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Michael Dunlop doubles up at North West 200

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Photo: BMW

Michael Dunlop took a debut victory for his Hawk Racing BMW Motorrad team in a memorable North West 200 Superbike race on a day dominated by Northern Irish riders.

Dunlop won the shortened Superstock event earlier in the day and there were wins also for his brother William in the first Superbike race and Lee Johnston in the Supertwins category. With Alastair Seeley’s double victory and Johnston’s earlier Supertwin triumph on Thursday evening it meant seven of the eight races were won by local men.

Only Bruce Anstey tempered the local fervour by taking his tenth win at the event in a memorable Supersport encounter, the first race of the day.

Celebrations were tempered on the north coast however when the paddock heard news that Simon Andrews had been airlifted to hospital with serious injuries.

Andrews crashed on the fourth lap of the Superstock race on the fast approach to Metropole Corner. With his Penz13.com BMW bursting into flames after the crash race organisers were forced to bring out the red flags and declare the race a result. The 29-year old was airlifted to the Great Victoria hospital in Belfast where his condition was described as ‘critical.’

It was a sad end to an otherwise eventful day that was charged with high drama and incident. Race organisers decided against utilising the roads closure act – altered during the offseason so they can change racing days and schedules should weather forecasts be problematic – and rain greeted huge crowds on Saturday morning.

The Supersport race was run in wet conditions which played into the hands of Bruce Anstey and Connor Cummins. The pair had trailed Seeley, Johnston and Gary Johnson’s rapid Smith’s Triumph before the Englishman ran on at Magherabuoy chicane. Johnston was proving his mettle on the 600 machine with some impressive out-braking manoeuvres into University and Mather’s chicane. It seemed Anstey had ruled himself out of victory on the final run to Mather’s as he missed the chicane and was forced to rejoin in third. But the real drama came as Seeley and Johnston scrapped for the lead into Metropole. Seeley braked later and came up the inside, only for Johnston to close the door. The two collided on the entry to the corner, sending both down and into the protective barriers at the side of the track. Incredibly both were ok.

That left Anstey to clinch his tenth victory on the north coast ahead of Cummins and the recovering Gary Johnson. He said, “I think I got out of bed on the right side this morning. My 600 is as fast as anything out there and I had lost out to Johnston and Seeley when I overshot Mather’s chicane.”

Lee Johnston made amends for the earlier incident by taking his second Supertwin victory of the meeting in the third race of the day. Johnston had earlier claimed he felt Seeley was “out of hand” in the Supersport race but he took control on the fourth lap to win from Michael Dunlop and the impressive James Cowton.

Perhaps the finest racing of the day was reserved for the two Superbike races. The first was held in dire conditions as midday clouds encircled Portrush and left the coast roads treacherously wet. Organisers decided to cut the race from seven to five laps and William Dunlop caught and passed early leader Ian Hutchinson before stretching a gap. Brother Michael was recovering from a poor start and he almost timed his race to perfection, catching and passing William at Metropole on the final lap. The Tyco Suzuki rider wasn’t to be outdone however, and showed tremendous composure to descisively re-take the lead at the Juniper Hill chicane to win by half a second.

After his first international Superbike win Dunlop said, “It was a difficult day for everyone with the conditions, but I’m delighted to take my first international Superbike win with Tyco Suzuki. I only saw Michael on that last lap when I looked over my shoulder and did think, ‘oh well that’s it’ but the team and myself have put in too much hard work just to give it away. He left me a gap into the Juniper chicane and wasn’t as strong as I expected to be on the brakes. I had to take the tight line into the chicane but we made it through and kept it strong to the line.”

His brother wasn’t so happy with the last-lap move but he went one better in the shortened Superstock race, ahead of Michael Rutter and Gary Johnson.

With Seeley needing injections in his hip, which he hurt in the earlier incident with Lee Johnston, his participation in the fight for the lead wasn’t expected but he chased a fast starting Josh Brookes down in the opening laps. With Michael Dunlop again starting poorly he made his way to second, behind Brookes before the Australian ran off track at the Mather’s Chicane on the penultimate lap. Dunlop set a succession of lap records on the final three laps but it was a chasing Brookes who had the last word, setting a time of 122.97mph on his final attempt. Seeley completed a close podium in third.

A delighted Michael Dunlop said, “I’m ecstatic – I just pushed it on the last lap and it’s what I needed. I knew I could do it and it’s fantastic – the bike is class, I love it and I can’t wait for the Isle of Man TT.The fans were absolutely fantastic. I rode the bike as hard as I could and I only sat on it for the first time on Tuesday. Fair play to the guys who built the engine, the bike was fantastic.”

 

Post first featured on paddockchatter.com; republished with permission.

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John started MotoFire with James and Dan as a way of satisfying his own curiosity. There was nowhere on the Internet for people like him to sit, read and enjoy stories about motorcycles without feeling like he was left out of some elitist, number-driven, hi-viz wearing club. Hopefully there are some people out there who feel the same!

NEWS

Is the Manx Missile Cavendish about to trade cycling lycra for motorcycle racing leathers?

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Could the Manx Missile hang up his lycra and pedals for something a little more petrol propelled?

Mark Cavendish has been the fastest thing on two (pedal-powered) wheels for a while now, but in recent interviews, the Isle of Man native and good friend of Cal Crutchlow has expressed an interest in two-wheeled vehicles of a motorcycling kind.

