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Page last updated at 13:15 GMT, Sunday, 1 June 2008 14:15 UK

Dunlop legacy

By Richard Petrie
BBC Sport

Eight years after his death in Estonia, the legacy of the most famous road racer of all, Joey Dunlop, lives on at the Isle of Man TT.

Joey Dunlop Memorial Garden
Fans at the Joey Dunlop Memorial Garden in Ballymoney

The modest publican was idolised by thousands for his racing ability, compassion for those less fortunate and down-to-earth nature, and nowhere was this more evident than on Mona's Isle, where he achieved many of his most famous victories.

Dunlop holds the record for the most TT wins, his tally standing at 26, compared to the 14 accumulated by his nearest challenger Mike Hailwood, another iconic figure and all-time great in the world of motorcycle racing.

The fact that 'Joey' was simply known by his Christian name perhaps gives some indication of the hero status which the legendary Ballymoney man enjoyed, not only in his native Northern Ireland, but throughout the world.

Dunlop completed the first of three hat-tricks at the TT in 1985 and followed that up with further trebles in 1988 and 2000, the latter proving to be his final victories on the famous 37.73-mile Mountain Circuit.

He proved equally adept on all types of machinery, from the big Superbikes to the 125s, and his successes spanned more than 20 years.

Following his death in July 2000, thousands of motorcyclists formed a cavalcade in his memory at the Manx Grand Prix meeting in August, paying their own special tribute to the man who excelled in his chosen sport, but humbly shied away from the limelight and the plaudits which came his way as a result.

To this day, it is hard to travel far at the Isle of Man TT without coming across some memory of Joey, who received the Manx Sword of State and was 'knighted' by former Manx Minister of Sport David Cretney on what turned out to be his final appearance on the island he loved so much.

The 26th milestone was renamed 'Joey's' in his honour and a plaque built opposite the start and finish line offers another reminder of his achievements.

A memorial garden, similar to that built in the centre of his hometown, was constructed on the island, and many come to pay homage during their annual pilgrimage to the TT.

In addition, The Joey Dunlop Foundation runs several fundraising events during TT fortnight as they bid to create accommodation for disabled people at a building in Victoria Road, Douglas, as a tribute to Dunlop.

A wealth of t-shirts, photographs, badges, mugs, DVDs and other memorabilia all display the famous name of Dunlop and images of the former racer aboard his Honda, displaying his famous number three plate, are on sale in almost every shop and stall.

Joey Dunlop
Joey Dunlop claimed 26 wins on the Mountain Circuit

Hundreds of replica versions of his famous yellow helmet can be seen travelling through the island during the fortnight and you can even travel a lap of the course with commentary by the great man, courtesy of a simulated on-board lap at the Manx Museum in Douglas.

Isle of Man TT websites dedicate entire sections to Joey and last year, as the event celebrated its 100th anniversary, a version of the SP-1 machine which took him to his last Formula One TT victory, was ridden in the Lap of Honour.

His wife Linda was also invited to start one of the races at the special landmark event which attracted thousands of spectators.

Of course, the name Dunlop lives on in racing terms too with Joey's nephew Michael taking part in this year's event, following in the wheel tracks of his famous uncle, his late father Robert and his brother William.

Robert was a five-times winner at the TT, much admired in his own right, and his recent death during practice for the North West 200 has again brought the family name to the forefront of this year's meeting.

Robert's memories of the Isle of Man are maybe not so happy as a serious crash in 1994 threatened to end his career but, with typical Dunlop spirit, he returned to action in 1997 and went on to take a famous win in the 125cc class in 1998.

For many road race fans, Joey was the TT and his absence means the event is not the same.

Some have never returned since his death, but for others, many of whom were not fortunate enough to see the great man in action, the TT offers a chance to remember a genuine legend.


see also
Steve Parrish's column
28 May 08 |  Motorbikes
Dunlop will ride Superbike at TT
28 May 08 |  Motorbikes


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