With the Daytona 200 scheduled to run in mid-March, pandemic or no pandemic, riders are committing to the race. Several well-known names from the US are returning for the 2021 showdown, but one of the most interesting challengers this year is Michael Dunlop.

Most motorcycle racing keeners know that as far as real roadracing goes (that is, racing on public roads), Michael Dunlop is one of the fastest. He’s won 19 races at the Isle of Man TT, not to mention victories in the Irish roadracing scene and also some time spent around the margins of British Superbike. He also previously held the best time record for the IOMTT’s Snaefell Mountain Course. Of course, he’s from the famous Dunlop racing family; his uncle Joey won 26 races at the Isle of Man, including three years where he won “hat tricks” (three wins in a year). Michael’s father (Robert) and brother (William) were also successful street racers. Sadly, Joey, Robert, and William all died as a result of racing crashes.

Michael Dunlop is the real deal. However, most street racing events were shut down for 2020, thanks to COVID-19, and it’s looking like most will be shut down again for 2021. So, he’s now signed up for the Daytona 200.

It’s good news for the famous mid-winter race in Florida; Michael Dunlop isn’t the most likable TT racer, but he’s undeniably fast, and will bring a new interest to the race. It’s been a long time since the Daytona 200 was a draw for internationally successful racers, but maybe COVID-19 has given it that much-needed kick in the pants. After all, with Pikes Peak closed to motorcycle racers for now, and even the Austin MotoGP event shut down, this is arguably the best-known American roadracing event in the world—and it’s still fairly accessible to competent racers.

The organizers would no doubt welcome a change in the race’s fortunes. Ever since the AMA left ASRA to sanction the race, the nitpickers haven’t been happy. The main show is only a 600cc race now, and in some people’s eyes, it lacks legitimacy for that reason. In reality, racers say that modern litrebikes would be very difficult to race sensibly at Daytona, as they’re too hard on tires through the track.

Along with Dunlop, we see Kyle Wyman, Josh Herrin, Josh Hayes, and Tyler O’Hara are all back for 2021.

The 2021 Daytona 200 runs as part of Daytona Bike Week, on March 13, 2021. It runs at Daytona International Speedway, using the 3.51-mile infield road course.

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