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BBC NI sports reporter, Stephen Watson
Joey Dunlop was the finest motor-cyclist the sport has ever seen
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BBC NI's Annita McVeigh reports from Ballymoney
"A book of condolence will be opened at town hall"
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Monday, 3 July, 2000, 17:18 GMT 18:18 UK
'King' Dunlop's road to fame

Joey Dunlop - a sporting hero
Northern Ireland motor-cycling legend Joey Dunlop truly earned the title of "king of the road".

During a remarkable 32-year road racing career, he won five Formula 1 world titles and 26 TT victories on the Isle of Man.

The man from Armoy in County Antrim originally wanted to join the army - but at the age of 16, he bought a motorcycle and never looked back.

He won his first Isle of Man TT race in 1977, riding a Yamaha.

Later, riding on a Honda, he continued to set the track alight with his road-racing performances.

Joey won three races during this year's TT races
In June this year, at the age of 48, he won three races at the TT meeting and was awarded the Sword of State by the island's parliament.

Asked afterwards by a BBC reporter if he shouldn't be taking it easy, the racing hero of few words replied that he had been.

He was also a familiar site on the winners' rostrum at road-racing meetings in Northern Ireland.

He recorded a total of 119 national road race wins in the province.

During the 1970s, he and two other riders, Mervyn Robinson and Frank Kennedy, became known as the Armoy Armada.

Both Robinson and Kennedy were killed in road racing accidents.

Joey Dunlop was deeply superstitious, always wearing a red tee-shirt beneath his racing overalls, sporting a yellow helmet and riding a Number 3 bike.

As well as being an ace on the bike, Joey was renowned for his mechanical skill and would spend a great deal of time preparing bikes which he would later use in races.

He opened a bar in Ballymoney and was awarded the freedom of the borough just a few weeks before his untimely death.

A familiar sight on the victory rostrum
Married with five children, he was awarded the MBE for his motorcyling achievements and the OBE for charity work.

His work behind the scenes for causes such as the Romanian orphans was appreciated by the beneficiaries but rarely made the headlines.

In 1992 he drove across Europe to deliver food, clothing and medical supplies to orphanages in Romania and Albania.

This was one of a number of mercy missions he undertook, often risking being hijacked in order to reach his destination.

Though Joey will be remembered mainly for his racing exploits, the charitable work which he carried out with little fanfare earned him recognition as one of Northern Ireland's finest ambassadors.

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See also:

03 Jul 00 | Northern Ireland
NI mourns sporting hero
02 Jul 00 | Northern Ireland
Death of road racing hero
15 Jun 00 | Northern Ireland
Road racer honoured
31 May 00 | Northern Ireland
Motocyclist dies in island race
03 Jun 00 | Northern Ireland
Dunlop wins TT race
Links to more Northern Ireland stories are at the foot of the page.

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