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Michael Dunlop relishes chance to emulate uncle Joey once again as he prepares to launch bid for Imatra joy


Michael Dunlop will be new to Imatra

Michael Dunlop will be new to Imatra

Joey Dunlop after winning at the iconic Imatra TT race in Finland

Joey Dunlop after winning at the iconic Imatra TT race in Finland


Michael Dunlop will be new to Imatra

Michael Dunlop is set to follow in the footsteps of his uncle Joey next weekend by competing at the iconic Imatra course in Finland.

Five-time TT Formula 1 world champion Joey won at Imatra on his way to his fifth consecutive title in 1986 and 36 years later, his nephew Michael is poised to bid for glory at the recently-renamed Jarno Saarinen Circuit, which is hosting the second round of the International Road Racing Championship.

Dunlop is fresh from a Supersport double at the Isle of Man TT on his MD Racing/Carl Cox Motorsport Yamaha R6, which increased the Ballymoney man’s tally of wins to 21.

Only Joey (26 wins) and Morecambe’s John McGuinness (23) are ahead of the 33-year-old on the all-time winners’ list, and there is now every chance he will go on to become the most successful TT rider ever in the years to come.

Dunlop rode the Hawk Racing Suzuki at the North West 200 and Isle of Man TT after pulling the plug on his deal to ride a Ducati Panigale V4 for Paul Bird a month before the TT, citing a lack of preparation and track time on the Italian machine.

However, he now teams up with the team to ride a Honda CBR1000RR-R Fireblade — the machine of choice for Dunlop in the Superstock class this year at the North West and TT.

Following his latest TT success, Dunlop warned there is “life in the old dog yet” ahead of the two-day European race next Saturday and Sunday.

“I’ve always said when the job’s right, I’m right,” he said.

“We just ride bikes because we enjoy them. We don’t do it for any other reason.

“With the things that happened, it has changed the way I look at some things. But at the same time if it wasn’t for the sheer love of motorcycling, I wouldn’t be doing it — you wouldn’t put yourself through the torture.

“You find nowadays a lot of the guys push to be famous. They push to be a name. They want to be something, maybe on social media or whatever,” Dunlop added in an interview on the official TT Races digital channel.

“They’re putting themselves up to get an MBE or OBE or whatever it may be.

“I remember years ago my dad said — when Joey got his — he was embarrassed; well, not embarrassed, but they brought him into town on a bus and things like that.

“And they never wanted any of that. Joey just genuinely went about his day.

“Even what my dad did. They suffered the highest level of life just to make Ballymoney somewhere. And they didn’t do it for any other reason.

“I remember when we were going places, and they were just so proud of being from the town and where they were from. There was never any airs or graces.

“And it’s probably the same with me.”

Imatra is marking its 60th anniversary this year and along with Dunlop, two-time TT winner Gary Johnson is also entered for the first time in the Supersport and Open 600 classes for the Paukku Racing team.

“The North West 200 was a disastrous race for me, but I’ve worked hard to adjust and improve the bike,” Johnson said.

“The two-year break has been difficult since I opened my own bike shop. It has kept me busy and I haven’t had time to focus so much on racing.

“I haven’t competed in Imatra before, but I’ve always wanted to come and experience it. Logistically Imatra is a challenging trip, but I hope for the best and that everything goes well in the race.”

Established IRRC riders Didier Grams, Lukas Maurer and Laurent Hoffman will provide stiff opposition to Imatra newcomers Dunlop and Johnson, along with rising French prospect and reigning IRRC Supersport champion Pierre Yves Bian.

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