DUNLOP SIGNS FOR SUZUKI
Thirteen-time TT winner eyes 135mph lap with his new factory-backed GSX-R1000
“It will be a new lease of life for me.” That is how Michael Dunlop has described his decision to race the new Bennetts-liveried Suzuki GSX-R on the roads in 2017.
After months of speculation, last year’s Superbike and Senior TT winner and the outright lap record-holder on the Mountain course has revealed he will remain with Stuart and Steve Hicken’s Hawk Racing team to race the new superbike at the North West 200, TT and Ulster Grand Prix.
“I am back with the dream team for another wee spin,” the Ballymoney man smiled. “It is good for me and it is good for Steve because the team has full factory support again.”
Dunlop says it was the lure of the support from the Japanese manufacturer and Suzuki’s race development partners, Yoshimura, that persuaded him to opt for the new GSX-R.
“Yoshimura’s involvement is a key factor, a really big thing for me,” the 27-year-old explained. “Their support and getting the supply of the right stuff from the factory is crucial.
“You only have to look at this footrest,” he said as he opened a box of parts that had just arrived at the race team’s Mallory Park HQ from Japan.
“It is bagged up and numbered from the factory and my bike will be full of stuff like this.”
Dunlop admitted his bitter experience with the new R1 in 2015 that saw him split with the Milwaukee team during TT practice week had made him cautious about taking on the challenge of another new superbike.
“I have concerns but I know this time that we can overcome hurdles if we need to,” the 13-times TT winner said.
“We have people here like Steve and Stuart, Nick Goodison the engine builder plus the Yoshimura support that can help us do that and fix any problems we have. They will come up with something because they have the heart to go road racing and they won’t see us stuck in the sh*t.”
The new Suzuki has proved impressive in early tests with Dunlop’s Bennetts Suzuki team-mate, Sylvain Guintoli describing the 2017 GSX-R’S engine as having ‘Motogp power’ after the first test in Sepang. Nevertheless Dunlop admits he is taking a gamble.
“Maybe there is a lot to weigh up but what can I weigh up really?” he asks.
“Yes there are things to consider but you’ve heard all the bullshit about how good bikes were before. You don’t know how good they are until you get on them. I still don’t know anything about the Suzuki.”
It is a high-stakes game for the bullish Ballymoney man because he has already set an almost impossible standard for himself at the TT. The first man to lap the Mountain course in under 17 minutes, Dunlop has won 13 TTS in just seven years. Regardless of the challenges he faces, Dunlop is definitely not troubled by any crisis of confidence and having made his decision he says he won’t be blaming any issues with his new mount if he fails.
“The Suzuki might be a new bike but that is an excuse for people who get beat,” he says. “The first year I took the BMW to the TT I won on it. It is what you do with the bike that matters. You have to make sure the package is right, that the machine will perform. You don’t really get the chance to try it anywhere else because there is nowhere else like the TT.”
Steve Hicken, says seconds and thirds are “no good” to Dunlop any more.
“Just as long as he knows that we will get on just fine,” Dunlop retorts.
Will he consider anything less than a third Superbike and Senior TT double in four years a failure?
“Yes because this is not a development year,” he comes back.
“I don’t do development years, that would just be wasting my time.”
Dunlop is adamant that the 134mph barrier will be broken after his new record lap at 133.962mph last June. “Of course,” is his confident reply. Could it go as high as 135mph? “Of course, if you are talking about me doing it,” he smiles.
Dunlop will continue to field his own MD Racing team alongside his superbike duties. Riding a stocker version of the GSX-R and an as yet undecided Supersport machine, he will race in his own colours at all three roads events.
The team will also test Bitubo suspension on the Suzuki and compare the bike’s kit ignition alongside the Motec version before making a final decision for the TT bike.
‘I have concerns but I know this time that we can overcome hurdles’