Michael Dunlop, the 21-time Isle of Man TT winner, will compete in this year’s Superbike and Senior TT races with the Hawk Racing team and the new Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade. It will be the first time Dunlop has ridden a Honda in Superbike and Senior racing since 2013, when he was part of the Factory Honda TT Legends team. He won the opening Superbike race and finished second to teammate John McGuinness in the exciting Senior race.
A successful partnership continues
Dunlop has since ridden either BMW or Suzuki machines in the 1000cc races, mainly for the Hawk Racing team of Stuart and Steve Hicken. The combination has scored a number of race wins and podiums over the years. Hawk Racing has raced the Suzuki GSX-R1000R for the past six years, but recently announced a switch to the Honda brand for their British Superbike Championship campaign. The change in the TT team is now also being made.
The Hawk-Dunlop partnership began in 2014 when they celebrated a respectable one-two finish in the Senior race with BMW, giving the manufacturer its first Senior race win in 75 years. The Hicken family continued to support Dunlop in 2015 after being dropped by the Milwaukee Yamaha team during qualifying week. They then took second place in the Superstock race.
The combination was successful again in 2016 with a Superbike Senior double victory. Dunlop became the first rider to complete the 37.73-mile (60.72 km) Mountain Course in under 17 minutes, eventually raising the absolute lap record to 133.962 mph (215.59 km/h) on the Hawk Racing BMW S1000RR. In 2017, Dunlop switched to Suzuki, and despite the GSX-R1000R being a brand new model with no race experience at the TT, Dunlop and Hawk Racing again won the Senior race.
A renewed collaboration
Dunlop and the Hawk Racing team parted ways after their 2017 victory, but they found themselves working together again in 2022 after Dunlop’s deal with the PBM Ducati team fell through just weeks before the event. Despite the late switch and lack of testing, Dunlop was able to finish third in the opening race of the Superbike class.
Preparations are crucial
Commenting on the news, Michael said, “It’s good to get my plans sorted in plenty of time this year. You only have to look at the other boys to see how important it is to be working with a team you’re familiar with and to be up to speed well before you even get to the TT. The pace is so high right now, you’ve got to be right at the top of your game from the get go.”
“In truth, preparations for last year were not what they should have been. Steve and the boys came in to dig me out of a hole at the last minute but we still managed a good result. Before then [in 2019] I was still struggling quite bad with [a wrist] injury, so this year will be the first time in a long while where I’m both fully fit and I’m on a bike I’m set with. It’s good, I’m excited for it and I think we can put on a good show.”
Hawk Racing team manager Steve Hicken also commented on the announcement, “We’ve enjoyed a lot of success with Michael over the years including the podium we managed last year, despite the challenge we faced in getting him a bike ready at the very last minute. Fortunately, we’ve a little more time to prepare this year and it’ll be good to actually go testing this time.”
“The Honda is new to us and new to Michael, but we both believe it’s the best bike to be on right now. It’s also not the first time we’ve worked with him with a new bike, and if we can carry on with that previous run of form in these circumstances then we’ll be in a good place.”
Hoping for a sixth title
Both Dunlop and the Hicken family are hoping that the switch to the Honda Fireblade will help them get back to the top step of the TT podium and win their sixth title together. It is likely that Dunlop will also run its own MD Racing Honda in the Superstock races. The union of Hawk Racing and Dunlop has proven in the past that they can be an unbeatable combination, and their fans will be eager to see what they achieve this year.
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