Belfast Telegraph

Sunday Life

Tragic William Dunlop had fallen out of love with sport that claimed his life

Recent bad news about unborn baby caused bike ace to reconsider his career and put family first

By John Toner

Tragic William Dunlop had revealed he no longer got a buzz from the sport that yesterday claimed his life.

The 32-year-old Ballymoney man had been looking forward to the birth of his second child with his partner, Janine.

And he had candidly admitted that he hadn't really enjoyed racing since his father died at the North West 200 in 2008.

William died tragically yesterday afternoon after a crash during practice for the Skerries 100 race in Fingal, County Dublin.

After pulling out of the 2018 Isle Of Man TT in May with bruising the talented road racer revealed he had received "terrible" news about his Janine's pregnancy scan.

It prompted William to consider his future in the notoriously dangerous sport which had claimed the lives of his father and his uncle, Joey.

Speaking in May he said: "It has been a difficult few weeks but things have made a turn for the better for myself and Janine, we are expecting a second baby but unfortunately, we received terrible news at our 20 week scan and were referred to a specialist.

"My head wasn't in the races and my thoughts were always at what was happening at home. My family will always come first so I made the decision to come home.

"I have a few weeks to rest my body and recover from NW200 crash and also think about my future, I will sit with my sponsors in time and see where we all stand."

Becoming a father for the first time back in 2016 had stirred feelings in William that he might leave the sport as he realised there was "more to life" than motorbikes.

He said: "It is the best thing that has ever happened to us. We're starting to see her wee character now and it's just great.

"I didn't think being a dad would change the way I thought, but it has. It makes you realise there is more to life than motorbikes and winning."

When asked in December 2016 if he still got the same buzz from the sport as he did as a teenager William was candid, saying: "No, I don't.

"I haven't enjoyed it probably since what happened to my dad. He always looked after things for us. I have been on my own since really and haven't had anyone with me the whole way through.

"When I began, it was all about the racing. You went and raced, you didn't really care where you finished and my dad was always there to sort any problems.

"After my dad died, I started to win a few races like my first North West, and then I won my first Ulster Grand Prix and then you become competitive and once that happened the fun went out of it for me. Racing has turned into a business. It's not like throwing a bike in the back of a van now."

Motorbikes pay there respect outside the Joey Dunlop bar in Ballymoney after the death of William Dunlop at Skerries. Pic by Peter Morrison

After losing his enthusiasm for racing in late 2016 and having a drop in success with the bike William began to feel "depressed" and sought the help of a hypnotherapist to get him back on track.

"I was lacking a bit of confidence. I had two really bad years with the bikes and people let me down, and I just got a bit depressed," he explained.

"I wouldn't have been at the stage where I see people who really have problems, I have a good life, I am very lucky that I have a beautiful daughter and a girlfriend.

"I was never at a stage that my life was terrible, it was just that my career had gone bad. I was at the stage where, financially, I was having problems. I have a mortgage, we had the baby. I was getting a bit down, run down more than anything."

William's legendary uncle Joey Dunlop OBE (left) died in 2000 whilst racing in Tallinn, Estonia and just eight years later tragedy struck again when his father Robert was killed during a practice session at the North West 200.


The young father had spoken in the past of the lasting effect left on him by his own dad's death.

He said: "When you hear that there's been an accident, you always hope that it's someone else and that dad or Michael haven't been involved. That's not a nice thing to say, but that's just what your immediate reaction is."

Inevitably becoming a father himself led to William thinking more about Robert and the life they might have had together. He said: "Before I was wishing my dad would have been there with us at the bikes, but now with Ella coming along I know there is more to life than that and I wish he was around to see his granddaughter.

"That's how your mind changes. I would hope dad is proud of me."

William revered his father and uncle and was humbled by any comparison, having previously said: "I don't feel under pressure to keep winning because of the Dunlop name, that's not the way that I see it.

"Michael probably looks at it more that way rather than me, but I put pressure on myself to win for myself. Even after all these years people talk about Joey so much and everything that he's done. What Joey and Robert achieved puts me and Michael into the shade, we're just normal compared to them. It is possible to achieve some of the success that they have had and people talk about the records they set and especially Joey's record at the TT, but it will be broken some day.

"I don't think we'll ever see two riders like them again because of the times they rode in; everyone's era is different.

"I think Joey and my dad were just born with the skill they had. It's not something that you can train for, they just had it and I don't know what it is.

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