The Isle of Man Steam Packet Company will sponsor a special celebration of road racing legend and Isle of Man TT hero Joey Dunlop during the Classic TT this year.

The lap of the famous TT Mountain course will feature 26 of Joey’s biggest rivals, with appropriate representatives filling in for riders unable to take part. The celebration will include appearances by competitors from the F1 World Championship races of the 1980s, when Joey took the crown five times, as well as opponents from his earliest days in road racing through to his TT glory days.

It promises to be one of the highlights of the Classic TT, which takes place from 23rd to 25th August, the middle weekend of the Isle of Man Festival of Motorcycling.

Joey is a firm favourite among fans and a TT icon whose tally of 26 TT wins remains unbeaten. In his final year of racing at the TT he stunned rivals and confounded critics by taking three wins, aged 48.

The decision to sponsor the lap, which was announced at the Motorcycle Live Show in Birmingham, followed the Steam Packet Company’s sponsorship of the 1967 Senior TT re-enactment lap during the inaugural Classic TT. It was also announced that alongside the racing, the theme of the Classic TT in 2014 would be the 1980s, including further tributes to Joey Dunlop.

Steam Packet Company Chief Executive Mark Woodward said: ‘We were proud to be a sponsor of the first Classic TT in 2013, giving our support to a new venture which proved a great success.

‘In that inaugural year we sponsored the lap which saw Giacomo Agostini recreate his famous 1967 battle with Mike Hailwood, who was represented by John McGuinness. It was a highlight of the weekend for many fans, and I am certain that the tribute to the late, great Joey Dunlop will evoke wonderful memories of the man and his career, and be an unforgettable sight for everyone who is there.’

He added: ‘There is little doubt the new Isle of Man Festival of Motorcycling, incorporating the Classic TT, has been a hit with fans. In 2013, we carried 15% more bikes than in the previous year, and forward bookings for 2014 are already more than 70% up on what they were at this stage 12 months ago. We look forward to welcoming many more fans to the Island next year for the Festival.’

Laurence Skelly, MHK, Political Member with responsibility for Tourism, Department of Economic Development, said: ‘We are very grateful to the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company not only for their commitment to the Classic TT, but also as a valued partner in delivering both the TT races and Isle of Man Festival of Motorcycling.

‘The company is integral to the success of the event and their efforts in gearing up for the two fortnights are much appreciated by everyone associated with the races.’

Joey Dunlop during the 1988 Junior TT

Joey Dunlop during the 1988 Junior TT (Dave Collister at Photocycles).