Today (15th May) marks the 11th anniversary since Robert Dunlop lost his life at the 2008 NorthWest 200. 11 years on we take a look back at his life and the impact he had on local motor cycle racing.
Born on the 25th of November to Willie & May Dunlop in Ballymoney, it was clear from a very young age that Robert had racing in his blood and both his two other brothers also shared his same passion and enthusiasm for it.
The brothers would practice their road racing skill on the back roads around Ballymoney avoiding the law where possible. But it would be at aged 19 that he debuted at the Temple 100.
This would launch a career of record-breaking achievements that would span almost 30 years up until his tragic death in 2008.
He would win many races from the Cookstown 100, NW200 to the Isle of Mann TT. One win that stands out during this portion of his career is in 1989 when he won the Macau Grand Prix.
The following year the wins kept coming as he joined the JPS Norton team but in 1994 he had an accident that should have finished his road racing career. At the TT on his Honda a wheel malfunctioned and Robert suffered multiple and serious injuries and was very lucky not to have been killed.
Permanent tendon damage and a shortened leg, left it unlikely and dangerous for Robert to ever ride never mind race a bike again! Robert however had other plans and was determined to return to the sport he just loved, which he did.
At the 1996 Cookstown 100 he rode again on a bike modified by Robert himself to accommodate his injuries. He would continue to race up until 2004.
Robert made an announcement in 2003 that he would begin retirement which would see him fully retired by the end of the 2004 race season.
Tragedy struck at the 2008 North West 200 during a practice lap of the course on his 250cc machine. As the riders were approaching Mathers Corner of the track, Roberts bike had seized and he mistakenly applied the front brakes which sent him over the bars of the bike crashing onto the ground. Another rider was unable to avoid Robert and had a further collision with Robert.
Robert was taken to the nearby hospital in Coleraine with very serious chest injuries, injuries which took his life later that evening.
Michael’s Tribute Win
Just two short days after losing his father, Michael in tribute to his father, took part in the race which he won and dedicated it to his father.
Robert has a memorial garden created along with a statue and plaque of his achievements, beside his brother Joeys memorial garden who also lost his life in a racing accident back in 2000.
This unfortunately wouldn’t be the last tragedy to hit the Dunlop family, for year again in 2018, they were struck a devastating blow when one of Roberts sons, William, lost his life during a practice lap at the Skerries 100 road races.
Despite there members of the Dunlops losing their lives to road racing, the Dunlops strong connection to road racing remains with Roberts remaining son Michael racing along with cousins Sam and Gary who also race on the smaller circuits from time to time.