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Irwin is set to thrill North West fans in Ducati Superbike return

 

By Paul Lindsay

Carrick's British Superbike star Glenn Irwin is set to make a sensational return to road racing and the Vauxhall International North West 200 grid next month.

In an exciting boost for the event, the Ducati rider will contest both Superbike races on a BSB series winning Ducati Panigale R, factory prepared by millionaire owner Paul Bird's PBM team.

Irwin made his debut at the North West 200 back in 2015 and finished on the podium in the second Supersport race, but missed last year's event to concentrate on his debut season on British Superbike.

But with a deal now almost concluded, which would afford Irwin his first chance of Superbike success at the North West Triangle, he's delighted to be able to return to his home race - where he could potentially add his name to a lucrative list of Ducati-mounted race winners, alongside 13-time NW200 winner Michael Rutter and four-time World Superbike champion Carl Fogarty.

Delighted at the prospect he said: "It's fantastic to be coming back to race at the North West, especially on the PBM BeWiser Ducati, but also as a newcomer in the Superbike class.

"To be even mentioned in the same breath as Rutter and Fogarty is a huge honour, but people need to realise it's going to be my first year on a Superbike and we will have to feel our way in gently." But in true Irwin fashion, he then added: "But, of course, come Saturday race day I'll be looking to win."

Irwin signalled his intention of putting his road racing career on hold last season, when Bird disappointingly told him he must concentrate on his 'day job' as a new face in the British Superbike paddock. But consistently open and honest, the 27-year-old proud Ulsterman is delighted to be back racing on the North Coast, as he explained.

"I might take some criticism for announcing that I wouldn't be road racing last year and now I'm back, but if I'm honest it was the only way to remain focussed and hide the disappointment of not being at the North West last year.

"I love the place and can understand why Alastair Seeley makes it his one road race a year.

"I'm not going to be disrespectful and start making predictions, but I know the circuit and will again do the required homework, as riding a Superbike is a different proposition to a 600.

"We've now got a year's development and knowledge with the Ducati, which is probably why Paul Bird protected me from riding at the North West last year, but he goes racing to win and for me to be able to come here and let my friends, family and local fans see the factory-backed PBM Ducati in action on the circuit gives me goose bumps just thinking about it."

Irwin opened his 2017 British Superbike campaign with a race two podium during round one at Donington Park just over a week ago with the PBM team, and whilst this current deal with the organisers of the North West 200 is currently pencilled in, it still needs to be approved at the highest level - and that means a blessing from Ducati Corse in Italy, as a PBM team spokesperson confirmed, saying: "As with all factory-backed teams, various logistics and demographics have to be considered prior to taking on additional challenges such as the North West 200 and all parties are working towards having the Ducati Panigale R at this year's event."

Let's hope Ducati head honcho Ernesto Marinelli is a a North West 200 fan!

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