Joey Dunlop, OBE. MBE. rode his last TT this year, ironically it was one of his best, and they always say leave them begging for more......
It is easy to sound profound or poetic in retrospect, but will anyone argue that those who were lucky enough to have seen the 2000 Formula 1 TT knew they had witnessed something and someone very special indeed, the stuff of folk lore.
Honda had originally planned to field its works runners on tuned Evo Fireblades, after the all conquering RC 45's had suffered a humiliating double defeat at the hands of David Jefferies on the V&M R1 Yamaha the previous year.
At least in '99 Honda could console themselves with the fact that the RC45 was a five year old pensioner about to be put to grass, they obviously didn't want to risk a repeat performance with the new v twin SP1, a full blown World Superbike spec machine no less - that would really have the top brass falling on the swords!
Joey however had other ideas.
It goes some way to show how much esteem Joey was held back in Hamamatsu Japan, that when he was un happy with the proposed set up they quickly arranged one of Paul Birds BSB SP1's for his disposal.
All was still not well, these had been way off the pace at the start of the season in the hands of James Toseland, as Joey was to find out at the Northwest 200, when he was way down on top speed compared to the Yamaha's of Jefferies and Rutter.
Joey for-warned it wouldn't stand a chance when they got to the Island.
Honda took this seriously, serious enough to ship in one of Aaron Slights ultra expensive WSB
spec engines, would it be enough?


It was David Jefferies who predictably set the early pace in practice, taking full advantage of the good weather he recorded a lap at over 123mph on the Monday evening, only the third session of the week.
As I've said before, Joey always rides at his own pace, and after twenty five racing years on the Isle Of Man he had never once cracked under pressure andhe wasn't going to start now.
This was a brand new bike, Honda never intended to race the SP1 on public roads, it's natural habitat was Suzuka or Donnington, not Bray Hill or Barregarrow!
It would take time to adapt it to the demands of the bumpy Mountain course, but time waits for no maun.

The shot opposite was taken at an early morning practice, this is MANX early, thats a 5am start, so early even the Sun wasn't up, Joey was up though, oh right up for it, even if he does look to have dozed off in the pic.

At the end of this lap he came straight back to the paddock, to the assembled Honda masses, and whilst there wasn't much waving of the arms or shouting, the body language said it all.
Joey took his infamous yellow Arai off and he looked stern, if you had no business to be there then you kept your distance, an autograph hunter who had waited patiently suddenly thought better of it.
Honda had even flown a Japanese technician in to look after the bike, what a picture his face would have been if Joey, hands on man that he is, had lept off the bike grabbed some spanners and started tinkering with the innards himself, but of course he never did.
A few hushed words to the mechanics, adjustments were made and then the booming V twin was fired up and he was away for another lap.
Joey looked more focussed and determined than ever before, it was great to watch.

If Race day had dawned dry and bright we might have been talking about a different result to the Formula 1 TT.
As it was the conditions were damp and unpredictable, this race would not be about breaking lap records, that would be later in the week.
Joey set off at a frantic pace, a man on a mission, he knew the roads better than anyone in the mixed conditions.
Glen Helen, nine miles later and Joey is two seconds up on David Jefferies with fellow V&M team mate Michael Rutter a further one second back in third.
A major slide had detuned Jefferies on that opening lap and he fell back a further four seconds by Ramsey Hairpin.
Joey by contrast was in his element, it was just like old times, when he came into the pits to refuel at the end of the lap two he was nine seconds up.




Even though they had completed a full distance for a GP or Superbike race, there was still two thirds of the way to go, and Jefferies was not beaten yet.
The Yamaha rider was picking up speed to close the gap to four seconds going into the fourth lap.
With his nose near the front Jefferies put in a big push to set the fastest lap of the race and edge ahead of Joey for the first time by a slender four seconds, but at what cost?
The normally bullet proof V&M machine was starting to smoke badly, the clutch finally shattered at Ballig, his race was over.






The fans waved Joey all round that sixth and final lap, by the time the bright red Honda came into view of the packed Grandstand there must have been thousands of lumps in throats and tears in eyes, who will ever forget it?
Certainly not Honda, it was Joey who was publicly thanking them for the faith they'd shown him, but in reality it was the other way around.
Joeys last lap pit board, two pints? a conservative estimate.






