Michael Dunlop says he may be going into this year’s Isle of Man TT as something of an underdog but has warned his rivals ‘I’ve a lot more left in the tank’.
Dunlop moved onto 18 victories last year following a Superbike, Supersport and Lightweight treble, but much of the spotlight centred on the record lap times set by Senior TT winner Peter Hickman and Dean Harrison.
Bradford man Harrison had stormed into a comfortable lead in the Superbike race on his Silicone Engineering Kawasaki following a blistering starting-start lap at 134.432mph – the first ever 134mph TT lap.
However, a clutch issue with his ZX-10RR thwarted his prospects of a maiden win the blue riband class and Dunlop swept through to claim his 16th triumph around the Mountain Course on the Tyco BMW.
In the showpiece Senior, Harrison and Hickman set a red-hot pace and it seemed as though the Kawasaki rider would make amends for the disappointment of his retirement from the Superbike TT as he led on every lap.
Yet in a dramatic finale , Hickman produced the first ever 135mph lap on the sixth and final circuit on the Smiths Racing BMW, narrowly edging out a dejected Harrison by two seconds to win the big race of the week.
Dunlop, who struggled with set-up issues with his S1000RR, was a long way back in fourth place.
Perfect conditions throughout practice and race week in 2018 saw seven lap records tumble and although Hickman and Harrison have raised the bar overall, Dunlop has warned against writing him off.
The Ballymoney man, who attended the official TT launch show at the Villa Marina in Douglas on Tuesday, said: “I think there is a lot more to come and I don’t think anyone will be willing to push as hard as I am, so there’s definitely a lot more left in the tank.
“We’ll keep pushing and I think now that I’m a very small fish in a big pond. I’m the underdog now and I don’t think anyone rates me anymore, but we’re all right and we’ll be ticking along in the background, so you never know what will happen.”
Both Hickman and Harrison compete in the British Superbike Championship, which has become a growing trend for many of the leading international road racers.
Dunlop, though, says he hails from a different background after honing his skills on narrow country roads at the Irish national meetings and admits short circuit racing is not at the top of his agenda.
“The short circuits were always a bit funny for me because I don’t really do them. We were born and reared around the back roads and road racing was road racing then,” he said.
“Now, the international level has become probably more like a BSB round and back in the day you had real road racers as such, but now you have BSB riders that have adapted to both and it is them at the front of the game.
“For the purpose of track time I’ll go and do some BSB rounds but for me I find it a little bit hard because of the tyre choice, as we run different tyres on the roads compared to the short circuits,” Dunlop added.
“I’ve spent a long career on Dunlop tyres and when you try to switch back you get a different feel, so I struggle a bit with that on the circuits.
“The short circuits are mainly about track time for me and I just need bike time really.”
The 29-year-old set a new lap record in the Supersport class at the TT last year at 129.197mph and also established a new benchmark of 122.750mph on the Paton as he won the Lightweight TT for the first time.
Dunlop’s quickest lap currently stands at 133.962mph, which he set on his way to victory in the 2016 Senior TT on the Hawk BMW.