Michael Dunlop replaces injury-hit Lee Johnston for Classic TT bid

Michael Dunlop (Team Classic Suzuki) celebrates winning the Formula One race at the Classic TT in the Isle of Man last year with runner up Bruce Anstey (Valvoline Padgetts Yamaha) and third placed Ryan Farquhar

Michael Dunlop (Team Classic Suzuki) celebrates winning the Formula One race at the Classic TT in the Isle of Man last year with runner up Bruce Anstey (Valvoline Padgetts Yamaha) and third placed Ryan Farquhar

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Michael Dunlop will ride MV Agusta machinery for Black Eagle Racing in the Classic TT Senior and Junior races after replacing the injury-hit Lee Johnston.

Fermanagh rider Johnston has been ruled out of the event after breaking his collarbone following a crash during practice at the Ulster Grand Prix.

Dunlop, who will again ride a Suzuki XR69 for Steve Wheatman’s Team Classic Suzuki outfit in the Motorsport Merchandise Classic Superbike race, has previously raced Manx Norton machinery for Andy Molnar in the 500cc and 350cc races at the event without much success.

His only finish to date in the 500cc race was at the inaugural event in 2013, when the 27-year-old finished seventh.

However, he lapped at 106.773mph in the 2014 500cc race before retiring from fifth on the final lap and then improved his speed to 108.619mph 12 months ago.

On that occasion, he fought his way up to third, just behind the two Black Eagle MV Agustas of Johnston and eventual race winner Dean Harrison, but was again out of luck as he stopped at the end of the third lap.

Having won in both 2014 and 2015 with Johnston and Harrison, David and Mark Kay’s Black Eagle Racing team have an excellent chance of taking at least one victory for a third year in a row with Dunlop’s addition to the entry adding extra spice to an already fiercely competitive line-up.

“I really enjoy the Classic TT and I was disappointed to be missing out on some of the other classes, so I was very happy when I got the call from the Black Eagle boys about riding their MV Agustas,” Dunlop said.

“It’s a shame that Lee has been forced to miss out with his injury, but we have seen how strong the bikes have been over the past couple of years and hopefully I can repay the guys in the team with two more wins.”

For Johnston, it is a disappointing end to a frustrating season after the popular Northern Ireland was left on the back foot for the North West 200 and TT following a crash at the Scarborough Spring Cup meeting in April.

He fought his way back to fitness and had been eagerly looking forward to the Ulster Grand Prix, where he won the man of the meeting award in 2015 following a brilliant treble.

Johnston claimed his maiden victory around the Mountain Course at the Classic TT in the 350cc race in 2013, setting a new lap record of 105.239mph.

He also took third in last year’s 500cc race but unfortunately misses out this time, when he was also due to ride a Suzuki XR69 alongside Dunlop in the Classic Superbike race for Wheatman’s team.

Practice for the Classic TT and Manx Grand Prix gets underway on Saturday. The Bennetts Senior race takes place on Saturday, August 27, with the Okells Junior race scheduled for Monday, August 29.