Remembering William Dunlop

08th July 2018
James Charman

The first thing you noticed when meeting William Dunlop was just how quiet he was. Here was a man who would ride a 1,000cc monster around the most gruelling racetrack in the world, reaching speeds in excess of 200mph with front doors and bus stops flying past in the blink of an eye, yet you wouldn’t know it if you met him in the street.


William sadly will only ever have competed in one season here at Goodwood, but in that time he proved he would go on to be a firm fan favourite. First arriving with his younger brother, fellow road-racing star, Michael, William made his Festival of Speed presented by Mastercard debut in 2017. Celebrating the legendary Irish dynasty, William & Michael were on hand alongside a collection of their father Robert’s, and uncle Joey’s racing machines.

While it was clear that William was delighted to be at the Festival, it was also clear that being in the limelight was not something that he particularly found comfortable. Across the weekend it was Michael who did much of the talking, while William was often found seeking solace in a quiet corner – be it in the Drivers’ Club or in the shade of the trees at the corner of the Assembly Area.

As the weekend went along, you could see William get more comfortable with the unique nature of FOS, and his wheelie in front of the House and up past Molecomb on the final run of Sunday really gave the fans something to remember.

It was two months later, though, at the Revival where he really left his mark at Goodwood. The big two-wheeled story going in to the Revival weekend was Michael and William sharing an MV Agusta in quite possibly one of the most fearsome pairings to ever grace a Barry Sheene Memorial grid.

Unfortunately, the bike was somewhat temperamental and just one lap after Michael handed over to William, he was on the side of the circuit with a blown engine. What happened next showed the spirit of the Ballymoney boys – faced with no bike to run on Sunday, the two were offered a Manx Norton from fellow competitor Andy Clews.

With no testing, no practice and only jumping on the bike for the first time for the warmup lap, William took the start. Ending the first lap down in 13th, William pulled off a famous Dunlop display, moving up to third before swapping seats with Michael.

Such was his enjoyment on the Manx, William missed the end of the pit window and ended up costing the pair 10 seconds in post-race infringements – something Michael didn’t let him forget on the journey home!

William will go down in the history books as one of the most accomplished road racers of all time, with well over 100 victories to his name, including seven Ulster Grand Prix successes and four trips to the top step at the North West 200. Above all of this, though, he will be remembered as the quiet, humble racer from County Antrim. A family man who just happened to be pretty handy on a motorcycle.

Although his time at Goodwood may have been cruelly short, William left his mark on the Estate with the fabulous display of Revival spirit and will be sorely missed as the riders take to the grid for the Barry Sheene Memorial Trophy in September. All of our thoughts are with his family and friends at this time.

  • William Dunlop

  • Revival

  • FOS

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