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ISLE OF MAN TT CHAMPION MICHAEL DUNLOP BOOKS CEMETERY CIRCUIT
The stars always come out for the famous Cemetery Circuit motorcycle races on the public roads of Whanganui but this year “the biggest star in the street-racing galaxy” will be making his first trip to New Zealand.
Northern Irishman Michael Dunlop, a man who has been described as the “best motorcycle street racer in the world”, will be the major drawcard for the popular annual Boxing Day races in Whanganui.
With Dunlop’s welcome inclusion in the day’s programme, the world-renowned Cemetery Circuit races will feature the rider who has been setting alight the equally-famous Isle of Man race circuit and who once again ruled supreme on the small island in the Irish Sea this year, achieving an eye-watering average speed of more than 215km/h on the treacherous and often-fatal mountain course.
The 27-year-old Dunlop is the latest in a long line of exciting, headline-grabbing athletes drawn to New Zealand’s tricky Cemetery Circuit in recent years, with Britain’s Guy Martin, Liechtenstein rider Horst Saiger and British women’s champion Maria Costello just a few of the other star attractions Cemetery Circuit organiser Allan “Flea” Willacy has managed to entice to New Zealand in recent years.
The Cemetery Circuit event on December 26 will again be the third and final round of the popular annual Suzuki Series, which kicks off at Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park near Taupo on December 4, then takes riders to Manfeild for round two on December 11, before its traditional Boxing Day finale on the public streets of Whanganui.
The highly-respected Dunlop will also race at Manfeild’s round two of the Suzuki Series, although it is the Robert Holden Memorial Trophy, given each years to the Cemetery Circuit feature race winner, that he craves most.
Wellington’s Robert Holden is a Kiwi road-racing legend, winning numerous titles before his fatal crash at the Isle of Man in May 1996. A former Isle of Man winner, Holden was 37 when he died and his legacy lives on with a special memorial plaque on one of the corners at the Cemetery Circuit and with the event’s most prestigious trophy named in his honour.
Meanwhile, Willacy said Australian motard riders and more solos and sidecar racers from the UK, including World Champion/IOMTT winners, were still to be announced for this year’s event.
The Suzuki Series Formula 1 class champion in 2014, Saiger, from the small principality of Liechtenstein, has also indicated he will return this year. However, much of the spectator focus this year is likely to be on Dunlop, who will choose between racing a Suzuki GSX-R1000 superbike or the “more upright street-style” Suzuki GSX-S1000, supplied by Suzuki New Zealand.
From Ballymoney, in Northern Ireland, Dunlop is a part of a legendary motorcycle racing dynasty. He is the brother of fellow world-class rider William Dunlop, son of the late and great Robert Dunlop and nephew of the late former world champion Joey Dunlop. A 13-time winner around the Isle of man, Michael Dunlop is the current solo-machine lap record holder for the course, set during the 2016 Senior TT in June, going around in a hot time of 16 minutes 53.929 seconds at an average speed of 215.591km/h.
Dunlop was the first rider in the history of the Isle of Man TT to achieve a lap of the course in less than 17 minutes.
“The impending arrival of Michael Dunlop for the Suzuki Series is fantastic news,” said Willacy.
“He is a true superstar of the sport and has been described as the best street road-racer in the world, with a total 22 TT podiums.”