Belfast Telegraph

North West 200: Michael and William are enhancing famous Dunlop legacy

Alastair Seeley after his third victory in the Superstock race at the Vauxhall International North West 200. Ian Hutchinson 2nd and Michael Rutter 3rd - Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
Alastair Seeley after his third victory in the Superstock race at the Vauxhall International North West 200. Ian Hutchinson 2nd and Michael Rutter 3rd - Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
Pictured: The Anchor Bar Superbike race winner, Alastair Seeley along with runner up Michael Rutter and third place, Lee Johnston. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
Saturday's Supersport Race: Race winner, Alastair Seeley with runner up William Dunlop, and third place, Michael Dunlop. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 13th May 2017 Vauxhall International North West 200 The BetMcLean.com Supersport Race Pictured: BetMcLean.com Supersport race winner, Alastair Seeley. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
Michael Rutter celebrates his race win with Dan Copper (2nd) and Martin Jessopp (3rd) the Supertwin race at the Vauxhall International North West 200. Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
Superbike Feature race winner Glenn Irwin. Rowland White / PressEye
Michael Rutter celebrates his race win with team boss Ryan Farquhar and the team in the Supertwin race at the Vauxhall International North West 200. Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
Alastair Seeley is congratulated by Michael Rutter (2nd) winning in the Superbike race at todays Vauxhall International North West 200. Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
Glenn Irwin leads Ian Hutchinson and Alastair Seeley over Black Hill during Saturday's Vauxhall NW 200 Superbike Race at the Vauxhall International 2017 North West 200 around the 8.9 mile Triangle course. Picture by Brian Little/PressEye
Big burn-out by winner Glenn Irwin after the superbike feature race. Rowland White / PressEye
Alastair Seeley leads Ian Hutchinson over Black Hill during Saturday's CP Hire Superstock Race at the Vauxhall International 2017 North West 200 around the 8.9 mile Triangle course. Picture by Brian Little/PressEye
Martin Jessopp (Riders Motorcycles Kawasaki) ahead of Michael Rutter (KMR Kawasaki) and Daniel Cooper (D Cooper Motorsport/KW Electrical Kawasaki) during the Supertwins race at the North West 200 in Co Londonderry. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Superbike race: James Hillier (JG Speedfit Kawasaki Kawasaki) ahead of Ian Hutchinson (Tyco BMW BMW) during today's Superbike race at the North West 200. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Alastair Seeley TYCO BMW S1000RR cuts tracks through the wet track during the sighting lap over Black Hill during Saturday's Anchor Bar Superbike Race at the Vauxhall International 2017 North West 200 around the 8.9 mile Triangle course. Picture by Brian Little/PressEye
Pacemaker Belfast 13-5-17 North West 200 - Supersport race Alastair Seeley (Gearlink Kawasaki) during today's Supersport race at the North West 200 in Co Londonderry. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 13-5-17 North West 200 - Supersport race Guy Martin (Wilson Craig Honda) during today's Supersport race at the North West 200 in Co Londonderry. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 13-5-17 North West 200 - Supersport race Sam West ( Kawasaki) during today's Supersport race at the North West 200 in Co Londonderry. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 13-5-17 North West 200 - Supersport race Guy Martin (Wilson Craig Honda) during today's Supersport race at the North West 200 in Co Londonderry. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 13/05/2016 Michael Dunlop takes the lead in the Supersport race at todays Vauxhall International North West 200. Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 13/05/2016 Alastair Seeley celebrates winning the Supersport race at todays Vauxhall International North West 200 with girlfriend Danni. Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 13/05/2016 Alastair Seeley leads in the Supersport race at todays Vauxhall International North West 200. Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
PressEye-Northern Ireland- 13th May 2017-Picture by Brian Little/PressEye William Dunlop EC/Caffrey Yamaha R6 leads Alastair Seeley Gear Link Kawasaki over Black Hill during Saturday's Bet McLean .Com Supersport Race at the Vauxhall International 2017 North West 200 around the 8.9 mile Triangle course. Picture by Brian Little/PressEye
PressEye-Northern Ireland- 13th May 2017-Picture by Brian Little/PressEye Alastair Seeley Gear Link Kawasaki leads Martin Jessopp Riders Motorcycles Triumph over Black Hill during Saturday's Bet McLean .Com Supersport Race at the Vauxhall International 2017 North West 200 around the 8.9 mile Triangle course. Picture by Brian Little/PressEye
PressEye-Northern Ireland- 13th May 2017-Picture by Brian Little/PressEye William Dunlop EC/Caffrey Yamaha R6 leads Alastair Seeley Gear Link Kawasaki over Black Hill during Saturday's Bet McLean .Com Supersport Race at the Vauxhall International 2017 North West 200 around the 8.9 mile Triangle course. Picture by Brian Little/PressEye
