Glenn Irwin doesn't regard Andy Reid as a title threat
Carrickfergus racer Glenn Irwin has been installed as one of the favourites to land this season's British Supersport title, but his list of contemporaries for the middleweight prize does not include fellow County Antrim racer Andy Reid.
Reid finished second in last year's Pirelli National Superstock 600cc series, just as Irwin did back in 2011.
But despite landing a deal to ride for Prodigy front man Keith Flint's Team Traction Control outfit, Irwin believes it will take the guts of a season for the Jordanstown tattoo artist to find his feet in the super competitive Supersport class.
"For me there will be three or four championship contenders and then there will be the likes of Andy Reid and Kyle Ryde who will be quick on their day," said Irwin of the aforementioned duo, who move up from the Superstock 600 class after finishing first and second in 2014.
"They will need to find more pace for the Supersport class. I'm not saying they couldn't get on the podium or maybe even one of them can grab a win. They are both talented riders but it is tough stepping up to Supersport that first year," is Irwin's experienced opinion.
Reid is being mentored by Irwin's former nemesis, friend and more recently, bitter rival in the Supersport class, Alastair Seeley. We all know his pedigree with two British titles and 12 North West 200 wins inked on his CV, but Irwin couldn't resist a friendly swipe at Seeley, who will ride the 1000cc National Superstock class in 2015 with Tyco BMW.
"Alastair worked with me in the same way, but I think it will work out better for Andy as he isn't going to be racing in the same class as Seeley anytime in the near future," said Irwin, referring to their well-documented rivalry in the Supersport class last year, where gamesmanship, both on and off the track, was part of their season blueprint.
"I think Alastair started to struggle with the mentor and pupil thing when we raced together, as he saw me as a bit of a threat, which was a compliment if I'm honest. Both he and Andy are training together and that's great, but unless he gets special dispensation from series director Stuart Higgs, he won't be able to bring Alastair onto the bike with him," joked Irwin in a non-malicious manner.
The former double Irish Supersport champion recorded five wins on his way to fourth place in last year's series with Gearlink Kawasaki, but for 2015, Gearlink's prodigal son Ben Wilson returns to the Supersport class, after a less than successful second stab in British Superbike.
Wilson and Irwin will be a formidable partnership in the Kawasaki squad, but I asked Irwin how it felt to enter a season expected to win, rather than be praised for top quality ad hoc performances.
"Ben is going to be super strong, as will Graeme Gowland on the Smiths' Triumph, but I'm confident we can pick up where we left off last season and be consistently competitive. Hopefully that will bring me the championship, but I'm sure it will be eventful," he concluded.