In his new book, Road Racer: It’s In My Blood, Michael Dunlop admits he regrets his fall-out with older brother William at the North West 200 in 2014.
In this exclusive extract, Dunlop recounts the thrilling Superbike race three years ago that pitted the brothers against one another on a memorable final lap.
His compelling autobiography, published by Michael O’Mara Books, is widely available now (RRP £20).
“When the North West came round I was looking forward to seeing what the Hawk/Motorrad BMW could do on a larger track. William was riding a Tyco Suzuki, the same as Guy, and he was riding it well. It was wet and I was struggling. Me and the bike were like dance partners that had never met. We’re both trying to lead.
I got a terrible start and after that it was about trying to stay facing the right way as much as reel in the boys ahead of me. As we went on and with a few miles under my belt, I got a bit of a feel for the BMW and, before long, it was just William ahead of me. Going into Metropole on the last lap I thought, Coming, ready or not ... and I got myself past him and into the lead. In my head this was it, game over. The big homecoming, the grand two-finger salute to Honda and all my doubters who said I was nothing without them.
Nobody told William that. We’re that close the rest of the lap the crowds are going nuts. Along the Coast Road we’re in formation like the Red Arrows. I still think I’ve got it in my pocket when we get up the top to the chicane and he goes past.
It doesn’t matter. We’re on Juniper Hill and I spy a chance. A small one. There’s a wee gap up the inside so I go for it. And William slams the door. Now, I’ve done that move to enough people, but not my brother. By the time we finished my blood was boiling and when I saw him in parc fermé I let my frustrations out. ‘I would never have done that to you,’ I say.
I instantly regretted it. In my own mind I’ve made this grand gesture to come back to racing, I’m expecting red-carpet performances from myself, I want to make a statement to the world that I don’t need Honda, and it hasn’t worked out like that. William’s won and he thoroughly deserved his first international success, but it wasn’t part of the script. Not my script. It’s hard to explain.
The cameras were all on him, not me. But the second the words left my lips I knew I was out of order. Obviously when he came across me he’d had no idea I was there. I know that now. I knew it then. But I still said what I said. Genuinely, deep down, I was happy for him, I still am; he earned it. I was just cross with myself, I was looking for someone to blame for my failure and I took it out on him. But I never told William that.
His drawbridge went up. He saw a side of me he didn’t like, a side he didn’t know, maybe didn’t trust, and that ruined the rest of the meeting between us. I wish I could take it back. He’s my brother and I’d do anything for him. But actually it was a long, long time after that before we got ourselves back on track. Thankfully everything is fine now but it goes to show how one stupid remark can cause damage and pain.”