Suzuki man gets crowd on their feet with dominant wins at his local event
Local hero rules at Armoy
Michael Dunlop has won the Race of Legends feature race for the seventh year in a row at Armoy. The Bennetts Suzuki rider blitzed the opposition to secure victory on the roads just a few miles from his Co Antrim home.
“I think I’ve won this race since 2011 and it is great to do that in front of a crowd where you know nearly everybody’s face,” the 28-year-old smiled.
The win crowned a great homecoming weekend for the Senior and Supersport TT winner, who was making his first Irish National road racing appearance of the year, after he also claimed victories in the Open Superbike race and 600cc event on his MD Racing Yamaha R6.
The race had been made more of a challenge when heavy rain showers throughout the meeting made tyre selection tricky.
“One minute you were on a dry road and the next it was wet,” Dunlop explained. “In the first race I chose a rear slick and the Suzuki was sliding everywhere so I went with intermediates front and back.”
Dunlop dominated the feature event from the start, winning the seven-lap race by 12.6 seconds from his brother William on the Temple Golf Club Yamaha R1 and Michael Sweeney on his MJR BMW.
William was bitterly disappointed to lose out to his younger sibling as he struggled to get to grips with the Yamaha in the changeable conditions.
“It is a second today but it is a bad second because I was so far behind Michael,” he said. “I am disappointed because I thought I had the bike sorted but it was a real handful.”
Both Dunlop brothers raced at Armoy with one eye on this event and the other on the Ulster Grand Prix, which begins in just over a week’s time. William had no 600cc machine at his home event because the engine of his IC Racing R6 Yamaha is being refreshed for the high-speed Dundrod races, at the workshop of German engine guru Marcus Eschenbacher.
His younger brother was also obviously using Armoy as a testing ground for the world’s fastest road race, bringing two full-spec superbike GSX-RS in wet and dry weather set-ups. Michael admitted he was searching for an optimum Dundrod set-up, particularly after losing out to Dean Harrison’s Silcone Kawasaki ZX-10R and Dan Kneen’s DTR BMW S1000RR in the recent Southern 100 feature race.
“The big bike is a handful and we are always working at it, trying to make it better,” he said. “I don’t go to a race anywhere without wanting to win and I am always trying to put myself in the position to do that. I was struggling a bit for ponies at the Southern even though I made a mistake with the rear shock setting that was entirely my own fault.”
Dunlop complained of having limited time on the roads with the new and unknown GSX-R since making his shift to Suzuki for 2017.
“We only had a head to head for comparison at the North West and then we didn’t get the track time we had hoped for at the TT,” he explained.
“There wasn’t much practice because of the bad weather, then I broke down in the first race and we didn’t even get a second Supersport race.
“This is the first time I have been out since the Southern and sometimes you have to sacrifice a race to try out new settings. It is hard at the minute because I am not on the bike as much as I should be.”
Both Stuart and Steve Hicken, the bosses of the Hawk Racing team which run Dunlop’s Bennetts-liveried Suzuki, were at Armoy and will be hoping Dunlop’s brilliant form continues at Dundrod. They, like Dunlop, will also be seeking new components and data on the GSX-R from Japan following the Suzuka 8-Hour race.
“I think we will get some information later this week,” Dunlop explained. “The Japanese have told us they are making developments, but they said they didn’t want to give us anything until they had tested everything at Suzuka.”
‘ The first race was wet, and I had a rear slick’ MICHAEL DUNLOP