Michael Dunlop relishes the chance to impersonate Uncle Joey again as he prepares to launch a bid for Imatra’s joy

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

ive time Formula 1 TT world champion Joey won at Imatra en route to his fifth consecutive title in 1986 and 36 years later his nephew Michael is poised for glory at the recently renamed Jarno Saarinen circuit, which hosts the second round of the international road racing championship.

Dunlop is fresh off a Supersport one-two at the Isle of Man TT on his MD Racing/Carl Cox Motorsport Yamaha R6, which took the Ballymoney man’s win tally to 21.

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

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

However, he is now teaming up with the Penz13.com team to race a Honda CBR1000RR-R Fireblade – the machine of choice for Dunlop in the Superstock class this year at North West and TT.

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

“I’ve always said that when the work is good, I’m right,” he said.

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

“With the things that happened, it changed the way I see certain things. But at the same time, if it wasn’t for pure love of the bike, I wouldn’t be doing it – you wouldn’t be subjecting yourself to torture.

“You find these days that a lot of guys are pushing to be famous. They grow to be a name. They want to be something, maybe on social media or whatever,” Dunlop added in an interview on official digital channel TT Races.

“They set themselves up to get an MBE or OBE or whatever.

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

“And they never wanted any of that. Joey really lived his day.

“Even what my father did. They suffered the highest standard of living just to make Bally money somewhere. And they didn’t do it for another reason.

“I remember when we would go to places, and they were so proud to be from the city and where they were from. There have never been airs or graces.

“And it’s probably the same for me.”

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

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

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

“I have never participated in Imatra before, but I have always wanted to come and experience it. Logistically, Imatra is a difficult trip, but I hope everything will go well and everything will be fine during the race.

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

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