North West 200: Dunlop boys do father's memory proud
Proud sons Michael and William Dunlop served up a fitting tribute to their legend dad, Robert, on the 10th anniversary of his tragic death following a practice accident during the 2008 North West 200.
His boys were in blistering form during yesterday's opening qualifying session for this year's north coast event and it could have been no coincidence, given the significance of the date.
Michael, looking bike fit and physically fit, totally focused and determined, set the fastest time in the opening Supersport class, a mere 0.087 seconds ahead of elder brother William.
Michael then set a speed of 115.577mph at the top of the Superbike session on the Tyco BMW, before Lee Johnston went faster at 116.701mph on his Honda Fireblade with William in seventh.
In Superstock, Michael was fourth fastest on his own BMW while Alastair Seeley topped the session on his Tyco BMW with William down in 13th.
The Dunlop performances brought back memories of 2008 and the 250cc race that Michael won, 48 hours after his father's fatal accident - one of the most emotional races ever witnessed at the Triangle with fans reduced to tears at the bravery of the then 19-year-old.
Michael dedicated that race win to his father's memory but yesterday he kept his thoughts to himself, declining all requests for media interviews.
Since that fateful 2008 event, Michael has won four more North West 200 races and will be keen to add to them in the same way as dad Robert who set a NW wins record of 15, since overtaken by Alastair Seeley, now on 21.
Michael showed yesterday that he is here to win races and has the tools for the job in race winning bikes and teams, Tyco BMW and MD Racing with Carl Cox.
Following the opening Newcomers familiarisation laps yesterday, the opening qualifying session of the day for Supersport machines saw a Michael and William Dunlop 1-2.
On his MD Racing PTR Supersport Honda, Michael lapped at 112.757mph on his second of four laps, 0.087sec faster that the Temple Golf Club/Caffrey R6 Yamaha of William with James Hillier in third.
Tomorrow sees final qualifying with roads closing at 9.15am and racing from 5pm-9pm.
Following that, on Friday, a special evening with some of the North West 200s most famous winners will take place in the Paddock marquee.
Four times World Superbike champion Carl Fogarty leads the list of NW200 champions that includes Sammy Millar, Mick Grant, Ian Newton, Brian Reid and John McGuinness.
The achievements of the celebrated line-up spans seven decades, starting with Millar’s hat-trick of NSU wins in the 1950s. There have been many changes to machinery and the circuit itself between then and 1975 when Mick Grant set a new UK lap speed record at the North West as he steered the Green Meanie Kawasakis to a double. The multiple British champion and TT winner would win again in 1977 and 1980.
Dromara Destroyer and F2 world champion, Brian Reid won a 600cc race in 1989. Carl Fogarty finally claimed a famous superbike NW200 double in 1993 on the Moto Cinelli Ducati after many years of trying to win on the Triangle course.
Ian Newton, now the crew chief looking after the EHA Yamahas Alastair Seeley will ride in this year’s Supersport races, was a 250cc winner in 1994 and 1995 while 23 times TT winner, John McGuinness has six North West victories on his CV, winning on everything from 250s to superbikes.
The show starts at 7.30pm with admission price £5.