By Kyle White Belfast Newsletter.
Ballymoney’s Gary Dunlop has decided to take a year out of the sport to concentrate on running the Joey’s Bar MCC team.
Dunlop, who won the Moto3/125GP Irish Championship for the first time in 2019, is running Cork man Mike Browne on his Moto3 Honda this year.
He may also run a second rider on the Joey’s Bar 125cc Honda but has yet to make a final commitment after two costly engine failures at the end of last season.
Dunlop told the News Letter: “I’ve decided to just take a step back this year and focus on running the team. In 2018 I hadn’t raced but then after William’s accident, I knew if I didn’t get back out there then I’d probably never race again.
“So I was out racing two weeks after William’s accident and then I went on to the Ulster Grand Prix, which I had always planned to do that year. I probably rode better than I’d ever done after that and I got a win at Killalane and even went well at the Sunflower, even though I’d not really been interested in the circuits for years. I set the second fastest lap that day and really lowered my lap times.
“William had told me I could win the Irish title if I focused a bit more on myself and last year I lost a bit of weight and had a really good rattle at winning it,” he added.
“Don’t get me wrong, if Derek (McGee) hadn’t been injured at the TT, then I wouldn’t have won it because he’s just on a different level to the rest of us.”
Dunlop said there was no single reason why he has decided to take a year out of road racing, although he hasn’t ruled out the possibility of competing at his home race at Armoy in the summer.
“There are so many reasons and it’s not just one thing,” he said. “People don’t understand what we put into racing. Some riders have the luxury of having their machines prepared and can turn up in the paddock and hang out and mix with people.
“But that’s not the case for many of us and it’s certainly never been the case for me. We spend all our time working to get things ready, night and day, and with Melissa (Kennedy – Dunlop’s fiancee) racing all the time as well it’s not easy. It’s been a way of life for so long now and people think we live to race, but that’s not the case – when the season ends I don’t want to see a bike or even think about it until the it all comes around again.
“I’m still going to run the Moto3 bike and Mike Browne will ride for us this year and we might run a second rider on the 125cc Honda, although I’m not sure on that yet because we had two engine failures last season and it nearly crippled us.
“If I take a notion and maybe drop a bit of weight, then I might ride at Armoy, but if I do I’ll not be pushing hard and I’ll just be having a ride around.”
Dunlop said he was feeling optimistic about the future of the class at the Irish race meetings and admitted he felt a ‘sense of responsibility’ to do all he can to support the smallest capacity machines.
“I feel a responsibility to try and help build the class and I’ll always do what I can to support it,” he said.
“Some people are keen to put the class down and have no knowledge of how good some of the riders are. I’ve a wee bee in my bonnet about that, so I’ll keep trying to support the 125s as best as I can.
“I might not be racing myself this year but it looks as though there could be five new names in the class, although you only really know for sure when you see who turns up for the first race of the season.
“I’m also more optimistic than I was for the future of road racing in general as well. I recently started attending the MCUI meetings and a new chairman, John McClure, has been voted in. John’s a gentleman and he’s the right man for the job,” said Dunlop.
“There’s a new insurance liaison role as well and some new blood has come in, so I’m feeling a bit more positive about things. It’s all too easy to point the finger at the older men in the MCUI and they get called old dinosaurs and whatever, but a lot of them know what they’re doing and if it wasn’t for them where would we be?
“Very few younger people are really interested in coming on board and there’s a big burden of responsibility on those who are there, but things are looking more positive for both the roads and circuits.”