By Kyle White Belfast Newsletter
After confirming his retirement from the sport this summer Gary Dunlop has now revealed that the 2021 Irish road racing season will herald the swansong for the Joey’s Bar MCC racing team.
The 37-year-old – who is engaged to road racer Melissa Kennedy – told the News Letter in July that his racing days were over, and now the 125cc/Moto3 team that was branded with his father Joey’s famous livery is set to compete for the final time next year.
“Just a wee announcement to confirm if the 2021 road racing season goes ahead, it will be the last for the Joey’s Bar MCC racing team,” said Dunlop.
“We’ve had a great but very tough five years since we decided to run our team. We’ve had some brilliant riders involved and fantastic sponsors to keep us on the road through it all, and we really appreciate everyone that’s helped us out along the way.
“Massive thanks to all at the Joey’s Bar MCC Club, you’ve been fantastic. And particularly Peter, Bryan and Lyle Millar,” he added in a post on Facebook.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic effectively wiped out the 2020 calendar, Dunlop had stated his intention in February to take a year away from the sport.
He later went further, deciding that he was quitting racing altogether.
Speaking in an interview in July, Dunlop – who planned to run Cork man Mike Browne in the Joey’s Bar team this year – told the News Letter: “That’s me finished for now.
“I wouldn’t say I would never come back and race again someday if the notion took me, but I’ll just concentrate on running the team now.”
In February, Dunlop provided an insight into the heavy commitment involved in running the team, adding that once the season was over, he ‘didn’t want to see a bike or think about racing’.
“People don’t understand what we put into racing,” he said.
“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 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.”
The Ballymoney man made his belated road racing debut four years ago after purposely ignoring the temptation to follow in his father’s footsteps in the years immediately after his death, primarily to avoid the media scrutiny that would have surrounded his every move.
On a memorable day for Dunlop, he clinched the title after finishing third at Killalane last September as his fiancée Melissa became the first female winner of an Irish National road race at the East Coast Festival.