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2017 images of Michael Dunlop competing in the Donegal Rally

TT winner Michael Dunlop switches to Rally

Jun 192017

We all need a change of pace sometimes, right? But what if your normal working day involves 200mph on race-bred motorcycles, conquering the longest and gnarliest road race in the world? Well then you switch things up to four wheels and hit the stage rallies in your free time.

15-time Isle of Man TT winner, and fastest man to ever lap the legendary 37.73 mile Snaefell Mountain Course, Michael Dunlop, did just that last weekend; trading his fire breathing Bennetts Suzuki GSXR1000R Superbike for his personal rally specification 1977 Ford Escort Mk.2.

In an extraordinary two-to-four wheel crossover, Dunlop finished an impressive 18th out of 75 drivers in the hotly contested national category, at the 2017 Donegal International Rally - round four of the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship.

The result is made even more impressive, given the ever-changing wet-to-dry conditions encountered over the 20 stage, 3-day rally. Not to mention that this is Dunlop's only competitive four wheel event of the season so far. 

"Overall the weekend has been great - the tweaks we've made to the set-up were more to suit me more than anything," explained Michael, just after Sunday's final stage. "I drifted wide and pushed too much in a few places that maybe I shouldn't, and had a small crash on Saturday but nothing of consequence. We were really quick today [Sunday] and came up from about mid-pack to 18th. I said to Rob [Dunlop's co-driver] that we'll be quick enough on the final day, and sure enough that's what happened!


"It's a lot easier here, there's much less pressure compared to the motorbike races,” continued Michael. "Everybody helps everybody at this event and we are all here to have great craic and enjoy the rally. I've always been into my motorsport, and this is something I've had my eye on to try for a long time.


"I've had the Mk.2 for around three years now - and built it from scratch. I have a great relationship with the team at Den Motorsport and they helped me pull the car together. It's nice to have something old and classic. I don't talk about the specifics of the build too much as mine is a little bit different to other cars! Needless to say we built a fantastic car with Den Motorsport and if you want a Mk.2 - those are the guys to go and see.


“Racing a car compared to a bike is quite different actually - in the rally car I've got a passenger with me, whereas on the bike you are on your own. It's a team effort even when you are out on the road. My biggest problem with this is that I don't do enough miles in the car - but we keep pushing as hard as we can. I just need more miles and have more time in the car. Hopefully we can put together a bit more money for this and do more in the future.”


Full results for the 2017 Donegal National Rally are available, here. Couldn't make it out to Ireland for the rally? Then don't forget to watch out for Michael at this year's Goodwood Festival of Speed in the UK, just under a fortnight’s time.