Michael Dunlop can reflect on a year packed with golden memories, but surprisingly for once the Ulster road racing powerhouse was unable to give a definitive answer when quizzed on his personal stand-out moment of 2012.
A propagator of witty one-liners, Dunlop isn’t often found wanting for a sound bite, but on this occasion the 23-year-old from Ballymoney chose to sit on the fence.
His third Isle of Man TT victory earned courtesy of a blistering success in the second Supersport race last June plus Dunlop’s blue riband triumph at the Ulster Grand Prix and record five-from-five Southern 100 romp are obvious contenders.
He puts all three somewhere at the top of his list for varying reasons, but also picks out some less apparent achievements that clearly gave the new Honda TT Legends signing a great deal of satisfaction in 2012, namely the “man to man battle of the Superbikes” on his home turf at Armoy.
Irked by a defeat to National scene arch-rival Ryan Farquhar in the feature race at the Skerries 100, Dunlop feels he settled the score in the ‘Race of Legends’ highlight at Armoy, where Farquhar and Guy Martin were Superbike-mounted for the big race of the day.
“Every weekend we were racing Ryan was always giving it the old ‘I’m only on my Superstock bike and those boys should be beating me because they’re on their Superbikes’.
“But what you have to understand is that Ryan’s Superstock bike was every bit as good as our Superbikes,” Dunlop told the News Letter.
“At Armoy it was dog eat dog, there was no hiding place because Ryan was out on his Superbike and so was Guy [Martin].
“It was Superbike time at Armoy and Ryan couldn’t hide behind his Superstock talk. I don’t mean any badness by saying that, it’s just it was a chance for both of us to go man to man on the Superbikes and settle the score,” he added.
“It came down to the last man standing in the big Superbike race at Armoy and for me that was a good race – not only to win it, but to win it comfortably as well in the end.”
Uncharacteristically ducking out of choosing his number one memory from 2012, Dunlop instead narrows it down to his top three smash hits at the TT, Southern 100 and Ulster GP.
“I can’t honestly pick one,” he said. “People think it’s an easy question to answer but each race means something different because of what it took to win.
“Winning the Superbike race at the Ulster Grand Prix meant a lot.
“I had a point to prove after falling off in the first race [when battling with Guy Martin] and it says a lot about my own self-belief and spirit that I was able to get back on the bike again and win,” he added.
“It showed what I’m made of and nothing fazes me.
“The Southern 100 proved a lot of things too because Ryan had beat me at Skerries and there was a lot of talk about this and that, but I went to a real man’s circuit at the Southern and became the first rider ever to win five races – that’s what you call a five-timer.”
Naturally, Dunlop’s Supersport victory at the TT was a particularly sweet moment after he was ruled out of the first 600cc showdown while holding a commanding lead.
“I was really deflated at the TT after I had to retire from the first 600 race, but I came back bigger and stronger for the second Supersport race.
“Every race I won last year took hard work to get there and it was never plain sailing, but they all meant a lot to me.”