The starting grid of any road race is normally a scene of great activity and tension but nothing before or since could possibly match the drama enacted on a road in Northern Ireland in 2008.
It was not just about racing. In fact it had nothing to do with racing. It was was a family affair. The Dunlop family, brothers William and Michael.
Two days earlier their father Robert had been killed while practicing for the same event. The organisers, in their wisdom and having consulted medical officers, advised - indeed ordered - them not to race.
The grid was forming, the tension mounting when suddenly, pushing officials aside, Michael and William wheeled their bikes on to the road and took their places. It was an act of emotional defiance unprecedented in Irish road racing.
The crowd buzzed, the commentators hit top gear. To have had them removed would have caused a riot. In a matter of minutes it summed up the philosophy and the character of Michael Dunlop, a rebelliousness and stubbornness that has hallmarked his remarkable racing career.
All is told in Road Racer, the story so far of a chubby youngster, one of three brothers, who became a no-holds-barred 14-time TT winner. It is a story of adversity and tragedy, battles against bankruptcy, hero worship, and the pluses and minuses of having the most famous family name in Ireland.
Mick Chatterton, former road racer and family friend of the Dunlops, sums up the book:
Anyone not deeply involved in road racing that reads the recently released biography by Michael Dunlop could be excused for finding some of it hard to believe. Could anyone who had suffered the loss of their beloved famous father Robert and uncle Joey to the sport they loved, really overcome such adversity?
Could anyone through sheer determination, self-belief and family pride become one of the greatest road racers ever seen? Michael Dunlop most certainly did just that.
Being well acquainted with the Dunlops over the past 35 years or so I can vouch for the authenticity of the vast majority of the book’s content. Of course Michael learned all about determination and self-belief from his dad after seeing him fight literally crippling injuries , suffer excruciating pain on a daily basis and overcome other obstacles thrown in his path by race officials and medical teams, over a three-year period after his 1994 TT accident, to stop him racing again. And it was not just medical problems. As the book illustrates, there were huge financial challenges which the family had to face head on.
Robert overcame them all and with drastically modified controls because of his injuries, which meant he basically rode one handed, he returned to the TT in 1997 unbelievably finishing thirrd in the 125 race. He won the 1998 race and returned to his position as top 125 rider on the Irish roads. All this no doubt contributed towards Michael's never give in mindset we see today.
Moving on to the start of his own career in the book Michael is very honest about the stupid mistakes and highly dangerous moves he made before he knew better. Many wouldn’t be too keen to admit such things. As his dad once told me, even from the very beginning Michael only rode his way, not the way somebody told him, no matter who the somebody was. Even his father who was his hero.
As we all know he progressed rapidly and it soon became a regular occurrence to see Robert, Michael and William on the podium on the Irish roads. Then, of course, in 2008 came the devastating loss of Robert on that fateful Thursday night at the NW200. The way that Michael and William dealt with that has been well documented, but privately it was understandably a very difficult and sad time with the future unsure.
In the years since then of course Michael has become a multi TT winner and will not ride any machine that he feels he cannot win on as more than one team owner has discovered! This was demonstrated when he walked out on a works ride a few years ago, just two days before the first race. That takes some guts...
Though he may give the impression of being hard and uncaring about others, nothing could be further from the truth. There are quite a few boys in the Irish racing community who have benefitted from Michael’s generosity after an accident or mishap. That's the way he is.
Road Racer is published by Michael O'Mara Books and available in selected high street stores, including Waterstones, at £20.