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Goodbye, Joey Dunlop

Joey in the 2000 Junior TT

picture copyright © 2000 Philip Sheer

Joey Dunlop, the most successful TT racer of all time, was killed whilst competing in a road race in Tallinn, Estonia, on Sunday 2 July 2000.

Joey won a record 26 Isle Of Man TT races, the first in 1977. In 2000, at the age of 48, he won the Formula 1, Lightweight and Ultra-lightweight races. This was his third hat-trick of victories - also a record. He also won six Formula 1 TT world championships. He was awarded the MBE for his unequalled contribution to motorcycle racing.

Joey was an unassuming and generous man, much-loved in his native Northern Ireland and by bike racing fans all over the world. In 1995 he was awarded the OBE for his charitable works, including driving aid to Bosnia, Romania and Albania, unaccompanied, in his own van.

I was lucky enough to see Joey competing at the 2000 TT. The picture above was taken by my friend Phil Sheer, at Creg-ny-Baa, in the Junior (supersport 600) race. Joey came 4th. It was just a couple of hours after we'd watched his final TT victory in the Ultra-lightweight (125cc) race.

My favorite Joey Dunlop story happened at the 2000 TT. Whilst practicing for the Lightweight TT on his Honda RS250, Joey ran out of petrol at Creg-ny-Baa, only about 3 miles short of the finish on the 37.73 mile circuit. Unfazed, Joey collared a spectator, produced a length of hose from his leathers, and used it to syphon some petrol out of the spectator's bike so he could ride back to the pits. But being a racing two-stroke, Joey's bike ran on a premix of petrol and oil. With just petrol in the tank, it would seize before he got back to the pits. So he borrowed a pair of pliers and drained off some fork oil to put in the tank! "Well I had to get back to the pits somehow," he was quoted as saying. Somehow I can't see Criville or Rossi being that resourceful...

The TT will never be quite the same again. Goodbye, Joey Dunlop.

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© Andrew Lawn 2003
Last modified: 21 August 2003