Liam Beckett has vowed to ‘set the record straight’ on the relationship between Ulster motorcycle legends Robert and Joey Dunlop in his eagerly anticipated autobiography, which is due for release next autumn.
Beckett was Robert’s mechanic and mentor for more than 20 years and forged a strong bond with one of road racing’s greatest ever competitors, who was sadly killed in a practice crash at the North West 200 in 2008.
The proud Ballymoney man plans to split his life story between his involvement in Irish League football as a player and manager with his role as Robert’s loyal confidante during the peaks and troughs of an extraordinary racing career that established Dunlop as one of Northern Ireland’s most revered sportsmen.
And Beckett – now a columnist for the News Letter and a football and motorcycling pundit for the BBC – said he would use the platform of his autobiography to ‘shred the myth’ that Robert and Joey had a strained relationship.
“One thing I’m looking forward to about this book is the opportunity to shred the myth that Joey and Robert didn’t get on,” Beckett told the News Letter.
“That is simply not the case and I am glad that I will have the chance to set the record straight in that regard because the boys were very close and had nothing but respect for each other.
“It was hard for Robert to make his way in motorcycle racing because he was always known as Joey’s wee brother. It wasn’t easy for him to come out of Joey’s shadow,” Beckett added.
“People used to tell Robert there was only one Dunlop in road racing and after hearing it all the time, it got to the stage where Robert started to believe it.
“A big part of my job at the beginning was getting Robert to realise his own potential, to make him see that he had a special talent for motorcycle racing as well.
“It was about getting his priorities right as well because Robert wasn’t as focused as he should have been at that time and I can recall arguing with him because he wanted to go out to the pub for a drink and I wanted him to stay at home,” he said.
“There were nights when he’d be all picture and no sound – he’d have been huffing with me because I’d have fought with him to get him to stay out of the pub, but it was important to be totally focused on motorbike racing and that is what Robert eventually became.
“There are a lot of motorbike stories that have never been told before. Some of these tales are fun and some are not so fun, but I’ll be using this book to tell them all.”
Beckett has been working on his autobiography for the past six months and plans to take a break over the festive period before burning the midnight oil in the New Year to have the work completed in time for a March deadline.
“So many people had been asking me when I was going to write a book and I finally just decided that the time was right,” Beckett said.
“The book is split between my time in football and my time alongside Robert and we’re aiming for a launch in September next year.”
Meanwhile, a new documentary on the racing legacy of the Dunlop family – narrated by Hollywood superstar Liam Neeson – is set to be broadcast on BBC NI in March.