By Kyle White Belfast Newsletter
Michael Dunlop has announced that his deal to ride a PBM Ducati this year on the roads is off.
Dunlop confirmed the news at the official launch of the Isle of Man TT on Saturday night.
The 19-time TT winner had rekindled his agreement with Paul Bird to ride the Italian machine this year at the North West 200 and TT after he was originally due to race the Panigale V4R in 2020 before the Covid-19 pandemic hit.
Dunlop is set to ride a Yamaha R6 in the Supersport class and a Honda CBR1000RR-R Superstock machine. The 33-year-old is also due to compete on a Paton again in the Supertwin class following back-to-back wins in 2018 and 2019.
The third most successful TT rider ever behind his uncle Joey (26 wins) and John McGuinness (23), Dunlop had worked with Bird in the past, teaming up in 2011 when he won the Superstock race on a PBM-prepared Kawasaki for his first big-bike success at the TT.
He raced BMW S1000RR machinery in the Superbike class for Northern Ireland’s Tyco BMW team in the two seasons prior to the worldwide coronavirus crisis, winning an emotional Superbike TT in 2018 following the death of his team-mate, Manxman Dan Kneen, in practice.
Dunlop returned to the roads at Armoy last July for the first time since the 2019 Classic TT. In front of his home fans, he produced a virtuoso performance, claiming a sensational five-timer and a record ninth victory in the headline ‘Race of Legends’ event on the TAS Racing BMW M1000RR. He also shattered his 2013 outright lap record with a new benchmark of 106.945mph.
The Ulster rider is renowned for winning TT races for a series of manufacturers around the Mountain Course – including Honda, BMW, Kawasaki, Suzuki, Yamaha and Paton – but it now seems his attempt to add another string to his bow with victory on the Ducati in June has fallen by the wayside.
In 2019, he clinched his 19th TT win in the Lightweight race on the Paton, but Dunlop was hampered in the bigger capacity classes after injuring his wrist in a crash during a test prior to the North West 200.
He also crashed heavily at the Southern 100 a few weeks after the TT, breaking his pelvis amongst other injuries, but he triumphed soon afterwards against the odds on home soil at Armoy.