Belfast Telegraph

Michael Dunlop vows to pull the trigger in TT glory bid

By Paul Lindsay

Michael Dunlop looked cool, calm and collected when he told a captive audience at the Isle of Man TT launch that he was prepared to "take it to the limit and across" to put Suzuki back on the map - having joined their factory team for June's TT Races.

The 13-time TT winner has won races on the famous Island in the Irish Sea aboard Kawasaki, Honda, Yamaha and BMW machinery, but having agreed to ride Suzuki's all-new GSX-R1000 this season, under the watchful eye of Hawk Racing's father and son pairing Stuart and Steve Hicken, his goal is to now put the Japanese giants back on the TT top step for the first time in almost a decade.

A beefed-up Dunlop - who has been pumping iron in the gym - said of the long-awaited update of the world famous GSX-R1000: "It's something different. It's a new bike, a new chassis."

Joking he added cryptically: "Some people thought we maybe didn't have other options; one person in particular, but he should be glad I didn't go his way or I'd have taken his bike."

Having been linked with numerous top teams and manufacturers, Dunlop's pre-season gamesmanship could have been aimed at a number of leading contenders, including TV celebrity Guy Martin, who will return to action in 2017 after a surprise move to sign him by Honda Racing.

But that aside, the 27-year-old, who was sporting some contemporary body art on his upper right arm during his on-stage interview, spoke highly of his Hawk Racing team employers.

"I have a lot of faith in Stuart and Steve.

"They said they will do their best; I know that's 110% and I know I'll give 110% myself. The team is also working really hard with Yoshimura at the minute and I've got faith that we will make the job right," he explained, referring to Suzuki's long-time tuning specialist partners in Japan.

The last time Dunlop rode a new undeveloped bike at the Isle of Man TT was with Shaun Muir's Milwaukee Yamaha team in 2015, which pretty much ended before it began. The new R1M was parked up unceremoniously, albeit a brave yet bold decision from the Ballymoney ace.

The Hickens were then drafted in at the eleventh hour to roll out a familiar BMW for Dunlop - who, in his defence, has almost single-handedly put the German manufacturers back on the map at the TT since their return to competitive racing.

But now it's Suzuki for Dunlop, which many in the know will not see as as big a risk for either him or the astute Hicken men.

Suzuki is a manufacturer who have had a lot of TT success in the past with Northern Ireland team TAS Racing who are, ironically, regarded as Hawk Racing's biggest rivals, having replaced them as BMW's official British team at the start of 2015.

Never one to miss an opportunity to poke a little fun back at himself, Dunlop said: "They've put a lot of faith in me, because the last time I went with a new bike it didn't end well.

"But at least I know with these boys, they are doing it for the right reasons. He knows I'm one of those riders who will ride a bit harder if needs be; I will take it to the limit and across if I have to, to win races."

Not one to complicate things, and making sure his rivals didn't get the impression he was coming to the TT on a development project for a big cheque and to smile for the cameras, the Ballymoney man explained his intention.

"I'll point it straight down Glencrutchery Road, pull the trigger and see what we can do," he said.

It really is an interesting proposition.

Undoubtedly on any bike that's set up 'half right' Dunlop is the man to beat at the TT.

He's proved that for many a year and despite also riding his own R6 in the Supersport races and a Supertwin for McAdoo Racing, it's all about Dunlop v Ian Hutchinson in the Superbike class.

Dunlop will be a winner for sure, but will it be Dunlop on the Suzuki or the Dunlop-shod Tyco BMW of Hutchinson? It will be intriguing to find out.

Belfast Telegraph


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