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’


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