DUNLOP UNVEILS PLANS WITH HAWK RACING AND HONDA
Michael Dunlop and Hawk Racing will resume their highly-successful partnership at this year’s Isle of Man TT Races, with the 21-time race winner campaigning the team’s new Honda CBR1000RR-R Fireblade in the six-lap Superbike and Senior TT Races.
It will be the first time that Dunlop has ridden a Honda in the headline Superbike and Senior Races since 2013 when he was part of the factory Honda TT Legends squad. That year saw him win the opening Superbike Race and finish second to team-mate John McGuinness in a thrilling Senior encounter.
Since then, the 34-year old has ridden either BMW or Suzuki machinery in the 1000cc races, primarily for the Stuart and Steve Hicken’s Hawk Racing team, with the combination taking a series of race wins and podium finishes through the years.
The Hawk Racing team have run the Suzuki GSX-R1000R for the last six years but recently announced a switch to the Honda brand for their British Superbike Championship campaign, and their TT plans have duly followed suit.
The Hawk-Dunlop partnership began in 2014 when they took a resounding Superbike-Senior double with BMW, giving the manufacturer their first Senior Race victory in 75 years. The Hicken family then stepped in during TT 2015 after Dunlop split from the Milwaukee Yamaha team part way through qualifying week, going on to take a second-place finish in that year’s Superstock Race.
It's the first time in ten years that the 21-time TT winner will contest on a Honda Fireblade
The combination was back to its best in 2016 with another emphatic Superbike-Senior double as Dunlop became the first rider to lap the 37.73-mile Mountain Course in under 17 minutes, eventually increasing the outright lap record to 133.962mph on the Hawk Racing BMW S1000RR.
A switch to Suzuki followed in 2017 and although the GSX-R1000R was a brand-new model with no pedigree at the TT, Dunlop and Hawk Racing defied the odds to claim another Senior Race victory.
The pairing went their separate ways after their momentous win but were reunited once again in 2022 after Dunlop’s deal to ride for the PBM Ducati team fell through just weeks before the event. The late change and a lack of testing dented their prospects, but a third place in the opening Superbike Race was a highly-impressive result under the circumstances.
Dunlop says "I'm excited for it. We'll put on a good show..."
Speaking of the news, Michael said:
“It’s good to get my plans sorted in plenty of time this year. You only have to look at the other boys to see how important it is to be working with a team you’re familiar with and to be up to speed well before you even get to the TT. The pace is so high right now, you’ve got to be right at the top of your game from the get go.”
“In truth, preparations for last year were not what they should have been. Steve and the boys came in to dig me out of a hole at the last minute but we still managed a good result. Before then [in 2019] I was still struggling quite bad with [a wrist] injury, so this year will be the first time in a long while where I’m both fully fit and I’m on a bike I’m set with. It’s good, I’m excited for it and I think we can put on a good show.”
Hawk Racing are confident the new CBR1000RR-R will once again put them on the top step at TT 2023
Steve Hicken, Hawk Racing Team Manager commented:
“We’ve enjoyed a lot of success with Michael over the years including the podium we managed last year, despite the challenge we faced in getting him a bike ready at the very last minute. Fortunately, we’ve a little more time to prepare this year and it’ll be good to actually go testing this time.”
"The Honda is new to us and new to Michael, but we both believe it’s the best bike to be on right now. It’s also not the first time we’ve worked with him with a new bike, and if we can carry on with that previous run of form in these circumstances then we’ll be in a good place.”
Both Dunlop, who is expected to ride his own MD Racing Honda in the Superstock Races, and the Hicken family are hoping the move to the Honda Fireblade will see them get back on to the top step of a ‘big bike’ TT podium and claim their sixth title together.