The Island was still recovering from post celebrations after the Formula 1 as Joey lined up for Mondays Lightweight 250 TT.
Conditions were far from ideal with low cloud sweeping the mountains, no fewer than eight delayed starts.
When the flag did drop and the 2-stroke smoke had finally cleared it was Joey who had taken the race by the scruff of its neck to lead current British 250 Champion and pre race favourite John Mcguiness by a full five seconds at the first commentry point at Glen Helen.






He and Dunlop both headed into the pits at the end of lap one, both riding identical kitted RS 250 Hondas, but last years winner and current lightweight lap record holder Mcguiness was struggling to hold onto yer maun, a water leak was sending the temperature ever higher and John was forced to pull in at Quarter Bridge on the third and last lap with a cracked cylinder head.






Joey wasn't about to crack though, he kept cool to chalk up a 25th victory on the Isle of Man Mountain circuit, the fans went into delirium and the champagne flowed.







The competion was lining up to put an end to the Dunlop party in the Ultra-Lightweight TT.
The problem was how?
Traditionally the closest race of the week there were at least five or six other riders all capable of taking the winners laurels, Robert Dunlop, Dennis McCullough, Gary Dynes, Darran Lyndsay and one Welsh man, Ian 'not too lucky now' Lougher.
The only time any of them got to see Joey was at the start, moments later as he sped away towards Quarter Bridge the race was as good as won, said Joey " I can usually tell by the bottom of Bray Hill on the first lap whether or not the bike is going well enough to win, if it is, it gives you the incentive to ride harder ".






Joey was now leading on the road as he screamed down the box for Ramsey Hairpin, his lead was 10 seconds over Lindsay and Robert who were tying for second.
At the end of lap one as the little No3 red RS 125 flashed past the Grandstand the lead had been further increased to 18 seconds over new second placed man Dennis McCullough.
Joey kept on pushing till Glen Helen on the last lap, he was nearly half a minute up on McCullough by this time and so he could afford to ease up for the final 28 miles to the chequered flag.
As Joey crossed the line it was time for another re-write of the record books, 26 wins, first rider to do a treble treble of TT wins, what a star, and didn't we know it.
" It seems to be a good week " was Joeys responce to it all.
Not only the undisputed King of the Mountain, but a master of understatement as always.




It had to happen sometime, Joey Dunlop was beaten for the first time in TT 2000.
The culprit was David Jefferies aboard the V&M R6 Yamaha.
As the shot opposite clearly shows Joey still gave it everything he had, but his earlier win in the day had taken a lot out of the mercurial forty eight years young publican.
Fourth place was a good result behind Jefferies, Adrian Archibald and Ian Lougher.
There was still the 'blue riband' Senior TT to come, surely not even Joey could make it four wins in a week, but after his displays so far, who would bet against it.







So finally, we come to the Senior TT, sadly Joey Dunlop MBE. OBE.'s last ever Isle of Man TT race.
After the original start had been postponed due to torrential rain the riders woke to bright sunshine and clear blue skys, David Jefferies prayers had been answered.
Joey retained his trick Honda SP1 from his Formula 1 victory, this time it sported the purple Vimto colours, lets say it though , Guiness would have been more appropriate with the amount of ale quaffed in Joeys honour over the last week!
Jefferies was unstopable this time, after sharing the lead with Joey at the first Glen Helen split he pulled away setting a new lap record of 125mph in the process.
The warm dry conditions suited the more powerful R1 Yamahas and Joey had to settle behind second placed Michael Rutter for a place on the podium.
Joeys last lap was also his fastest around the Island, 123.87mph, five seconds quicker than Jim Moodies 1999 outright lap record.
The peoples champion was later quoted " The SP1 is the way to go, its a big bike and I'm not really used to riding it yet, .it isn't quite how I want it at the moment, but we'll get there....."


The TT will never be the same again for me or a lot of other people, Joey WAS the TT, simple as that.
He spanned three generations from his first win in 1977 to his 26th and last victory of this year.
I grew up watching Joey, and come June 2002 it'll be strange not to see that familliar yellow helmet starting at number three.
Let no one dare label a future TT star ' the next Joey Dunlop '. There will never be another like him, how fortunate I am to have witnessed this remarkable man over the last twenty five years, what a sad and tragic end to the fairytale.....
Rest in peace.






Click on image to view larger size - click on top left corner to close.