Glenn Irwin cuts shackles loose
Carrickfergus' Glenn Irwin, who set pole position en route to his maiden British Supersport victory on Easter Sunday at Brands Hatch, firmly believes that a more relaxed and carefree attitude is the secret ingredient for continued success in 2014.
The 24-year-old, who switched teams during the winter break to Gearlink Kawasaki, explained: "I've just loosened up my approach to the job this season; that's basically it and my goal is to carry that attitude into round two at Oulton Park.
"I'm training as hard as ever and I know the Gearlink team is good enough, as they have shown in the past. I've always believed that I am good enough to be up there in the Supersport class, but I was just too uptight before."
Irwin's victory on Easter Sunday at Brands Hatch was followed up with a solid and mature fifth place on Easter Monday. Ironically, the second race was won by fellow Carrickfergus pilot and championship favourite Alastair Seeley on the Mar-Train Racing Yamaha – with the Carrick men now holding first and second spot in the championship standings.
The County Antrim lads are former close friends and training partners, with young Irwin once regarded as Seeley's local protégé. As things so often do in sport, a friendship between the mentor and pupil can, as in this case, turn into a bitter rivalry.
Irwin laughed off the suggestions, but was candid in his response: "I don't go out of my way to discuss or create any rivalry with Alastair and with Australians and American riders on the grid, not to mention the best in the UK, then it's great that both wins went to Carrick riders at Brands."
Showing tangible respect to Seeley, he added: "I'm not going to knock Alastair's pedigree. It would be silly to do that, but we both want to be the best in the class. We are maybe very similar and that's where the clash comes. We won't be training together or going out for a pint anytime soon, although I don't wish him any harm."
Just three weeks ago in this column, we questioned Irwin's commitment to the job and if he really did have the mental strength to bolster the obvious talent we knew he possessed. As he reminded me!
"That win was a big weight off my shoulders, so maybe I should keep getting you to give me a kick in the backside in the Press," he joked.
Speaking of his new team, he said: "The change has been a massive help and I'm getting plenty of support. I'm not dissing Mar-Train by saying that," he said of his former team.
"But this year I'm not the number two rider, I'm getting plenty of attention and I'm enjoying my racing; pretty much like I did when I went and won the Irish Supersport championship and back then it was just a bit of craic."
Looking ahead to this weekend's Bank Holiday meeting, Irwin concluded pragmatically: "We just need to keep learning. I'll be the first to admit we still have a bit of pace to find in the dry.
"But I like Oulton Park as it's a real riders' track. You have to work hard around it, but hopefully we won't be too far away from the podium spots. That's the plan anyway."