The Dunlop Dynasty Book Review [Rider’s Library]

The Dunlop Dynasty Book Review: Motorcycle Racing
William Dunlop (left) on a Honda dices with Yamaha-mounted Michael Dunlop during the Supersport race at the Skerries 100 in 2011.

Among the legendary names in professional motorcycle road racing, most of the greatest names refer only to one individual, not multiple greats from the same family—not so with Northern Ireland’s Dunlop family. The story has the scope and scale to require remarkable skill and experience to tell it properly. Stephen Davison is just such an author. He has been a professional photographer and writer covering road racing for over 30 years. He is the road racing correspondent for Motor Cycle News. Davison has authored several books, and The Dunlop Dynasty – The World’s Greatest Road Racing Family is his tenth.

In addition to his compelling narrative, Davison drives the Dunlop story with vivid racing action images and candid shots of the individuals and great events that take the reader up close at trackside, in the paddock, and into the family homes.

Davison explains that the motorcycle road racing dynasty of the Dunlop family had humble beginnings in the 1960s. William Joseph “Joey” Dunlop, their brother Jim Dunlop, their brother-in-law Mervyn Robinson, and Frank Kennedy joined forces, becoming known as the Armoy Armada.

The Dunlop Dynasty Book Review: Motorcycle Racing Family
Joey Dunlop on his Honda leads Robert, his Norton-mounted brother, during the 1991 North West 200.

That quartet competed in Ireland’s races conducted on public roads while Joey Dunlop rapidly moved up to the F750 World Series, Grand Prix racing, the Daytona 200, and the Isle of Man TT, where he posted his first victory in 1977. Davison’s book underscores the incredible risks motorcycle racers, their families, and friends take in their quest for racing success.

The first tragedy struck the Armoy Armada with the death of Frank Kennedy at Northern Ireland’s North West 200 in 1979. The following season, Mervyn Robinson was killed in a crash also at the same race. By 1982, a serious racing leg injury forced Jim Dunlop’s retirement from the track. By that time, the youngest Dunlop, Robert, had begun racing.

Joey Dunlop’s racing success was extensive, winning five Formula One World Championships, racking up 26 TT wins, which included several lap speed records on the Mountain Course, and dozens of victories and podium finishes in the North West 200, Ulster Grand Prix, Tandragee 100, Killinchy 150, Temple 100, and other races in Ireland and around the world.

Joey Dunlop lost his life in a crash at a race in Estonia in 2000. Tens of thousands turned out for his funeral in Ballymoney.

Joey Dunlop lost his life in a crash at an obscure race in Estonia on July 2, 2000, at the age of 48. His life ended doing what he was born to do, and his legend lives on. Davison documents the outpouring of grief with an image of thousands who honored him during his funeral. As Davison records, Dunlop’s legacy was a new generation of racers from the Dunlop family and many other racers he inspired but never knew.

The Dunlop dynasty continued despite Joey’s passing. Three Dunlop cousins followed Robert into racing—Sam, William, and Gary, who launched his career in 2001. A Dunlop cousin, Paul Robinson, son of Mervyn Robinson, was also in active competition. By 2006, yet another Dunlop would take to the track. Robert’s youngest son, Michael, became the most successful of the new generation.

As of 2024, only Michael Dunlop continued in competition from the 21st-century generation of the Dunlop family.

Early in the 21st century, the Dunlop family legacy of fierce competition and victories continued, as did the high price of the high-risk profession. In 2008, Robert Dunlop lost his life in a practice session crash for the North West 200. Ten years later, a practice crash at the Skerries 100 Road Races took the life of Williams Dunlop. Currently, only Michael Dunlop continues to road race.

Davison’s The Dunlop Dynasty – The World’s Greatest Road Racing Family tells the story with clarity, energy, and poignancy. The book is a moving portrait of the Dunlop family’s courage, commitment, and sacrifices. It enables you to experience the triumph and tragedy the Dunlop family experienced over more than six decades in what is perhaps the most over-the-top professional sport in the world.

The Dunlop Dynasty Fast Facts

  • Full title: The Dunlop Dynasty – The World’s Greatest Road Racing Family
  • Author: Stephen Davison
  • Format: hardcover; 232 pages; 9” x 10”; 250+ color and black & white images
  • Published: 2023
  • Publisher: Merrion Press
  • ISBN: Print, 978-1-78537-482-1; digital, 978-1-78537-483-8

The Dunlop Dynasty Price: €27.99