......from the book "TT Heroes" written by
Mike Savage in 1994
(published by Amulree
& used with the permission of Bill
William Joseph 'Joey' Dunlop was born in 1952.
He describes himself these days as the part-time publican
of the Railway Tavern in Ballymoney, Northern Ireland. But
to most TT fans he's the 'King of the Roads' or, more commonly,
simply 'Yer Maun'.
Joey was encouraged into motorcycle racing
by his brother in law Mervyn Robinson and had his first
race when he was nineteen. Ironically the seventeen times
TT winner almost retired after just one win when Robinson
was killed racing in the North West 200. Joey seriously
thought of giving up racing. He cancelled all his entries
except the TT. But after winning the Classic TT that year
he decided to carry on.
His 'King of the Roads' title came after he
won five consecutive TT Formula 1 World Championships from
1982 to 1986 inclusive. For his achievements he was awarded
the MBE. He's been Irish Sports Personality of the Year.
He's taken van loads of food and medical supplies to children
in Rumania, Albania and Bosnia. But essentially he's a motorcycle
racer - and a TT fan.
He loves the TT and freely admits that, even
when he's satisfied with the set-up of a bike, he'll still
go out for another practice lap, just for the fun of it.
He likes the odd Guinness or Vodka and his first desire
when finishing a race is for a cigarette. He likes the atmosphere
of a pub and a game of darts with the regulars. He dislikes
the occasional razzamatazz and the media coverage that goes
with success, though he does what he has to for the sake
of the sponsors and fans. He's the fans' favourite; he's
one of them.
He's a rider who likes to get his hands dirty
and help with the preparation of the bikes himself. Most
of his wins have come on Hondas. They've looked after him
well and he's responded loyally.
Like many riders, Joey is superstitious and
follows the same ritual before a race meeting. This nearly
led to disaster in 1985 when, following his routine of travelling
to the Isle of Man by fishing boat, the boat sank in Strangford
Lough in the early hours of the morning. Luckily all the
passengers and crew were rescued. Joey is a bundle of nervous
tension before a race. Unlike his brother Robert, who likes
to arrive well before the start, Joey likes to turn up at
the last possible moment, have a last cigarette, get on
the bike and get on with the race.
Joey made his TT debut in 1976 on a 250 Yamaha.
He arrived on a fishing boat, signed on and was out in practice
that evening. He'd never seen the course before, never even
driven round it.
By the following year, however, he'd learnt
the circuit pretty well. He finished tenth in the Junior
on a Yamsel, fourth on the same make of bike in the Senior
and seventh in the Classic on a Yamaha. The TT programme
that year contained a special four-lap race to commemorate
the Queen's Silver Jubilee. Joey, riding the Rea 750 Yamaha,
won the race easily setting a race speed of 108.86 mph and
a fastest lap of 110.93 mph. Obviously, he was a quick learner.
In the 1978 Junior he finished eleventh on
a Yamaha, just ahead of Mike Hailwood, and rode a Benelli
in the Formula 2 race to finish fifth. For the Formula One
race, he rode a fearsome six-cylinder Benelli, but retired
on the second lap. In the Classic he was lying fifth at
the end of lap one on the Johnny Rea Yamaha but the exhaust
split on the next lap and forced him to retire. He managed
sixth in the same event the following year, his only result
of note that TT.
It had been a promising start, but, after
that first win, an unspectacular one. 1980 was to change
Joey came to the 1980 TT unsure about his
racing future. His brother in law and mentor, Mervyn Robinson,
had been killed at the North West 200 a couple of weeks
before. Joey had just about decided to give up racing. He
had cancelled all his other entries but decided to compete
in a last TT.
To begin with things went to their accustomed
pattern. Joey was sixth fastest in practice on the big Yamaha
at 108.54 mph but there was no sign he could give the works
stars anything to worry about. In the four lap 250 Junior
TT he was off the leader board for the first three laps
but crept up to twelfth on the final lap.
His TZ500 Yamaha had given gearbox problems
in practice, so Joey elected to ride his 350 Yamaha in the
Senior TT After lying in twelfth place for most of the race,
he pulled up to ninth by the end, about twenty seconds behind
Charles Mortimer [Suzuki]. Things didn't look any more promising
for the final race of the week, the six lap Classic.
The Classic, richest race of the week, was
expected to be a Honda benefit, with outright lap record
holder Mick Grant [114.33 mph in 1978 on a Kawasaki], Ron
Haslam and Graeme McGregor all riding factory supported
bikes. Charlie Williams on the Mitsui Yamaha, Graeme Crosby
on the Yoshimura Suzuki and Jeff Sayle on the George Beale
Yamaha were expected to provide the main opposition. Joey
had fitted an eight gallon tank on the Yamaha so he only
had to stop once during the race but the bike had given
trouble in last minute testing and he'd been up until 2.30
in the morning rebuilding the machine.
Joey started at his lucky No. 3. He astonished
everyone with a first lap at 112.25 mph to lead Jeff Sayle
by six point four seconds. Crosby and Williams were out,
McGregor was in third place and Grant was fourth, struggling
with a bike that was wrongly geared and would only rev to
8,000 instead of 9,000 rpm. But Joey had his problems too.
The tank straps for the big fuel tank had broken and he
was having to hold the tank in position with his knees and
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