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North West 200: Glenn Irwin well placed to announce his arrival on big stage

By Phillip McCallen

Published 14/05/2015

Potential: Glenn Irwin has looked comfortable so far
Potential: Glenn Irwin has looked comfortable so far

Make a note of the name Glenn Irwin. Close observers of the racing scene will have been alert to the potential of the young rider from Carrickfergus for a while now.

But now he is about to showcase his talents to a much bigger audience and the North West offers him the perfect stage on which to announce his arrival as one of our future stars.

As one of the newcomers I helped introduce to the course in my mentoring role earlier this week, I have been paying close attention to his progress over the past few days, on and off the track, and he has ticked all the boxes in terms of his readiness.

He looked very comfortable on the track in Tuesday's first practice and when I saw him afterwards in the paddock, he was brimming with excitement and adrenaline and couldn't wait to get back out. That's the kind of assuredness you look for in a young rider at this stage of their career and facing their biggest test... confident, up for the challenge but still with a sensible head on.

Great things have been expected of Glenn since he first appeared on the scene and a lot of us inside the racing fraternity have been aware of him since he was a young boy.

This North West may have come too soon for him in terms of emerging as a debut winner - that is a tall order for any newcomer - and while not wishing to add to the pressure, I do see him as a candidate for a podium place.

He goes in tonight's Supersport 600 race for his Gearlink Kawasaki team and I wish him well.

He certainly possesses a fine racing pedigree. His dad, Alan, was a fantastic road racer in his day. I had many tough battles with Alan, including here at the North West, and I see a lot of Alan in the way Glenn carries himself, on and off the track.

He's got the perfect combination of a good bike and a good attitude and I am sure we will be talking about him for many North Wests to come in much the same way as his near-neighbour and rival Alastair Seeley, the man they all have to beat here this week.

As a former rider from the not too distant past, people often ask me about the differences between then and now.

We thought we took our racing seriously back then but it is ultra-professional now, very much technology-driven, and the big factory teams have every base covered to ensure the riders have nothing more to think about than concentrating on the racing.

The more curious among the fans also wonder how the riders fill their time at the week-long event the North West has evolved into, compared to my days up here in the late '80s, early '90s when we came up for practice on Thursday night, often went back home on Friday to do a day's work, and then back for racing on Saturday.

Yesterday was officially a rest day and some riders will indeed have gone off to enjoy downtime on the golf course or mountain biking.

They'll have identified improvements or adjustments they wanted to their bikes after Tuesday and left their mechanics to it. Others will have remained in the paddock to oversee the work themselves.

Then its back out today for final practice, followed by the real thing as the serious business gets under way with three early evening races in Supersport, Supertwin and Superstock.

We all like to think things were better in our day, but, for me, the present North West set-up is lightyears ahead in terms of organisation and it is much more rider and spectator friendly.

Originally, we had Thursday night practice and then Tuesday night was added but as preparation for actual racing the difference is quite literally night and day.

With daytime practice now, the riders are experiencing as close to racing conditions as they will face on the day. They also have more time and opportunities to prepare their bikes and themselves; if something goes wrong in the first or even second session, you can fix it. In my day you were plunged straight into it with no second chances.

Consequently, you get better racing from properly prepared bikes and riders and that in turn is a bonus for the fans... and we'll see the proof of that tonight. Here's to good and safe racing.

Belfast Telegraph

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