The sport of motocross, not only on a local level, but also on the world stage was dealt a massive blow at the weekend when Carrickfergus rider Graeme Irwin announced that his career in the sport had come to a premature end.
The injuries that the local rider suffered during the 2018 season prevented him reaching his full potential and it was a big factor in his decision to call it a day on a glittering career.
We will all remember his last two performances at the British Maxxis MX1 races at Desertmartin.
In 2017 he was in a class of his own as he demolished the field and took the took the overall victory in front of his home fans then last year he finished second in what was unknown to us all, his final home race.
He leaves a sport where he has won everything on the domestic scene, a lot poorer and it was a great 2017 British MX1 Champion who reflected on his long career at the very top of his profession.
The married father of two has been riding bikes since he was able to walk but it wasn’t until 2018 that he got to realise his dream to do a full season in MXGP thanks to KTM and Roger Magee.
After becoming the first local rider since Gordon Crockard to win the British MX1 title in 2017 it was Graeme’s chance to prove his worth on the world scene but as luck would have it the season was anything but easy.
He joined the Hitachi ASA KTM Team to ride their SX-F450, but as it turned out the season was dogged by bad luck and injury.
Throughout the year Graeme had some horrendous accidents and obviously the last one at the Italian GP eventually led to the popular Carrick rider into making the decision to quit the sport he has competed in over the past 24 years.
“I started riding a bike when I was three and when you look back it is a long time to be doing anything,” he said.
“When you think about it some people do 24 years in a job and then they retire and I’m only 27 with hopefully a long time to go before I get to the retirement stage in life. Looking back on my career I would honestly say I that am the most successful local rider since Gordon Crockard. I think my record speaks for itself.”
“It was a tough year with injuries.” He admitted. “ I have burns on my back that look horrendous and a broken wrist that will never be the same. It has just been one thing after an other.”
The Italian crash was the final straw I suppose?
“It was the last GP of the year at Imola in Italy. What would have been a small crash if it had have been coming out of a normal corner but where it happened it turned in to a howler. It took place on the run onto a jump and it kind of high sided me up the jump. The bike went one way and I went the other, landing very badly. I broke my wrist but it was quite complicated. It was a bad scaphoid break, with all the tendons being wrecked and I also dislocated my wrist pretty badly. Since the accident I have since had five surgeries on it.
“So it hasn’t been much fun. Right up until this week I have been trying to get ready for the new season but after talking to the doctors and having another ride on the bike I have had to come to the decision to step away from motocross. Don’t get me wrong I could still ride a motocross bike but not to the level that would allow me to win another British title and race against the best in the world. It is a sad day for me personally and one that I never thought I would have to make in these circumstances but I don’t want to just race on making up the numbers.”
You must look back with pride in what you achieved in the sport?
“I believed that I worked harder than anyone for what I got in return. I went that extra mile and that’s why I won the titles. I have won everything there was to win on the domestic scene. I won the British Youth Championship, Ulster and Irish titles, British Masters Championship, won the MX Nationals two years in a row, as well as the British Maxxis Championship so I’m happy with what I achieved.
“The training and the riding was everything for me. I loved riding the bike and it’s not that I have lost interest in the game. It’s not like that whatsoever. I will always ride a motocross bike for fun. The sport has been so good to me and I will miss it so much. I owe so much of my success to Roger Magee (his KTM boss).
“I started my career with him and I ended it with him. I couldn’t have asked for a better team boss and friend. I sincerely wish him and the team all the success in the future.” said Graeme.
Team Principal Roger Magee said “This is a very dark day for my Team as it is the first time since we started back in 2005 that we have had a rider forced to end their career at World & British level due to injury. When Graeme crashed at Imola in the last MXGP of 2019, little did we know of the ultimate consequences to Graeme’s career.
“During 2019, Graeme had suffered what seemed to be much more serious injuries with the burns to his back and the split upper lip in Switzerland. He fought through those injuries with his typical determination and will to win that is typical of his commitment. That said, it’s ironic that such a small bone in the body that is the scaphoid can cause the end of Graeme’s career at the highest level.
“When Graeme started with my Team in 2009, he showed a lot of promise from the start, winning his 1st MX2 British Championship race at Little Silver in Devon! Over the years we have had many, many memorable moments both on and off the track which we will cherish in the years to come.
“As we have known for some weeks now that the injury was serious, I cannot adequately thank enough Iain Dobie and the medical professionals in the NHS who have done everything in their power with their skills to try and save Graeme’s professional career.
“It is a massive blow to Graeme and the Team, but we must now both accept the reality and deal with the situation. Should Graeme recover adequately later in the year ahead to perhaps race in a British Motocross Championship race, we will continue to support him with the best KTMs and material available. From the bottom of our hearts, we wish Graeme all the very best in the future in whatever career path he chooses.
“I do know he will give it 100% - as he always has done in the past.”