After a year’s absence, British Superbike Championship contender Glenn Irwin got his first taste of the PBM Be Wiser Ducati Superbike around the 8.97-mile North West 200 circuit yesterday.
And the Carrickfergus man impressed immediately, running second behind Alastair Seeley in the early stages of the opening Superbike session before ending up fifth fastest, five seconds behind pace setter Seeley (Tyco BMW), the man with a record 17 wins at the north coast showpiece.
“I just wasn’t sure what to expect as I’d only ridden a Supersport here before,” the 27-year-old said.
“I wasn’t sure how the Ducati would fare over the long high-speed runs, which aren’t normal on the BSB circuits. There are lots of bumps I didn’t find on the Supersport and the speed is unreal, but exhilarating.
“However, I was well pleased to set the time I did, and with a few alterations I was allowed out in the Superstock session and unofficially shaved a couple of seconds off my best qualifying time, so I know there is more to come.”
The son of former Irish road race and short circuit star Alan Irwin, Glenn made his road race debut at the North West 200 in 2015 riding a Gearlink Kawasaki.
That year he surprised pretty much everybody by pushing Seeley at the front of the opening Supersport race before retiring, and then finishing runner-up in the second race after a last-lap three-way braking duel at Juniper Chicane with Seeley, the eventual winner, and Lee Johnston, who claimed third.
Last year saw him move to the prestigious British Superbike Championship with Paul Bird’s team, and he gave the North West a miss as he became accustomed to both the team and the powerful Superbike, finishing in 12th position in the series.
Irwin is back at the North West this week off the back of two podiums in BSB, including helping the team to a 1-2 finish in the last race at Oulton Park, the race won by team-mate Shane Byrne.
Irwin said: “It’s so cool to race the Be Wiser Ducati in front of my home crowd, but people must remember this is only my second year and my first ever on a Superbike at the event.
“I always dreamt of winning a Superbike race here as a kid, however I must be realistic and give the circuit the respect it deserves.
“I never expected to be so quick so soon, as we didn’t have any settings for the Ducati because we never raced here before with it.”
So, can the Carrickfergus man win a Superbike race on Saturday?
“I always go out with the intention of winning,” Irwin added.
“There are other riders with lots more experience on Superbikes around the circuit, but I have ran at the front of North West 200 races before and who knows, maybe I can cause an upset.”