Rising British Superbike talent Glenn Irwin will experience the high-speed thrills of the Vauxhall International North West 200 on a Superbike for the first time as practice roars into life on the north coast.
Irwin made his debut at the event in 2015 and proved a revelation, duelling with Alastair Seeley in the first Supersport race until he was ruled out with bike trouble before claiming his maiden podium in race two.
The Carrick man has developed as reputation as a fast learner after also sealing rostrum finishes at the Ulster Grand Prix in the Supersport class, while the 27-year-old was on the hunt for the top three on his first appearance at the Macau Grand Prix last November until cruel luck in the closing stages with a technical fault saw him drop down the order.
Riding high after a terrific start to the 2017 MCE British Superbike Championship with podium finishes at Donington and Oulton Park underpinning his progress, the PBM Be Wiser Ducati rider is considered more than a dark horse this week.
Irwin will focus solely on Saturday’s two Superbike races but he doesn’t expect to be at a disadvantage compared to his primary rivals, who will also be competing in up to three other classes in the Supersport, Superstock and Supertwins races.
“No, they’ve got more to think about in terms of braking markers and things, so I don’t think I’ll be at a disadvantage. I’ll be going out on Saturday, doing an out lap and then it’s straight into the race,” Irwin said.
“For me, the way I see it is that we go out on the out lap, the brain gets back up to speed, you’ve a full tank of fuel and it’s all about the approach: there’s no point in trying to be the man who’s being the hero on the brakes on the first laps.
“It’s a great event and there are no competitors I would single out because they are all good and I respect them all. In road racing the level of respect of really good and I enjoy it, and I enjoy having the craic, but in saying that I want to win.”
Irwin admits he is a tad uncertain over what to expect from the 1199 Panigale R at maximum speed on the long North West 200 straights. However, he is confident about his tyre management skills and the strength of the Ducati as a package over a race distance, which could prove critical in Saturday’s seven-lap Superbike showdowns.
“I’m not sure what the bike will be like for top speed and that’s being truthfully honest. We all know the BMW loves a really long straight but in British Superbikes, the straights are short by comparison,” Irwin said.
“This is the first time going to the North West with the bike and we don’t have any special engines or anything just for this event. The Ducati in its current model hasn’t been to the North West yet but in saying that, the bike won’t be the slowest out there but I don’t expect it to be the fastest bike down the straight either.
“Hopefully we will be pleasantly surprised and we’re going to err on the side of reliability as well, and turn the revs down for example. To win the race, first you have to finish and that will be key as well.”
Irwin has been finishing off races in BSB strongly and the affable Ulsterman sees no reason why that won’t be the case in the closing stages of a seven-lap race around the 8.9-mile Triangle course.
“The Ducati gets better the more a race goes on and some people say it’s the best bike for saving the tyres, but I keep pointing out that John Hopkins doesn’t have much tyre left at the end of a BSB race. That’s nothing against John, but I think the way I’m riding at the moment on the bike is helping to manage tyre wear in the best way,” he said.
“Hopefully that will stand us in good stead although seven laps around the North West is a very long race.
“But the Ducati is a good bike in race trim and we’re strong as a package together at the moment. I’m very confident but I always respect these places.
“We’ll take the same approach and build up through practice and then we’ll assess where we are on Thursday night and that will give us an idea of what to expect for Saturday’s races,” added Irwin.
“I’m really excited about the event and I’ve got two houses for the week to share with the people closest to me who are part of the team, like Laura (Glenn’s partner) and Nikki (Coates). I’ve got a Nissan GTR as well from Charles Hurst and it’s just a nice week ahead.
“We’re going to one of the nicest parts of the world for the week and on three of those days I get to ride a motorbike.
“I love it and I think I’d jump into the sea if I won the at the North West! It really would mean everything.”