Glenn Irwin has warned he is yet to show his true potential as the reigning Vauxhall International North West 200 Superbike king targets a double in today's feature races on the North Coast.
The British Superbike star was limited to just three laps during Tuesday's shortened practice session, but Irwin powered to his first pole position at the event on the booming PBM Ducati in perfect conditions in final qualifying on Thursday, lapping at 122.454mph.
The 28-year-old Carrick man clinched the prime spot on the front row of the grid but there was nothing in it, with only eight tenths of a second covering the top five of Irwin, Dean Harrison, Michael Dunlop, Alastair Seeley and Michael Rutter.
The stage is set today for two epic Superbike encounters around the 8.9-mile course and Irwin has vowed to really up the ante.
His famous win on the Italian Ducati over record holder and fellow Carrick rider Alastair Seeley a year ago has gone into the pages of the North West 200 history books and now Irwin is fired up to repeat the feat.
"I do think we can raise the bar at the North West but, at the same time, I'll only push on where I feel comfortable doing so," he said.
Irwin continued: “Having respect for the roads is always number one for me and I will always ride with that in mind.
“I watched the race from last year and I noticed a couple of areas where Alastair was stronger than me, which I didn’t notice when we watched the race initially. I was doing my homework and that is something that I can put into practice.
“People said it was the best race they have ever seen but I think it’s hard to compare different eras, but that race is still talked about. Not only has it done me the world of good, I think it did the North West a world of good also.
“I take this event very seriously and so does the PBM team.”
Irwin’s rivalry with Michael Dunlop has been one of the big talking points this year. They clashed during a charity football match between the road racers and short circuit teams in January.
Later, Irwin claimed the Ballymoney man ‘probably doesn’t like me because I always beat him in a road race’.
However, Irwin says he has the utmost respect for all his rivals and claims he has no issue with the 15-time TT winner.
“No, it’s not about me versus Michael Dunlop, Alastair Seeley or anyone else — I respect Michael and I respect all my rivals,” he said.
“It’s not some kind of boxing match or a war as it seems to have been portrayed. That kind of build-up doesn’t help and I have seen what happens when things go wrong in this game at Macau.
“I’m looking forward to some good racing and I think the racing will be close and exciting in all the classes.”
Following a crash during Thursday evening’s Superstock race, Temple Golf Club Yamaha’s William Dunlop has withdrawn from today’s races at the 2018 Vauxhall International North West 200.
The Ballymoney man highsided from his Yamaha R1 at Church corner. A medical examination has shown Dunlop didn’t break any bones in the fall but he has sustained heavy bruising to his back.
“We have made big steps forward with the Superbike and I am disappointed I won’t have the chance to ride it in the North West 200 Superbike races,” Dunlop said.
Dunlop had qualified in eighth position on the Temple Golf Club R1 Yamaha for today’s Superbike events.
He was also entered for the Supersport and Superstock races.
Team owner Tim Martin said: “The team are gutted not to be taking any further part in this year’s North West 200 but our rider’s welfare must come first.
“It is a blow not to have a rider of William’s calibre on the grid on Saturday but it’s important he takes time to recover and overcome this setback.”
Event Director Mervyn Whyte said: “We wish William well with his recovery and the rest of his season.”