Belfast Telegraph

Michael Dunlop will not race at Ulster Grand Prix after brother William's death

Brothers in arms: Michael and William competing on the track
Brothers in arms: Michael and William competing on the track
Michael carrying his big brother William’s coffin at his funeral last month
Michael taking part in a practice session at last year’s Ulster Grand Prix

By Roy Harris

Road racing hero Michael Dunlop is believed to be considering his future in the sport.

Last night he ruled himself out of competing in this weekend's Ulster Grand Prix as he continues to grieve for his elder brother William, who died in a racing accident last month.

Michael's absence from the Dundrod grid for races tomorrow and Saturday was confirmed by his non-appearance at last night's rider safety briefing, which is compulsory for all participating competitors. The briefing was taking place exactly one month on from William's death at the Skerries 100.

It was not entirely unexpected, as he had not been in contact with organisers to confirm his regular entry at an event where he has played a starring role.

The Ballymoney rider has not raced since the tragic loss of William at the Skerries race near Dublin, and has maintained a dignified privacy, bringing into question his plans for future participation in the sport.

Michael (29) continued racing after the death of his father, Robert, in a North West 200 practice session crash in 2008, famously winning a race there two days later despite efforts by the organisers to persuade him not to take to the track.

Michael emotionally dedicated his win to his father's memory and went on to become a road racing great, revered by many thousands of fans.

But there are indications now that, after William's tragic death, Michael may have decided he no longer has an appetite for road racing and its dangers, and not least out of concern for his mother Louise.

She has now lost a husband and son to the sport with William leaving pregnant partner, Janine and baby Ella (2).

Michael and William were often portrayed as rivals in media hype ahead of races.

But deep down they were brothers in arms.

Ulster Grand Prix Clerk of the Course Noel Johnston confirmed last night: "No-one has heard from Michael and I have not contacted him out of respect. The door is always open for him to compete at Dundrod whenever he decides the time is right."

Michael was also a non-starter at his home Armoy Road Races last month, an event he has always supported since it was set up to honour the memory of his late uncle Joey Dunlop and the fabled Armoy Armada of Joey, his brother Jim, brother-in-law Mervyn Robinson and Frank Kennedy. Of those four celebrated riders, only Jim Dunlop survives, the others having lost their lives in road racing accidents.

Michael, always regarded as a fearless competitor, appears to be taking stock of his own racing future.

Fans heading for this weekend's Dundrod races will fully understand his decision not to take part in an event he has previously dominated.

The 18-time Isle of Man TT winner made his Ulster Grand Prix debut in 2006 and has eight wins around the 7.4 mile Dundrod Circuit.

He is the seventh fastest rider at Dundrod with a 133.979mph lap on a BMW in the 2016 second Superbike event. His last UGP win was the 2013 Superstock race.

The next event he is due to compete in is the Classic TT, starting with practice next weekend and his participation must be in question for that too.

The only event he has taken part in since June's Isle of Man TT was motorsport's Donegal Rally. That could be an avenue he may go down if he decides road racing is no longer for him.

Belfast Telegraph


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