Superstock race winner Alastair Seeley. Picture by Desmond Loughery / Press Eye
Superstock race: Race winner Alastair Seeley along with fiancee Dani. Photo: Desmond Loughery / Press Eye.
PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 11th May 2017 Vauxhall International North West 200 Thursday Race Pictured: Superstock race winner Alastair Seeley. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
PACEMAKER BELFAST 11/05/2017 Alastair Seeley celebrates victory in the Superstock race at the Vauxhall International North West 200 on Thursday evening. This is Seeley's 28th Podium and The Was teams 25 win at the North West 200 Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
The Supertwin race winner Martin Jessopp along with runner up Michael Rutter and third place Ivan Lintin. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
Mandatory Credit: Rowland White / PressEye North West 200: Thursday Race Evening Race: SUPERTWIN Date: 11th May 2017 Caption: Martin Jessopp
PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 11th May 2017 Vauxhall International North West 200 Thursday Race Pictured: The Supertwin race winner Martin Jessopp. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
Pacemaker Belfast 28-4-17 North West 200 - Supertwin race Derek Shiels (Cookstown Burrows Engineering Racing Kawasaki) during today's Supertwin race at the North West 200 in Co Londonderry. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 28-4-17 North West 200 - Supertwin race Paul Jordan ( Kawasaki) and Marty Lennon ( Kawasaki) during today's Supertwin race at the North West 200 in Co Londonderry. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 28-4-17 North West 200 - Supertwin race Martin Jessopp (Riders Motorcycles Kawasaki) leads during today's Supertwin race at the North West 200 in Co Londonderry. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 28-4-17 North West 200 - Supertwin race Michael Rutter heads towards Coleraine during today's Supertwin race at the North West 200 in Co Londonderry. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 28-4-17 North West 200 - Supertwin race Matt Sadowski ( Kawasaki) during today's Supertwin race at the North West 200 in Co Londonderry. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 11/05/2017 Martin Jessopp celebrates his 2nd win of the evening taking the Supertwin race at the Vauxhall International North West 200 on Thursday evening. Michael Rutter 2nd and Ivan Lintin 3rd Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 11/05/2017 Martin Jessopp celebrates his 2nd win of the evening taking the Supertwin race at the Vauxhall International North West 200 on Thursday evening. Michael Rutter 2nd and Ivan Lintin 3rd Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland 11th May 2017 - Picture by Desmond Loughery / Press Eye. Vauxhall International North West 200. Super stock race. Race winner Alastair Seeley along with fiancee Dani
PACEMAKER BELFAST 11/05/2017 Alastair Seeley celebrates victory in the Superstock race at the Vauxhall International North West 200 on Thursday evening. 2nd Lee Johnston, 3rd Dean Harrison. This is Seeleys 28th Podium and The Was teams 25 win at the North West 200 Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 11/05/2017 Alastair Seeley celebrates victory in the Superstock race at the Vauxhall International North West 200 on Thursday evening. This is Seeley's 28th Podium and The Was teams 25 win at the North West 200 He is welcomed into the winners enclosure by team mechanics and family Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 11/05/2017 Alastair Seeley celebrates victory in the Superstock race at the Vauxhall International North West 200 on Thursday evening. 2nd Lee Johnston, 3rd Dean Harrison. This is Seeleys 28th Podium and The Was teams 25 win at the North West 200 Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
PressEye-Northern Ireland- 10th May 2017-Picture by Brian Little/PressEye Alastair Seeley TYCO BMW over black Hill during Thursday night's Bayview Hotel Superstock Race at the Vauxhall International 2017 North West 200 around the Triangle circuit. Picture by Brian Little/PressEye
Mandatory Credit: Rowland White / PressEye North West 200: Thursday Race Evening Race: SUPERSTOCK Date: 11th May 2017 Caption: Alastair Seeley opening up
Supersport race winner Martin Jessopp. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
Pacemaker Belfast 28-4-17 North West 200 - Supersport race Martin Jessopp (Riders Motorcyles Triumph) leads during today's Supersport race at the North West 200 in Co Londonderry. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 11/05/2017 Martin Jessopp celebrates victory with his team mates during the Supersport race at the Vauxhall International North West 200 on Thursday evening. Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 28-4-17 North West 200 - Supersport race Close racing during today's Supersport race at the North West 200 in Co Londonderry. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press

