The 500cc MV triple that Michael Dunlop will ride in the Senior Classic TT on Saturday is built by a remarkable family of three who create the bikes in modest workshops at their West Midlands home.
Grandfather David, who is in his seventies, son Mark, and David’s grandson Mitchell, 23, are devoted to building replicas of the MV triples raced by Giacomo Agostini in the sixties and seventies and the fours handled by Phil Read in the 1970s.
Such hand-crafted gems are normally bought by wealthy collectors as museum pieces or for use in gentle historic parades. But the Kay clan expect their bikes to be thrashed on the track. “We are there to win,” says Mitch. Their riders are told to rev the twin-cam, 12-valve engines to 12,500rpm - just as Ago did in the seventies.
Michael will find himself on board a 76bhp machine that weighs about 240lb and has a top speed of some 168mph. The Kay team, under their Black Eagle Racing banner, have already won two Classic TTs - the 350cc race in 2014 and the Senior last year.
Can Dunlop adapt his robust riding style to the MV? He has history on smaller classic bikes, performing well on Andy Molnar’s 350 and 500cc Manx Norton singles, although a seventh place in the 2013 Senior is his best result so far.
Classic bikes have no slipper clutch and rely on more of a corner-speed technique than Superbikes. Michael’s arrival on the grid makes an already exciting race even more unpredictable. And a Dunlop win - or victory by his team-mate Dean Harrison - could send more collectors to the West Midlands, seeking to buy one the Kay replicas for £135,000.