Dunlop Dominant At North West 200

by James Charman

Michael Dunlop enjoyed an incredibly successful Saturday at the North West 200, winning two races and finishing second twice in the day’s five races.

The opening race of the day, the second Supersport encounter of the week, saw Gary Johnson lead the way in the changeable conditions ahead of Bruce Anstey and Lee Johnston. However, Thursday evening star Alastair Seeley stormed to the lead on the third lap, with Johnston following him through and allowing the pair to battle for the lead.

The battle ended prematurely as the duo clashed at Metropole corner, forcing both riders out and handing Anstey the victory, followed home by Conor Cummins and Johnson.

While the Supersport race didn’t go Dunlop’s way, finishing only fifth, the opening Superbike race of the day saw the Triangle circuit transported back to the days of the famous battles between Dunlop’s father and uncle, Robert and Joey, as Michael did battle with brother William.

The race began with Ian Hutchinson leading the way, hounded by William Dunlop, who eventually found a way through at the Roundabout on the second lap. Hutchinson then found himself locked in a battle with Cummins, the two nearly coming to blows at one of the chicanes, allowing Michael Dunlop to close in, picking off both and setting his sights on passing his brother.

Michael was clearly the faster of the two Dunlops, closing down the near 5-second gap in the final two laps, setting up a thrilling battle with the brothers passing each other at various points on the circuit, before William made a late move on the final lap, holding back Michael to secure his fourth North West 200 win, and his first on a Superbike. Cummins completed the podium positions.

The Supertwins were up next for their second race of the week, with Johnston coming back from the incident with Seeley in the opening race of the day to secure his the Supertwins double, having won the first race on Thursday evening. Michael Dunlop took second, with James Cowton taking third for the second time of the week.

The final two races of the day belonged to Michael Dunlop, starting with the Superstock race. Michael Rutter and Dunlop broke away at the start of the race, while Martin Jessopp, Horst Saiger, Seeley, Simon Andrews, Cummins and Johnson all formed a giant pack hunting down the leaders.

Dunlop eventually got the better of Rutter and began to assert his authority at the top of the field, before a red flag brought the race to an early end on the fourth lap of six. The incident, which took place at the Metropole, involved Andrews, who had to be taken to hospital and there were lengthy delays to the schedule while the incident was cleared.

Dunlop was awarded the race win, with Rutter in second and Johnson in third.

Finally, the headline Superbike race saw Josh Brookes take the early lead, heading a train of Seeley, Guy Martin and Michael Dunlop. Dunlop picked off Martin at the roundabout at the first time of asking, and began to hunt down the leading duo of Brookes and Seeley. While chasing down the leaders Dunlop set a new lap record of 121.982mph, a record that would later be broken by Josh Brookes on the final lap with a speed of 122.957mph, bringing the trio close enough to throw a blanket over them. Dunlop eventually took the lead on the penultimate lap following a mistake from Brookes.

Dunlop then pulled away from Brookes and Seeley to secure a comfortable win and clearly take the plaudits as man-of-the-meeting. As a result of his performances, Dunlop became the first winner of a new trophy named in honour of his father Robert.

“I’m ecstatic – I just pushed it on the last lap and it’s what I needed,” said Dunlop. “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.”

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