By Phillip McCallen

If you were to conduct a word association test on the North West 200, I am sure the most popular response would be Dunlop. When people think of the North West, even non-racing people, the name Dunlop immediately springs to mind.

It was thus in my racing heyday when Joey and Robert were lords of their local manor, and the family name endures today, a generation later, with Robert’s two sons, Michael and William, keeping the dynasty to the fore.

It wouldn’t be a North West without a Dunlop on the rostrum and I am sure this year will be no different with Michael standing the best chance after older brother William’s frustrations in bringing a team and bikes together. To be a Dunlop is to be a racing icon.

I can imagine young, up and coming riders today looking up to the Dunlop brothers as I did to their dad and uncle, starting out in the ‘80s.

I’d raced at the front with Joey and Robert a few times before my first serious chance to test myself against them at Tandragee in 1988. For the first time, Joey and I were on equally matched bikes, Honda 250s, and I came out on top. Looking back, that was the moment I knew I could be something in this game. Multiple champions like Brian Reid and Steven Cull were in the field that day and I thought: “Wow, did I really beat these guys?”

I went on to beat Joey at the North West and remember thinking: “Am I supposed to do this?”

Joey was the big hero up here and I was worried what his thousands of fans would think of this young whipper-snapper, up from Co Armagh.

I was afraid I would be Mr Unpopular, but by then I had the racing buzz and winning was all that mattered.

I have to admit my relationship with Robert was strained at times as we were fighting for the same wins a lot of the time. But it was a racing rivalry that never extended beyond the track and I was deeply saddened by his loss.

Likewise with Joey. He and I got on well, and he helped me get my factory deal with Honda when I fell out with Kawasaki. I never forget that, especially this week, 25 years on from my record five wins in a day here.

In this sport, when you get the right combination of rider, bike and team, the possibilities are limitless. It is the dream ticket and Michael looks to be nearing that state of perfection with his new Suzuki.

To be third fastest in Superbike practice yesterday on a new machine, quite literally just out of the crate, is some achievement, given the adjustments and changes he and his team will have been making.

William has a longer way to go to get back up there.

Deals didn’t happen for him the way they were supposed to in the lead up to the season. He ended up putting his own team together with bikes handed on by MarTrain’s Tim Martin as he wound down his team. William’s 600 then blew up in practice on Tuesday but, as a Dunlop, he will keep working to get it right.

His performances in practice yesterday were creditable in the circumstances but Michael is the one who looks capable of teasing a podium place, at least, out of that new Suzuki to keep the Dunlop name as synonymous as ever with their home race at the North West.

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