Michael Dunlop’s frank account of the tremendous adversity he has faced on his path to the very top of motorcycle road racing will make uncomfortable reading for many in his sensational new autobiography, Road Racer: It’s In My Blood.
As a teenager in the early throes of his career, the Ballymoney man held the hand of his dying father Robert as he lay in a pool of blood following a practice crash at the North West 200 in 2008.
Less than 48 hours later, Dunlop won the 250cc race to pay the ultimate tribute to his Dad’s memory.
It was an astonishing achievement by a special rider destined for greatness.
In the ensuing years, Dunlop has become a prolific winner on the biggest stages in road racing, with his 13 victories at the Isle of Man TT – halfway to his uncle Joey’s all-time record – already securing his place in the hall of fame.
His racing exploits are renowned, but away from the spotlight much less is known about the man behind the helmet.
This book changes that. From triumph to tragedy, personal struggles and financial turmoil, the 27-year-old opens up about his private life for the first time ever.
With characteristic predictability, he adopted an all or nothing approach to his first autobiography, preferring to tell it straight and pulling few punches.
In an interview with the News Letter, Dunlop said: “People have always asked me stuff about my private life throughout my career and I always just passed it off. They probably knew about it anyway, but they just wanted to hear it from my mouth.
“There is a lot of private stuff in the book but I wanted to tell the truth. I went through a lot and at the time of my dad’s accident, I was only 18 or 19.
“I was only a young lad and it hasn’t been the easiest thing to talk about, but this is something I live with every day of my life. I didn’t just have to relive this stuff for one moment when I was doing the book – it’s there all the time,” he added.
“Most of the people out there know what I’ve achieved and they don’t need to lift up a book to hear about what I’ve done because they already know that. I haven’t become famous to tell people how good I am – that makes no odds to me.
“I wanted to do well for myself and the book isn’t about me saying ‘look how wonderful I am’.
“I did this book because I wanted people to see that it’s not all plain sailing and living in the glory.”
Dunlop, who will ride the new Bennetts Suzuki this year at the international road races, says few people understand the all-consuming commitment required to scale road racing’s peak – and stay there.
“People say ‘I’d love to be him’ but I doubt there would many who’d want to go through what I’ve been through to get to this point. It’s not an easy ride by any means.
“From the outside looking in, it might seem fantastic, but is it really? Sometimes you just want to be left alone but it can even be hard to go out and buy a pint of milk sometimes without somebody stopping you or wanting a photo.
“It’s not all about winning races and trophies, making money or lying in bed for as long as you want and living life to the full all the time.
“Don’t get me wrong, I live a full life in every way, but sometimes this game works for you and others it goes against you.”
o Dunlop will be signing copies of his book at Easons, 40-46 Donegal Place, in Belfast on Saturday (April 8) from 1pm.