Macau debut won't lead to North West 200 return, maintains Irwin
The Belfast Telegraph can exclusively reveal that British Superbike ace Glenn Irwin will make his Macau Grand Prix debut in November.
However, the BeWiser PBM Ducati ace, who announced his retirement from pure road racing just a few weeks ago following the birth of his son Freddie, also confirmed that he won't be competing at next year's North West 200 or Ulster Grand Prix.
The Armco and concrete wall-lined Guia circuit in the Far East is renowned as the most dangerous four miles of road racing tarmac on the planet. From the outside looking in, the 26-year-old Carrickfergus man's announcement - at first glance at least - hints that he's had an immediate change of heart on his pure road racing embargo.
But speaking exclusively to the Belfast Telegraph from his new home in Lisburn, Irwin said: "I made a commitment to do Macau as part of my deal with the PBM Ducati team at the start of the year and I intend to honour that.
"I'm 200 per cent happy to stand by my decision now to concentrate on the British Superbike championship, so I'll not be racing at the North West 200 or Ulster Grand Prix next season."
When told that the news of his Macau debut could potentially be regarded by fans as a contradiction, he replied: "Unlike the North West 200 and Ulster Grand Prix, where I put myself under pressure to perform and expected podiums in my first year, Macau is regarded as a holiday race and neither I nor the team will be putting any pressure on a result."
Not wanting to sound flippant or disrespectful to the Guia circuit, which has bitten more experienced riders in the past, Irwin explained: "I'll be treating the place with the utmost respect, just as I did at the North West and Ulster, and while I can't just nip over and drive round it, I will do my homework watching on-boards and PlayStation laps.
"There's no reason for anyone to look into it and think I've changed my mind. It's simply that I made that commitment at the start of the year and once it's done, it's done."
The former double Irish champion, who also has a few other goals and boxes he would like to tick this season, added: "Paul (Bird, team owner) has always been a great supporter of the Sunflower Trophy Races at Bishopscourt at the end of the year, so I'm hoping we can race there on the PBM Ducati in October.
"Danny Buchan has had it all his own way for a few years and while the Sunflower may not have the same standing that it once had, there are some famous names on there, my dad being one of them."
It has been 30 years since his dad Alan took his second Sunflower Trophy win on a 500cc Suzuki, and while the duo cannot make history as the first father and son pairing to win the event (already completed by Johnny Rea and Jonathan Rea in 1983 and 2006) it would be a popular victory.
One achievement that current World Superbike champion Rea wasn't able to add to his growing tally of firsts was a win during his debut season in the British Superbike back in 2005. It's a goal that Irwin would like to complete this year, but understands that it's a big ask.
"No one has ever come in as a rookie and won a race in their first year on a Superbike. I'd love to do it," he said.
"It's not going to be easy, but then again no one thought we could get a podium in year one. I'll just keep riding and who knows?"