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Rea and Irwin have a narrow escape in Spanish clash

By Paul Lindsay

Glenn, now a fully-fledged British Superbike factory rider, enjoyed his first time on track with fellow Ulsterman and current World Superbike champion Jonathan Rea yesterday - but it almost ended in disaster for the pair.

Irwin, who is currently at Jerez in Spain testing with his BeWiser PBM Ducati BSB team, recounted the close encounter with Rea in the Sherry-producing southern region of Spain.

"I haven't ridden on track with Jonathan since I was about 10, during our motocross days. I was really looking forward to it after spending a few days in Portugal testing at Portimão, but it nearly ended in tears," he said, with a hint of trepidation in his voice.

"I heard a Kawasaki behind me on the start finish straight, so into turn one I braked late and left a bit of room. I half expected either Tom (Sykes) or Jonathan to go through, as I didn't know which one of them it was at the time," explained Irwin.

"At turn two I hugged the white line and expected whoever it was to go down the inside of me, but a bike smacked right into me and went straight on. I realised it was Jonathan and the only thing I could think for a whole lap was, 'I hope he's not off and hurt'."

With his heart rate through the roof, despite having done nothing wrong, Irwin was glad when he was finally able to catch up with the double world champion in the pit lane, and thankfully share a laugh about their paint swapping experience.

"He said he had backed out of passing me and apologised afterwards, but was also glad that we now have front-brake protectors fitted or he'd have been over the bars," said Irwin, who later went on track to watch Rea aboard his factory World Superbike Kawasaki to try and pick up some tips and fast lines for the 2.7-mile circuit.

"I love the circuit. It's absolutely amazing and a proper place to ride, but Jonathan's pace is phenomenal," said Irwin. "I went to an area of the circuit where I was struggling to see how Jonathan was riding it and he's just on another level, he really is.

"I'm hoping that when he does pass me on track, I can at least tuck in to see if I can learn anything behind him, as I would do with Shakey if I'm honest, who was a second quicker than me at Portimão," added Irwin of his team-mate and five-time British Champion Shane 'Shakey' Byrne.

With a solid rookie year now under his belt in BSB, which produced a debut podium and some very impressive performances - not forgetting his Sunflower Trophy success - the pressure is now on for Irwin to push on.

He must aim to close the gap between his championship winning team-mate and the leading contenders looking to steal his title in the all-important top six.

"I think it's a natural progression to want to kick on and for my team to expect me to improve again this year. It's what you need to do if you want to be successful in this game," he said.

"The competition this year is going to be tougher, with more big names being added, but from what I've seen so far in this test, Shakey is even faster again, so it's him we all have to chase," said Irwin of his PBM team-mate, who quite honestly proved to be on a different level to his BSB rivals in 2016.

"I want to make the Showdown this year," said the Carrick rider of the cunning separation process in the BSB series, allowing only the top half-dozen riders to fight for the title in the last two months of the season. "I think I can be up there for sure. I'll be giving it my all. But for now I need to keep learning and that continues at Jerez (today)," he concluded.

Belfast Telegraph

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