William Dunlop notched up his inaugural International Superbike victory on Saturday at the Vauxhall North West 200 in stunning fashion aboard his Tyco Suzuki, saying afterwards: “That’s the biggest win of my career.”
In difficult conditions following a heavy rain shower, Dunlop fought a tenacious battle with his brother Michael along the Coast Road on the last lap of five to take the chequered flag half a second ahead of the factory Motorrad/Hawk BMW.
Tyre choice was full-wets for the race, which was reduced from seven to five laps as organisers gave time for the rain to cease and allowed competitors three sighting laps to check track conditions.
When the lights went out, Michael Rutter made the best start before comeback man Ian Hutchinson hit the front at York.
By the end of lap one it was still Hutchy in front with William, starting from fifth on the grid, in second ahead of Conor Cummins with Michael, having made a slow start from pole position, six seconds back in eighth.
William took the Tyco machine to the front on lap two, in conditions that he has not been noted for enjoying, and had a healthy two-second lead going onto lap three with Michael on the move up to sixth, but still six seconds adrift of his brother.
With William seemingly in control of the race, Michael had other ideas and on lap three was up to third and right on Cummins’ back wheel, but still over five seconds behind the Tyco Suzuki. However, on the fourth lap Michael was three seconds faster than William, now only 2.6sec behind and a grandstand finish was on the cards.
With the gap closing all the time, the pair were side-by-side on the run from Mathers to Magherabuoy Chicane with Michael in front at Metropole and the race seemingly in the bag.
However, a big slide through Church allowed William to get onto his back wheel through Black Hill and in a breath-taking last-gasp out-braking duel into Juniper Chicane, William was on the inside and got the Tyco Suzuki through into the lead and held his narrow advantage up Quarry Hill to take the chequered flag half a second ahead of his younger brother.
Both recorded their fastest laps on the final circuit, William clocking 113.514mph with Michael setting the fastest lap of the race two seconds quicker at 114.357mph.
The huge crowd could not have wanted more than the talented Dunlop brothers duelling for a North West Superbike win and witnessing the first 1-2 for the legendary Dunlop family in a North West 200 Superbike race, something father Robert and uncle Joey could not achieve.
An ecstatic William said: “There were difficult conditions out there and I can’t believe I’ve won, as I thought when he (Michael) got in front that was the race over.
“I only knew he was there when I looked over my shoulder at Mathers and he was on my back wheel and I thought ‘oh well that’s it,’ however the team and myself have put in so much hard work I wasn’t prepared to just hand him the win.
“He nearly lost it at Church and left a bit of a gap at Juniper and he wasn’t as strong on the brakes as I thought he would be. Having said that, I wasn’t sure I would get the bike stopped for the chicane taking the tight line, but we made it through and kept it strong.
“My first international Superbike race win has been a long time coming and I now have won here on a 125, 250, 600 and a big bike. Tyco Suzuki gave me a first class bike, now I’m looking forward to the TT more than ever.”