Irwin will miss NW 200 to focus on debut in Superbikes debut
Glenn Irwin will make his British Superbike debut next season on a factory-supported PBM Ducati, but on the flip side, the Carrick man may have to forego a return to the Vauxhall International North West 200 in May to pursue his BSB dream.
Irwin, who has already been in Spain testing since signing with his new team, explained: "At the minute Paul [Bird] is saying no to the roads for 2016 as he wants me to fully concentrate on my rookie season in British Superbike.
"Yes, of course I'd like to go back to the North West after getting my debut podium this year, but I fully understand Paul's current decision," said Irwin of PBM team owner Paul Bird.
The proud Ulsterman made an auspicious start to his North West 200 career with a storming Supersport podium back in May. But having joined the PBM team to race alongside British Superbike's most successful performer in Shane 'Shakey' Byrne in 2016, the former double Irish Supersport champion is well aware that opportunities with factory-backed teams don't come along too often.
"The key as a rookie in British Superbike is to make sure you get in with one of the leading teams and track time is really important," explained the 24-year-old, who will ride his full-blown BSB spec Ducati Panigale R for the very first time at the end of January in Portugal.
"There's no shortage of investment in the PBM team and to be told that we will be testing with the World Superbike boys at Portimao at the end of January is amazing," said Irwin, who was at Almeria in Spain earlier this week just to get some laps on a road going Panigale R, which costs £30,000 in road trim alone.
"I really enjoyed getting to ride the Ducati Panigale R in road trim, which allowed me to get rid of my Supersport bad habits and really just start adjusting my body position to suit a Superbike," was how Irwin explained the PBM team's intelligent ideology, getting him comfortable on standard machine before the New Year.
"Obviously when the team roll out my race bike in Portimao next month there will be a lot more horsepower and a better chassis, but I still got to see 178mph down the back straight this week on the standard bike which felt pretty quick," he joked.
But what about the potential of missing the North West 200: is it a major disappointment or is there a workaround?
"At this stage it's not in the team's plans, but Paul is a fan of the event and I'd say if he can be convinced to come, I'll more than likely be riding a PBM Superbike of some description," said Irwin, whose enthusiasm increased at the thought of taking on his former mentor and current Triangle rival Alastair Seeley."
Laughing at the prospect he said: "If I do get to come to the event, there's every chance I could end up riding alongside Seeley in the Supersport class for Gearlink Kawasaki, but then I also have a Yamaha option in Supersport.
"For me it would be foolish not to go back and build on what we achieved this year at the North West 200.
"But then again I won't be foolish and jeopardise my BSB ride with PBM.
"My goal for 2016 is to finish the BSB year in the top six, which won't be easy, and if I do get to come to the NW200, I know I could be in the hunt in all class.
"Let's see what happens."