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Michael Dunlop: The man who lost a brother, father & uncle to biking, but races on

In a quiet churchyard in rural Northern Ireland lie three graves bearing one name: Dunlop.
Joey, Robert and William. Buried next to each other by the same minister, all killed on two wheels pursuing the sport that made them and broke them.
For more than 40 years, two sets of brothers have dominated the dangerous, thrilling and brilliant world of motorcycle road racing.
First came Joey and Robert, and then Robert's two sons, William and Michael - who races on.
Less than a year since his older brother William was killed in a race just outside Dublin, Michael Dunlop is back on the roads of Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man, hustling a £70,000 superbike at speeds of up to 200mph.
From the outside, you might wonder why.
Why doesn't Michael hang up his leathers after losing a brother, a father and an uncle?

It was a last-minute decision. In May 2018, William Dunlop pulled out of the Isle of Man TT to spend time with his partner Janine, who was six months pregnant with their second child and having difficulties.
The TT in early June dominates the calendar for road racers - but William was sure he was doing the right thing. Family had to come first.
William had, understandably, struggled to truly enjoy the sport since his father Robert was killed in an accident in 2008. Some say he was planning to walk away from racing.
He and Janine spent a weekend away with their daughter Ella.
"It was the most lovely weekend; it was so relaxed," Janine says. "As a family it was so lovely to spend proper quality time together.
"When William had got back into a better head space, when he said he was going back to another race that weekend, I didn't even feel like I had to worry. At hospital too, things were looking better with the pregnancy, and the morning he set off to the race he was on such good form.
"And then, obviously, things end up the way they ended up."
William Dunlop was killed at the Skerries 100 road race just outside of Dublin on 7 July 2018. He was 32. A mechanical failure caused oil from his bike to pour on to his rear wheel at huge speed. He was thrown from his bike and died instantly.
Tragically, he would never meet his second daughter Willa, born two months later.
"He was a natural as a racer but goodness he was a natural as a father," says Janine. "Being a dad helped heal William in the loss of his own dad.
"I can see their daddy in the two girls we have. I know that is only going to develop and get stronger as they get older, and it is beautiful and it is heartbreaking in equal measures, because he was denied the opportunity to do something that I believe he was born to do, and that was be a dad.
"Racing came before I did and it was very much ingrained in who William was. People have told me that his style, the way he rode; it just all seemed very effortless. So I can imagine the thought of giving something like that up would have been incredibly difficult and certainly not something I was going to ask him to do.
"However I could see, especially when he became a daddy, I could see a shift in William."
Liam Beckett is a close family friend of the Dunlops. He helped Robert throughout his career and saw William and Michael grow up to be world-class talents. He describes William's death as "unthinkable, unimaginable".
He says: "William was seriously contemplating stopping racing, I know that for a fact. He was so engrossed in his young family that that season would have finished him. Sadly he didn't get the chance to step away.
"I was heartbroken. I was there when he was born and it's not right that he should be away before me. For him to be taken at such a young age - I was full of deep sadness and anger, but who could I blame? We all know the risks.

"Maybe I was as much to blame myself, for being part of racing and a big supporter of road racing when something like this could happen again."
Beckett is working with William's mother Louise to look into ways they can make the sport safer - including restarting some of the smaller races in Ireland so young riders don't have to "find their limits" at particularly unforgiving events like the TT.
But as the Dunlop story shows, it's not only young riders starting out who are vulnerable.

Joey Dunlop remains the most successful rider in Isle of Man TT history with 26 race wins. Third on the list with 18 is his nephew, Michael, who won three races last year and will expect to be back among the victors this year. The Dunlop name is never far from the top step on the famous island circuit.
A reluctant superstar, Joey was a race winner across several generations who was awarded an OBE in 1996 for his out-of-season hobby of filling up his van with food and blankets and driving to orphanages in Romania, Bosnia and Albania. All done with a minimum of fuss and fanfare.
He was killed at the age of 48 while competing at an obscure road race in Estonia on 2 July 2000. He collided with trees after being thrown from his 125cc bike in the rain.
Despite being twice the age of some of his rivals, just a month earlier he had won three races at the TT, a fortnight of glory that suggested he was once again back at the top of his sport.
He had spent his last night sleeping across the front seats of his van, preferring that to the hotel suite that had been laid on for him.
Joey's death shook the world of motorcycling and brought Northern Ireland to a standstill. It was estimated more than 50,000 people attended his funeral, from as far afield as Australia, Japan and South Africa. So many stood in the tiny country lanes around Dunlop's modest bungalow that it took the undertakers an hour to carry him through the crowds to complete the mile-long trip to where he is buried.
Rev John Kirkpatrick buried Joey Dunlop. Years later he would bury Joey's brother, Robert, and Robert's son, William. Three Dunlop funerals, all at Garryduff Presbyterian Church, all carried out by the same man.
Kirkpatrick's office overlooks the Portrush golf course but despite having a membership he has never played there. Instead - you may have guessed - he is a lifelong biker who grew up watching Joey before becoming the pastor of his local church in 1987.
"When you're in motorcycle sport, life-and-death issues are very real, very close," he says.
"You have friends who are killed. In that sport, all of us who work in it have been there. I have been chaplain for 26 years with the motorcycle union of Ireland and unfortunately we have conducted around 30 funerals for riders.

"Just think about that. Young riders. Sudden deaths, families. Lots of questions.
"In the back of my mind I had thought, I hope I never have to deal with Joey's funeral. I have thought of that with every rider. You can't not.
"And now I have done three of them for the same family. But when I committed myself to do this I committed to do whatever it involves. That's the mindset I have. I committed to serve this sport and I know there will be lots of days when you say 'why is it like this?'
"It's in my head that whatever happens, happens, and I will meet that when it comes."
The greatest TT racer to date died in 2000. But his legacy and name live on. His brother Robert had emerged from the shadows of Joey's success to become a world-class road racer in his own right. He too would meet a tragic end.

This is about 2/3 of the full article.
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