Ballymoney’s Gary Dunlop claimed his maiden Irish road race rostrum on the weekend of the 17th anniversary of his legendary father Joey’s tragic accident in Estonia in 2000.
Gary, who only made his debut on the roads last year at the age of 32, led the 125GP/Moto3 race at the Skerries 100 near Dublin on Saturday before eventually finishing as the runner-up behind Derek McGee, who was riding the Joey’s Bar Honda.
Dunlop admitted he was disappointed to miss out on the chance to mark the 17th anniversary of Joey’s death with his first victory, but he was satisfied nonetheless to be on the podium.
“I led the race for the first three laps and it felt a bit different: I was thinking, ‘When are the rest of these boys going to come past me’,” Dunlop told the News Letter.
“Derek got by me and then I started to take cramp, which meant I had trouble getting down through the gears. It sounds like I’m making excuses I suppose, but then Derek broke me and I began to drop back.
“It started to mizzle a bit before they red-flagged the race because of the rain and I just wasn’t willing to push when it was like that.
“In fairness Derek slowed down quite a bit as well and there’s no point in pushing when the conditions are like that,” he added.
“I was happy enough with second but a bit gutted at the same time because it would’ve been pretty special to win it on that weekend, but it was Derek’s first win for us on the Joey’s Bar Honda so I’m delighted about that.”
Nigel Moore claimed third behind the pair and Dunlop had praise for both of his fellow podium finishers.
“Derek is brilliant to ride with and Nigel as well, they are so smooth and safe. In fact Nigel is probably the most underrated rider out there. He was on the slowest bike of us all but he’s such a great rider,” he said.
“I was on the Harp Farm Honda this weekend because William [Dunlop] was away at Goodwood, so I wasn’t riding his bike at Skerries.
“The bike never missed a beat and thanks to everyone involved. I rode the Harp Farm bike at the Ulster Grand Prix last year when William’s blew up and they’ve been brilliant to me.”
Dunlop will return to the Southern 100 on the Isle of Man next week, when he will ride the Joey’s Bar Moto3 Honda.
Cullybackey’s Sam Wilson rode the bike this season but on Monday, Dunlop confirmed he had parted company from the team.
“Sam has left the team and I’m going to ride the Moto3 bike at the Southern,” he said.
“Derek McGee is going over as well on the 125 Honda, so we’re looking forward to it and it should be good.
“We’re going to try and bring someone in to ride the Moto3 bike at Armoy and the Ulster Grand Prix.”