Michael Dunlop has revealed he will line up for the 2020 North West 200 and the blue riband Isle of Man TT aboard a Ducati Panigale V4 R prepared by Paul Bird Motorsport.
In an unexpected move, 19-time TT race winner Dunlop will be factory supported in 2020 through the ultra-successful British Superbike Championship outfit – title winners in 2019 – alongside his eponymous MD Racing efforts in the other classes.
One of the most successful riders to have ever competed on the TT, Dunlop has spent the last two seasons racing with TAS Racing (Tyco) BMW.
A winner in 2018 with the outfit, Dunlop parted ways with the team at the end of 2019 after the TAS team lost its official BMW Motorrad backing to rivals Smiths Racing, led by Peter Hickman.
Having revealed earlier this month he was still sourcing a Superbike ride, Dunlop wrote on Facebook he’d almost given up hope on securing a deal until he began discussions with PBM.
“Must say really excited with the new challenge over the last while hadn’t much of a plan on the go some talks with people but didn’t really know what I should do or if I was going to do much at all.
“Then after last weekend I realised a few things and thought screw it let’s stare it in the face. I’d like to thank all the guys at PBM for all the hard work they are now going threw to get the bike built and ready for racing. Also to Aaron for getting me back going again after all the operations long road but he kept at it and to my sponsor for making it happen.” [sic]
Despite Ducati’s pedigree in Superbike competition, the deal will come as a surprise to some given its machinery is generally avoided for road racing events due to its geometry of its frame and the stresses on its erstwhile used twin-cylinder engines.
However, when John McGuinness speculated that he thought the new Panigale V4 R could be a contender at the TT when he rode with PBM at the Isle of Man TT, it appears Paul Bird has now run with the idea.
“It’s funny, every single bike I ride I always think ‘what would it be like around the Isle of Man?’,” McGuinness said at the time.
“I would be confident to go down Bray Hill tomorrow on that Ducati, that’s for sure. I don’t know, it looks right! It’s got wings on it! I don’t know if that’s good or bad for the TT but I’d be confident to ride it.”