Speaking in an interview with Esquire Magazine from when he was in Abu Dhabi for the Formula One last year, Cavendish shared his love of fast cars and bikes, telling the interviewer that he’d ‘always loved anything to do with motors, or machines… Vehicles really. Just love them’. Before being asked if he’d ever considered being an F1 driver?

‘Nah. I don’t think I’m good enough. Everybody thinks that it’s like driving a car down the promenade, it’s totally not the same. To be honest, I prefer motorbikes more; I would like to race them instead.’

Ok, so it’s not a huge admission or a massive surprise – it’s something we’ve all probably dreamed of and one time or another, but when pressed on the issue he does seem to have considered the possibilities more than just in passing.

When asked if motorcycling racing might actually be next for him he replied with an emphatic, ‘In all seriousness, I think so’.

Adding fuel to the fire have been comments from him earlier this month made during press conferences in support of the Dubai Tour.

When asked explicitly if he’d consider hanging up his cycling blocks for motorcycle leathers, he certainly didn’t dismiss the idea, ‘Anything is possible, you know… I will just look at my options for the short term and the long term and see what I do with my future’.

So that’s definitely not a no.

For cycling fans fearful that he might be closer than expected to making the jump, there’s probably not any immediate cause for panic. In the very same Esquire feature he also explicitly stated that he had a ‘fair few years‘ left in his professional career.

Could a cycling pro move over to motorcycles with any expectation of success? Multi-discipline racers aren’t unheard of. Rossi loves his car racing and Lewis Hamilton has always expressed an interest in a taking turn in MotoGP.

But that’s from a motor vehicle on short track racing onto another motor vehicle on a similar track. We’d imagine that the speeds and skills involved from pedal cycle to internal combustion engine are a little less transferable for any moral human.

But then Mark Cavendish isn’t your average human being and reports suggest that the times that he has spent on track have been pretty impressive.

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NEWS

SHOCK SWITCH: John McGuinness will ride for Norton at the Isle of Man TT

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Sensational coup for British manufacturer Norton as the King of the Mountain, John McGuinness is announced as a rider for the Isle of Man TT.

The sound and fury of the silver SG-prefixed Norton V4s have become a welcome fixture of the Isle of Man TT since Stuart Garner and his team reintroduced the brand to the Island with the SG1 back in 2012.

With a noise that Asphalt & Rubber referred to at the time as being “somewhere between “Four Horseman (sic) of the Apocalypse” and “Queen of the Harpies” — as heard from several miles out”, the presence of the machines across the mountain course has been beloved by the crowds and even recognised officially by the Isle of Man race organisers from a technical perspective.

Now those excitement and achievement levels are expected to increase tenfold as the legend that is John McGuinness has been confirmed as an official rider of the Norton V4 race-bike for this year’s Isle of Man TT races in May & June 2018.

We thought we’d seen the road racing worlds’ collective brains explode after the announcement of McGuinness riding with Guy Martin for Honda last year, but with the near-mythical alignment of the brands McGuinness and Norton for this year’s event, we’re certain that the level of anticipation will be off the charts when the King of the Mountain first swings his leg over the shiny, chrome Norton V4 during practice week!

Speaking about the announcement, McGuinness seems at his normal, self-effacing best with his tweet of the announcement finished with the hashtag #bitofunfinishedbusiness.

And naturally, CEO of Norton Motorcycles, Stuart Garner is optimistically upbeat.

But the best part of it all? We called it weeks ago!*

*But then even a stopped clock is right twice a day!

And if you were in any doubt as to how happy the McGuinness family are with the switch, the latest tweet by John’s wife Becky should set your mind at rest…

How McGuinness and Honda parted ways.

There’s no doubting that all was not well within the Honda road racing camp last year, but it wasn’t always that way. With the new CBR1000RR being introduced and with John McGuinness and Guy Martin being announced as the new ‘dream team’ for the Honda team, the start of the 2017 road racing season was met with excitement and rampant expectation. But then the accidents started to happen.

With the horrendous crash of McGuinness at the NW200LATEST: John McGuinness has leg operation but in good spirits and subsequent issues with the new Fireblade causing problems and a crisis of confidence for Guy Martin, the dream of 2017 dominance quickly transformed into something closer to a nightmare.

And then, weeks later and buried beneath problematical news about a prospective Guy Martin retirement that he quickly debunked came the admittance and confirmation from Honda that it was an issue with the bike that had caused the 23 time Isle of Man TT winner to fall and break his leg. Issues that had plagued other riders during the remainder of the season and issues that McGuinness had surely fed back to the team after his accident.

Weeks later, and as the rest of the world led with the news of Ian Hutchinson joining the 2018 Honda road racing team, the lack of a future for John McGuinness at Honda seemed certain to even the most casual of observer; despite the headlines of the press seemingly ignoring the obvious.

This was a narrative helped along with a few timely tweets from the TT legend himself over the holiday period.

https://twitter.com/jm130tt/status/940262163771310080

Couple all of that with the now infamous snap of him on a Norton TT bike from race organiser Paul Phillips, and you can see what set the tongues at Motofire HQ wagging. Sometimes a lot of speculation and a modicum of thought can go a long way!

With John McGuinness getting himself into shape for his visit to the Island and Norton genuinely attacking podium places at this year’s TT, we can’t think about anything else now, other than seeing – and hearing – McGuinness on that glorious, chromed-out V4, tearing down Bray Hill.

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