Belfast Telegraph

William Dunlop: Versatile competitor one of the greatest road racers ever

By Jim Gracey

William Dunlop's victory-laden career marks him out as one of the greatest road racers ever.

Since his first Irish road racing success in the 125cc race at Athea in Co Limerick in 2005, the Ballymoney rider chalked up 119 victories in all, making him the fourth most successful national rider ever behind Ryan Farquhar (211), his uncle Joey (156) and father, Robert (135).

The 32-year-old was a winner across all classes, from the smallest capacity 125 bikes up to the most powerful 1000cc Superbike machines, underlining his versatility as an top-class competitor.

Not only did William clinch countless wins at the smaller road races, he was also able to make the step up at international level, like Joey and Robert before him and just as his younger brother Michael has done over the past 10 years.

He achieved four victories at the North West 200, earning his maiden triumphs with a 125 and 250 double in 2009.

William added a Supersport win on Wilson Craig's Honda in 2012 and came out on top in a memorable Superbike race at the event in 2014, when he edged out his brother Michael on a thrilling final lap, sealing his first major win in the class at the international meetings for the Tyco Suzuki team.

A much-coveted victory at the Isle of Man TT eluded him, but William finished on the podium three times in the Supersport class in consecutive years in 2012, 2013 and 2014. He also finished as the runner-up in the TT Zero race in 2016.

Dunlop made no secret of his love for the Dundrod course at the Ulster Grand Prix and it was here where William's class really shone through.

He scaled the top step seven times since his maiden success in the 125 race in 2007, adding another win on his 125 Honda, two victories in the 250cc class and three in the Supersport category.

The multiple Irish champion also set a new lap record at the time of 127.588mph as he beat Ryan Farquhar and Bruce Anstey.

Last year, Dunlop established a new outright speed record of 200.4mph at the Ulster Grand Prix on the Mar-Train Yamaha, becoming the first rider to break the 200mph barrier.

He was right on the pace in Superbike qualifying, setting the fourth fastest lap at 132.606mph.

However, a freak accident away from the track left him with a wrist injury and William was forced to sit out the Superbike races.

He linked up with Tim Martin's new-look Temple Golf Club Yamaha team for 2018 but was out of sorts at Cookstown and Tandragee, while a crash in the Thursday Superstock race at the North West 200 ruled him out of Saturday's main schedule.

He returned for the Isle of Man TT last month, but William decided to return home to be with his pregnant partner Janine, who was concerned about their unborn baby following a worrying 20-week scan.

More positive news followed for the couple and William took the decision to race at the Skerries 100, where his illustrious career was tragically cut short.

Belfast Telegraph

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