joey Dunlop

Joey Dunlop

Barry Symmons

Barry Symmons

Dunlop in the colours of the Rothmans Honda during the Formula One TT. Photo: Simon Miles/Getty Images

Even in a sport so intimate with tragedy, they never saw this one coming. Barry Symmons was at Silverstone when he heard the news, kneeling down beside Martin Finnegan's Superbike when Billy Nutt came around the corner with a face of stone, his skin translucent grey. "I'm sorry to say, Joey's been killed!" said Billy.

Symmons - Joey Dunlop's manager at Honda Britain for his five Formula One wins - eased up slowly off his knees, speechless. He doesn't remember much of what happened next, other than climbing the tower so that course commentator, Fred Clarke, could convey the awful news.

And after that? Nothing really. Just numbness. Disbelief.