Irwin aiming for title success on shock Arenacross return
Former British Motocross champion turned road racer Graeme Irwin is making a surprise return to the dirt for a one-off indoor race at the Belfast round of the Arenacross Tour at the SSE Arena on January 17-18.
"The timing of the Belfast Arenacross suited me with it being in the off-season of my Superbike campaign," Carrick rider Irwin explained.
"I've won every Championship in the UK but Arenacross, so that's motivation."
With a decorated motocross career including titles at the Maxxis British Championship, British Youth Championship, British Masters Championship, Michelin MX Nationals and a long list of Ulster and Irish crowns, Irwin will be out to win.
"My Superbike will be better out the gate or I might blow the cobwebs off my Honda 450cc British Motocross Championship-winning bike," joked Irwin.
He will actually be racing his Championship-winning Honda CRF450, prepared by Dave Thorpe's title-winning Buildbase Honda team.
Tour promoter Matt Bates said: "I jokingly sent Graeme a message to think about coming out of retirement for a couple of nights in the winter, but what I didn't expect was for him to message me straight back saying that he thought it was a great idea.
"Graeme, like all of the Irwin family, are racers through and through and I believe this sends a message to the current crop of top-class professional British Motocross Championship riders that don't currently compete in Arenacross as it either interferes with pre-season testing or doesn't quite fit with their outdoor plans.
"Graeme is a racer, he races bikes, he's a champion and is a role model to every young rider in the sport."
Joining Irwin will be MX veteran Martin Barr, who enjoyed a successful season having represented his country for the 15th consecutive time at the Motocross of Nations as well as taking the MX Nationals MX2 title.
Last year was his first time returning to the Arenacross Tour since 2013 and the Ballyclare rider will be keen to make his AX bid one the fans can get behind.
"As always there will be tough competition at Arenacross, with plenty of full-time SX riders who have already started their season. It's going to be tough, but it is a challenge I can't wait for," commented Barr, who will be riding in the Pro Lite 250 Championship.
Amongst the AX Pro line-up will be another well-known rider, Stuart Edmonds, who will be looking to make his mark on Arenacross following some unfortunate injuries in his previous seasons.
"I have been interested in Arenacross since my last outing a few years ago in Belfast. It's something I have been trying to organise each year but due to injury and other things I wasn't able to. Thanks to my sponsors we were able to sort a really good package so I couldn't turn the opportunity down," Edmonds said.
Irish racers will feature heavily in the youth ranks too. In the Supermini Cup, Charley Irwin and Lewis Spratt will go head-to-head.
Charley will be making a comeback to Arenacross having raced in the series since he was seven-years-old with numerous podium finishes to his name.
"This will be my first time racing in the Big Wheel 85 class at AX. The competition will be tough but I'm hoping to get in the top three," said Irwin.
Spratt is also no stranger to the lights and lasers of Arenacross having debuted last year in the 65cc class.
"I've been to AX with my family since I was three and always said I would love to do it. This year is my first year on the 85cc so it is a big learning year for me but I'm up for the challenge," commented Spratt.
In the 65cc Cup, newcomer Jordan Kinsella will be debuting at the Arenacross Tour following his first season at the British 65cc Championship. Now in its second year, the All-Ireland Cup will feature at the opening two rounds in Belfast.
The all-Irish class will feature 12 riders, pitting wheel-against-wheel in an anticipated no-holds-barred fight to the chequered flag. An overall champion will be crowned on Saturday night.
Amongst the contenders will be Jordan Keogh, who will be the first rider to take on the All-Ireland class and the AX Pro Lite 250 class in his bid to show his talent.
"I don't have any expectations, I just want to get out there and give it my best on a tighter course with spectators closer to the action and able to view all angles," said Keogh.