Glenn Irwin gearing up nicely for Superbike mission
Northern Ireland's own Phillip McCallen tipped him for the top during last year's International North West 200 and having since secured himself a factory-supported Ducati ride in this season's British Superbike championship, Carrick ace Glenn Irwin is certainly going to be one to watch.
The double Irish Supersport champion may have taken a couple of seasons to find his feet in the British championship, but having demonstrated his prowess in the Supersport class in 2015, PBM Racing's Paul Bird has given the young Ulsterman a dream ticket to the big time.
Irwin will ride alongside four-time British champion Shane 'Shakey' Byrne in the PBM squad in 2016, aboard exotic BeWiser branded Ducati Panigale R machinery.
And at the weekend's hugely successful Arenacross Tour in Belfast's SSE Arena, Irwin said he can't wait to get his rookie BSB season under starter's orders at the end of April.
"Apart from a spin-out on one of Ducati's Panigale road bikes in Spain before Christmas, it's all been about training over the winter," said the affable young Ulsterman with the infectious personality.
Standing just over 6ft tall and around 11 stone soaking wet, there's not much extra baggage on the gangly Irwin, who will finally get his first taste of full-on racing machinery this weekend in Portugal.
"I'm pretty excited to get going as you can imagine, but I'm being careful not to overdo it with my training and burn myself out," he smiled.
"I'm bang on schedule with the training, but I really can't wait to get my first run out on the race bike this weekend at Portimao (the opening test of the year, which will see him on track with Ducati's World Superbike regulars Chaz Davies and Davide Giugliano)."
No pressure then.
"I've been talking to a number of people about this, but personally I feel there would be more pressure involved if I was with a less experienced team on a bike that I know wasn't capable of allowing me to race in the top 10," he said with maturity.
"Paul Bird's team has won numerous British Superbike titles with Shakey and Steve Hislop; they always turn out top class machinery and with the support of Ducati and more importantly being allocated Johnny Mowatt - who has worked with Shakey on his title wins - as my crew chief, that takes away the pressure in my opinion."
Irwin has always set his goals high, and 2016 will be no different. "I don't mind saying it; my goal is to make the Showdown," he said of the all important top six format in BSB.
"I know it will not be easy, but I've discussed it with Johnny and I think the top 10 is achievable quite early on, then we can build towards regular top six finishes.
"I don't get too hung up that I'm in British Superbike as my dad (Alan, who was a handy racer himself back in the day) has always told me it's just another bike with two wheels and a throttle."
With Michael Laverty expected to be one of the main championship contenders with Tyco BMW and Alastair Seeley (BMW) and Jack Kennedy (WD-40 Kawasaki) also on the BSB grid for 2016, there's a very good chance Irish eyes will be smiling this season - especially when ambitious Irwin is added to the mix.