Joey Dunlop: "I never wanted to be a superstar, I just wanted to be myself...
Joey Dunlop (William Joseph Dunlop), 1952-2000, was born in Northern Ireland (United Kingdom) and is an icon of world motorcycling. His career achieved great prominence in the field of road racing, in this type of competition he led and consolidated a very popular tradition among his countrymen. In a poll, promoted by MOTORCYCLE NEWS magazine in 2016, he was elected the second greatest ever motorcycling icon, the first, on this occasion, was Valentino Rossi. From very humble beginnings, he claimed that his family was not the poorest in Northern Ireland, but he was not far from that position. There were seven brothers, at the post-war period and their father was a mechanic.
THE BEGINNING He began his sporting career in 1968. At the time to obtain a sports license it was necessary to have a driving license, Joey did not have one..., he used the license number of one of his sisters!... His first participation was with a borrowed ITOM 50cc, it served to live the environment, however the bike didn't work. In 1969, he raced in the three events held in Northern Ireland riding a 200cc TRIUMPH Tiger Cub. The bike was bought for 50 pounds, on loan, and it didn't allow him to get outstanding results. In 1970, due to a head injury as a result of a car accident, his holdings were irregular. In 1971, the TRIUMPH was replaced by a SUZUKI Invader (200cc, 2T, 2-cylinder air-cooled), although it was still an uncompetitive motorcycle and modified from a road bike, it was nevertheless much less bad. than the previous one. That year, Joey finished fourth at Kirkistown and second, the first podium of many in his lifetime, at Tandragee. In 1972, Joey married Linda that year, and 1973, Joey battled, with less than exciting results due to a massive lack of means. Even so, his persistent and fighting character began to attract the attention of the motorcycle racing community in which he was inserted. He finished 19th in Ulster fighting top riders, Mick Grant, John Williams, etc., very well equipped. In 1974 Julie was born, the first of five children, 3 girls and two boys, along with Merv Robinson, racing an AERMACCHI. He achieved some outstanding results and participated for the first time in the Isle of Man in a Club event, having achieved a 2nd and a 3rd place. The means of transport that he hired, equipment and motorcycles, for the Isle of Man was a fishing boat, years later, in 1985, the fishing boat in which, as usual, he made the trip sank, all the staff on board He was unharmed, but the bikes had to be recovered by divers, luckily his - at the time the factory HONDA had gone on a ferry... -.
It was at this time that he started to compete with the YAMAHA 350cc (2T, 2 cylinders, air cooled) and that the good results started to appear. It was also at this stage that Joey and Merv, also with good results, began to be cherished by the Northern Irish, who on motorcycles have always displayed a kind of tribalism similar to what football awakens in other places, and, also for that reason, began to receive more attention from potential sponsors. 1975 and 1976 the good results emerged steadily, the Rea brothers, through their company, Rea Distribution, became involved as sponsors and the artillery was positively resented, on several occasions Joey came to participate in 3 races (250cc , 350cc and 500cc - actually the 500cc was a 351cc..) on YAMAHA TZs with SEELEY frame. It was at this point that Joey began to be considered by the English as an opponent to be reckoned with. THE ARMOY ARMADA, 1977-1979 Road motorcycle racing, like cow dung, is said to be in Northern Ireland's DNA.
Armoy is a small village (414 inhabitants in the 2001 census), close to where Joey and other motorcycle legends were born, lived and socialized. From 1977 to 1979, with a collective enthusiasm, "The Armoy Armada" was born, a team that included: - Joey Dunlop; - Frank Kennedy, a great enthusiast, came to ride a motorcycle, as he hangs, with both legs broken. He earned money at a car dealership he owned to spend it on motorcycle races. His best result was a 2nd place in the North West 200 in 1976. He would later die in an accident in the 1979 edition of the same event; - Jim Dunlop, younger brother of Joey and the only survivor, today, among the members of the ARMADA. He participated in the Isle of Man regularly between 1977 and 1981. His son Sam is a regular participant in the races at Armoy; - Mervyn Robinson "Robo" started racing in 1968, a very good driver, mentor, colleague, adversary and often bested Joey. He was also a great mechanic, he did wonders with old stuff. He triumphed for the first time in Kirkistown (1974) and his most significant performance was the victory in Ulster (1975). He died in 1980 in an accident in the 500cc race at the Northwest 200. In 1977 Joey's best result was victory in the SCHWEPPES Jubilee Classic at the Isle of Man TT, the runner-up was George Fogarty (Carl Fogarty's father). In this race he won £1,000, by far the biggest cash prize he has ever received. In 1978 his most important result was 5th place in TT2, on a BENELLI 550, in the Isle of Man. In 1979 the two (International Match and NE200) victories in the North West 200, which were joined by two more (500cc and Superbike) victories in the Ulster Grand Prix, were the most significant results. 1980 is a transitional year, his last year before HONDA. He was the winner in the Isle of Man in the Classic class riding a YAMAHA TZ 750. With a factory SUZUKI he participated in only one (Ulster GP) of the two races that made up the TT1 World Championship, he was hired for a single race with the intention of helping Graeme Crosby. In the Ulster GP he was 2nd, in the same event he won two races: 250cc and Superbike. In the end, he was third in the TT1 World Championship behind Mick Grant (HONDA) and his line boss at SUZUKI, Crosby.
