Supersport giants ready to make their North West 200 debut
The popularity of the Vauxhall International North West 200 has never been in question, but the announcement that leading British Supersport team Gearlink Kawasaki will be on the grid with debutants Ben Wilson and local lad Glenn Irwin is a major boost for Ireland's leading outdoor sporting event.
Former British Supersport number two Ben Wilson - who enjoyed a season in BSB during 2014 - will join his Northern Ireland team-mate in both Supersport races at the Triangle in May.
Irwin (24), who finished fourth in this year's British Supersport Championship, will also ride Robbie Sylvester's VRS Kawasaki ER6 in the Supertwin races at the North West, the same machine the Carrick lad rode during his debut at the Ulster Grand Prix in August, setting the quickest 'twin time at Dundrod.
"I've been waiting for this opportunity to come along for quite some time, but I want to ride the North West and be competitive," said Irwin, after visiting the circuit this week with.
"I did the Ulster on a bike that I hadn't ridden before against big names and got a lap record, so I don't see why I can't do it at the North West 200."
His opposition will include his former mentor, track adversary and fellow Carrick man Alastair Seeley.
The rivalry between the pair was at fever pitch this year in British championship and young Irwin is smart enough to learn from the 12-time NW200 winner.
Smiling at the prospect, Irwin said: "In the 600cc class I will be on a bike I know and hopefully by the time the North West comes around I will have had some British championship wins under my belt."
Wilson (32) is a bit more cutious in his approach to the North West as it will be his pure road racing debut, but make no mistake of his pedigree.
"I saw the track in 2013 when I was at the North West as Alastair Seeley's teammate and I just fancy a go at it now." Wilson explained.
Eight times NW200 winner Steve Plater introduced the duo to the superfast 8.9-mile course and was impressed by their attitude.
"They have been soaking up everything that we have been talking about," Plater said.
"It is mega for the event to have two of the frontrunners in the British Supersport series racing at the North West."