Rider Hall of Fame: February – Joey Dunlop

Joey Dunlop, also known by his birth name, William Joseph Dunlop has rightfully earned his place on February’s Rider Hall of Fame.

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The Irish-born rider wasn’t raised as a biker as many of his peers did. The 22x TT Winner, and one of the best riders of all time was born February 25th 1952 to William and Mary. William was one of 7 children; he had 2 brothers and 4 sisters.

An Introduction to Motorbikes for Joey Dunlop

Dunlop had a pleasant upbringing with his 6 siblings in Culduff near Ballymoney, Northern Ireland. It may come as a surprise to some, but Joey wasn’t introduced to bikes until the age of 15. It was all thanks to his sister, Helen’s future husband, Mervyn Robinson when he met Joey in 1967.

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The Racing Begins!

The next few years would see Joey pottering around and getting his feel for the sport. Mervyn and Joey were often seen together with friend Frank Kennedy and Joey’s brother Jim. The group would later become known as the Armoy Armada.

Joey entered his first major race at the NW200 in 1973. This first year would prove an unlucky one as the chain broke on his 350cc Ameracci.

The next major race would take place 2 years later. This race took place at the Temple 100 for Rea Racing. This event would be the debut to of the Armoy Armada! Joey would go on to win this.

The Armada would sadly come to an end in 1980 when both Mervyn and Frank passed away.

Onto the Isle of Man!

A swift trip overseas to the Isle of Man for the annual TT would see Joey race here for the first time in 1976. Although he didn’t win the first one, he claimed 16th place. He did, however, go home with a bronze replica for best newcomer award.

His first win would come the year after when he competed for the 1977 Jubilee Classic 1000cc!

There were many memorable TT years for Joey, good and bad. One prime example was in 1985 when the boat carrying the champion, various other passengers and various other bikes sunk. Luckily everyone survived and the bikes were salvaged. Joey then went on to win that TT too!

The next major year for Joey was in 1993 when he claimed his 15th winning title at the Isle of Man. This was a record-breaking moment; one that was previously set by Mike Hailwood.

Personal Life of Joey Dunlop

Shortly before his racing career started, Joey married childhood sweetheart, Linda Patterson in 1972. The pair went on to have 5 children. Their son Gary has carried the racing gene. In 1984 the Dunlop’s bought a bar in their hometown of Ballymoney. This was Joey’s pride and joy, affectionately naming it ‘Joey’s Bar’. You can pay a visit to this lovely bar today!

Joey always made his family proud. 1996 was a fine example of this when he travelled across eastern Europe to help the poorer communities in countries such as Romania, Bosnia, and Albania.

Joey sadly passed away in Estonia on July 2nd 2000 when he was participating in a practice race at Pirita-Kose-Kloostrimetsa Circuit. Following his passing, Joey’s memory still thrives as he is affectionately remembered to this day as the ‘King of the Road’.

Author: Emma Henry

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