From 1981 until the premature end of his career, Joey was always an official HONDA driver. It was at this stage, despite everything, great (19 years), that he was able to reveal his entire category. Interestingly, he managed to get HONDA to entrust him with the bikes, despite the independence of his character. Barry Symmons team manager HONDA Britain said: "He was the last private - he never let anyone know what he was doing, how the bike was doing or anything. same, including HONDA engineers.". Riding motorcycles of this brand, he participated in several classes, from 125cc to TT1 and Superbike. Its most relevant results were: 1981 - 3rd place in the TT1 World Championship 1982 - TT1 World Champion 1983 - TT1 World Champion 1984 - TT1 World Champion 1985 - TT1 World Champion 1986 - TT1 World Champion 1987 - Vice World Champion TT1 1988 - Vice World Champion TT1 - 13th in the Superbike World Championship 1989 - did not participate due to injuries resulting from the Euroatlantic Series crash at Brands Hatch 1990 - Runner-up of the FIM TT1 Cup From 1991 onwards, there is no longer any kind of FIM trophy for Tourist Trophy motorcycles. Joey continued to participate with great success in various road races across Europe. In the last Isle of Man TT, aged 48, in which he participated, he participated in five races: - 1st place (HONDA VTR SP-1) - Formula 1 (TT1) - 1st place (HONDA RS 250) - 250cc - 1st place (HONDA RS 125) - 125 cc - 4th place (HONDA CBR 600) - Junior - 3rd place (HONDA VTR SP-1) - Senior
ISLE OF MAN
His 26 Isle of Man race victories: - 1977 - Jubilee TT - 1980 - Classic TT - 1983 - Formula 1 TT - 1984 - Formula 1 TT - 1985 - Junior TT, Formula 1 TT and Senior TT - 1986 - Formula 1 TT - 1987 - Formula 1 TT and Senior TT - 1988 - Junior TT, Formula 1 TT and Senior TT - 1992 - Ultra Lightweight TT - 1993 - Ultra Lightweight TT - 1994 - Junior TT and Ultra Lightweight TT - 1995 - Lightweight TT and Senior TT - 1996 - Ultra Lightweight TT and Lightweight TT - 1997 - Lightweight TT - 1998 - Lightweight TT - 2000 - Ultra Lightweight TT, Lightweight TT and Formula 1 TT ULSTER GRAND PRIX
Won 24 Ulster Grand Prix races: - 1979 - 500cc - SUZUKI - Superbike 750 - YAMAHA - 1980 - 250cc - YAMAHA - Superbike 1000 - SUZUKI - 1983 - TT F1 - HONDA - 1984 - 250cc - HONDA - 500cc - HONDA - TT F1 - HONDA - 1985 - 250cc - HONDA - 500cc - HONDA - TT F1 750 - HONDA - 1986 - Classic Race 500cc - HONDA - 1988 - 250cc - HONDA - 1990 - TT F1 750 - HONDA - 1991 - Superbike Race1 750 - HONDA - Superbike Race2 750 - HONDA - 1992 - 125cc - HONDA - 1994 - 125cc - HONDA - Superbike Race1 750 - HONDA - 1995 - 250cc Race1 - HONDA - 250cc Race2 - HONDA - Superbike Race1 750 - HONDA - 1997 - 250cc Race2 - HONDA - 1999 - Superbike Race2 750 - HONDA NORTH WEST 200
Won 13 races on the North West 200: - 1979 - International Match Race 750 - YAMAHA - NW200 Race 750 - YAMAHA - 1981 - NW200 Race 1100 - HONDA - 1983 - 500 Race - HONDA - NW200 Race 1000 - HONDA - 1984 - MCN Master Race 750 - HONDA - 1985 - 250 Race 1 - HONDA - NW200 Race 750 - HONDA - 1986 - NW200 Race 750 - HONDA - 1987 - Superbike Race 750 - HONDA - NW200 Race 750 - HONDA - Production Race 750 - HONDA - 1988 - Production Race 750 - HONDA MACAO Joey raced twice at the Macau GP, in 1982 he was third and in 1983 he was second, both years the winner was Ron Haslam. VILA REAL
In Vila Real, Joey Dunlop quickly reached the stature of a star. He participated in 6 of the 7 international TT1 (or Formula 1) races that took place there. He did not participate in 1989 as he was recovering from injuries resulting from the Euroatlantic Series accident at Brands Hatch. His results in the capital of Trás-os-Montes were: - 1982 - 2nd place (1st - Wayne Gardner) - 1984 - 2nd place (1st - Roger Marshall) - 1985 - 1st place - 1986 - 1st place - 1988 - 4th place (1st - Steve Williams, 2nd - Manuel João, 3rd - Dave Leach) - 1990 - 3rd place (1st - Carl Fogarty, 2nd - Robert Dunlop) JOEY DUNLOP AND THE CINEMA Joey Dunlop's life gave rise to two interesting cinematic achievements. In 2013, a film/documentary about his career was made: JOEY - THE MAN WHO CONQUERED THE TT. In 2014, another film/documentary about the second generation Dunlop was made: ROAD
HUMANISM AND DISTINCTIONS During his lifetime, Joey devoted himself on several occasions to disinterested acts of charity. Offered food and clothing to Romanian orphanages, helped raise funds for cancer relief, etc. For his sporting achievements and also for his great charitable activity, he received two distinctions from the Queen of England: - OBE - Order of the British Empire - MBE - Excellent Order of the British Empire In his native Ballymoney and in the Isle of Man they erected statues in his memory.
Joey met his death on the 2nd of July 2000 while competing in a 125cc race on an obscure road circuit in Estonia. In the same demonstration, he had already disputed the 750cc and 600cc races that same day. After his death, the popularity of road circuits, despite the real danger they present, has not stopped growing and one of the reasons is undoubtedly the poetry of his life.