Irwin eyeing premier British crown
Graeme Irwin admittedly plays a more low key role within the Carrick-based Irwin racing family. He's often obscured in the shadow cast by his tarmac racing brothers Glenn and Andrew, but with two British titles secured in 2016, the motocross ace currently leads the family hunt for honours.
Having decided to stay with the Buildbase Honda team for the 2017 season, under the watchful eye of team owner Dave Thorpe - himself a Grand Prix legend - Irwin will again target the Maxxis British MX1, MX Nationals and Pirelli Masters titles this season on CRF450RW Honda machinery.
Currently home in Northern Ireland with his American wife Murrieta and one-year-old daughter Summer after enjoying some pre-season off-road practice in the Californian sunshine with MotoGP star Cal Crutchlow - who is married to Graeme's cousin, Lucy - Graeme said: "I'm currently fighting off jet lag, but the training with Cal in California is great. He's so motivated and that rubs off on you."
Irwin, who having won the MX Nationals and Pirelli Masters titles last season now wants to capture the blue riband British MX1 title in 2017 having finished fourth last year, continued: "With the greatest of respect to the other two Championships, it's the only one that matters.
"The Maxxis British Championship has five or six Grand Prix regulars in it, so that's the one I will be concentrating on and hopefully the others will follow."
Irwin also revealed that he is fighting fit again after an operation to repair the shoulder he damaged at last year's Motocross Des Nations.
"The shoulder is now 100 per cent back to full working order," he explained, having gone under the knife at the end of last season and having a piece of bone from his chest grafted into the damaged shoulder.
"I've finished fourth a couple of times in the British and I think this is my year. Last year we had the speed and now, with what I believe is the best team in the paddock in Buildbase Honda, we can go on and win it."
This week the 25-year-old has also been spending some quality time training with his British Superbike racing older brother Glenn, who is always primed to comment.
The 26-year-old factory Ducati BSB star, who also believes Graeme could make it on the tarmac scene, said: "We have pretty similar fitness levels, so it is good fun training with Graeme while he is home.
"Graeme has always been into his fitness, as far back as when he was 15 and starting out. Big Phil McCullough gave him his first opportunity and while mum thought he was going to school, he was heading to the gym to train - he's just always been that single minded."
Graeme quipped: "I had a run out at the Sunflower Trophy races a couple of years ago now and I would love to have another go sometime.
"I think Glenn's lucky that I'm not riding in British Superbike as I'd be after his ride."
Graeme's season will kick off with some Italian MX Championship action at the end of this month, before the all-important British Championship - and, indeed, his hopes of clinching the title - gets under way in March at Culham Moto Park.