Not many can say they had a glass of champagne with the Queen, but a new biography of the late Joey Dunlop reveals the King of the Roads described it as an “incredible” moment.
Rider Ballymoney, who died 21 years ago in an accident during a race in Estonia, received an MBE and an OBE in two incredibly proud moments for the silent father.
Stuart Barker’s new book on one of Northern Ireland‘s greatest sports icons unveils untold stories from those who knew him best.
Titled Joey Dunlop: The Definitive Biography of The Greatest Road Racer, motorcycle fanatics and, of course, Dunlop fans will laugh and cry in equal measure as the book reveals the hijackings and heartaches the legendary racer went through while throughout his life.
A motorcycle reporter for over 25 years, Mr Barker said everyone he spoke to seemed to have a story about Joey, so he felt compelled to bring them together.
“I knew a lot of them hadn’t been published. They were just personal stories and stories of going out drinking or doing this and that, ”he added.
“There is still so much love for him that I just thought people would like to hear the things I had heard but hadn’t been written anywhere.”
Throughout his career, Joey has never been one to go out of his way to speak to the media, given his calm nature, but the new book reveals more of the man than the runner.
The Isle of Man TT held a special place in his heart. It was there that he experienced his greatest triumph when, at 48, he claimed the F1 title for the first time in 12 years.
During his first few days of racing, Joey drove the roads in the dark to learn every bump and curve of the track.
Hector Neill, owner of the Synetiq BMW British Superbike team and who was instrumental in helping the icon land his first major sponsorship, had the fear of his life on a late night lap on the course of the Isle of Man.
“We were at the TT pub one night drinking vodka – Joey loved vodka – and he said, ‘Hey, Heccie, wanna take a walk? “” Neill writes in the book.
“We were going down to Barregarrow [a fearsomely fast and narrow downhill section with walls and a house at the apex] absolutely full, as fast as the car would go, and Joey turned off the headlights. I almost fainted.
“I said, ‘Joey, what are you doing?’, And he said he wanted to show me that he knew the course so well that he could drive it blindfolded. I would never do it again, I can tell you.
Always a pilot for some of Europe’s most remote races, Joey loved to camp and hang out with his friends while traveling.
Tony ‘Slick’ Bass, who worked as a mechanic for the pilot in 1987, recalls: “Joey and his gang were staying in a tent in Portugal, while the rest of us were in a five star hotel.
“A mole made its way into the middle of the tent overnight, and they completely flattened the tent trying to hit the mole with their shoes.
“Joey couldn’t sleep, so he fell asleep in the van but ended up getting bitten by the mosquitoes so badly that both of his eyes were practically closed from the swelling. He could barely see, but he still won the race.
When he received his MBE in 1986 for motorcycle service, and an OBE 10 years later for his humanitarian work with children in Romanian orphanages, Joey, usually with long hair and oil stains, was impeccably dressed. , with his family, at Buckingham Palace. . Prince Charles presented him with his MBE, but he then had the chance to meet the Queen at a reception at Buckingham Palace.
“I once went to a garden party for all of Britain’s world champions, and the Queen was there, but we were kept behind bars and we didn’t really speak with her,” said Joey.
“We were invited this time to a garden party, just a reunion, and the Queen came to talk to all of us. [She was] very, very nice and I drank a glass of champagne with her. It was brilliant. Unbelievable.”
Away from road racing, Joey’s mercy missions in Eastern Europe have shown the true nature of his character.
After hearing about the brutal conditions the orphans were forced to endure in the Romanian village of Ungureni, he visited local shops, pharmacies and businesses and filled his van with anything that could help him.
Mechanic Sammy Graham said: “He stacked the van until you couldn’t put another sock in the van – it was full.”
Joey has been to Romania, Albania, Bosnia and Yugoslavia five times alone, his van chock full of supplies, often in appalling conditions.
Covering the shenanigans of his heartbreaking racing days of losing family, friends, and ultimately his own life to the sport he loved, Joey Dunlop: The Definitive Biography of The Greatest Road Racer is not to be missed.
As the world champion said himself, he never wanted to be a superstar, he just wanted to be himself – and he hoped people would remember him that way.
This book certainly pays homage to that hope.
Joey Dunlop: The Definitive Biography of The Greatest Road Racer, Written by Stuart Baker, Releases Thursday