SPAN­ISH MO­TOGP ANAL­Y­SIS

P74

Motorcycle News (UK) - - This Week - By Stephen Dav­i­son ROADS RE­PORTER

The 8.9-mile Vaux­hall In­ter­na­tional North West 200 course will boast the finest grid of any road race in the world as it at­tracts racers from ev­ery dis­ci­pline. Lin­ing up along­side the pure roads men like John Mcguin­ness, Michael Dun­lop, Bruce An­stey, Ian Hutchin­son, Lee Johnston and Dean Har­ri­son, will be Peter Hick­man and Glenn Ir­win – who nor­mally ply their trade on the short cir­cuits.

In fact, Ir­win’s par­tic­i­pa­tion on his fac­tory-sup­ported Be­wiser Du­cati Panigale is one of the NW200’S or­gan­is­ers coups of 2017. He’s up for the chal­lenge. “I’ve been get­ting adren­a­line pains in my chest watch­ing on­board laps of the North West,” he said.

Get­ting his eye back in

The 27-year-old was com­plet­ing a day of re­fresher laps ahead of his re­turn to the fa­mous Tri­an­gle course he last raced for Gear­link Kawasaki in 2015. The prospect of the BSB star do­ing bat­tle with the NW200’S most-suc­cess­ful rider, Alastair See­ley and out­right lap record holder Michael Dun­lop has fired the imag­i­na­tion of many road racing fans.

“This will be the first road race that I’ve com­peted in where I am not a new­comer and I will be on a 200bhp bike – 70bhp more than I had last time out. But peo­ple have to re­spect that road racing is still very, very new to me. I’ve only done about 20 laps of the North West course on a 600, so ev­ery­thing will be dif­fer­ent this year.”

Ir­win may have found the pace to se­cure BSB podi­ums, but he knows he has to ap­proach the roads more war­ily.

Track de­mands re­spect

The NW200 is one road racing’s fastest cour­ses and Ir­win will be tread­ing new ground - thanks to the higher top speeds of his Bsb-spec Panigale com­pared to the Su­pers­port Kawasaki he raced two years ago. “I have to keep that bit of re­spect that needs to be kept and it isn’t just about go­ing flat out every­where,” he said.

“I got a nice phone call from Ben Wilson to­day telling me about a few places on the track that he found very dif­fer­ent on a su­per­bike com­pared to how they had been on a 600 – places where the front wheel just went straight up in the air. I ap­pre­ci­ated that.”

An­other un­known for the young Ul­ster­man is how the Du­cati will per­form on the roads, es­pe­cially on the long, high-speed straights of the course

that links the three towns of North­ern Ire­land towns of Portrush, Port­stew­art and Col­eraine.

“It is a great bike and has been very re­li­able in BSB. We will have the revs turned down a bit on the en­gine for the North West,” ex­plains Ir­win.

“The bike has been very quick in BSB but there aren’t any straights that are miles long and we haven’t de­vel­oped it for the road racing. Maybe it won’t be the fastest bike on track but the one thing I do know is that it will be friendly and will han­dle well.”

A 2015 sen­sa­tion

Re­gard­less of Glenn’s lack of ex­pe­ri­ence and the Du­cati’s shortage of road race out­ings, Ir­win was a sen­sa­tion when he raced at the 2015 NW200 – fin­ish­ing on the podium in the sec­ond Su­pers­port event af­ter a ti­tanic duel with cir­cuit spe­cial­ists Alastair See­ley and Lee Johnston. He cov­ered him­self in glory again at the Ul­ster Grand Prix, claim­ing a podium fin­ish, but it was the 27 -year- old’s per­for­mance at last year’s Ma­cau Grand Prix that re­ally ex­cited the pure roads bri­gade. Ir­win bat­tled at the front through­out the race with Michael Rut­ter, Martin Jes­sopp and even­tual win­ner, Peter Hick­man, be­fore re­tir­ing on the penul­ti­mate lap.

“Af­ter Ma­cau Paul Bird (PBM boss) started think­ing about the North West,” Ir­win ex­plains.

“The last time I raced there I ran well and that gives you con­fi­dence. As a racer the scari­est thing in the world is not be­ing com­pet­i­tive.

“I won’t worry about the time sheets un­til af­ter Thurs­day qual­i­fy­ing at the North West. I’ll be hop­ing that I won’t be too far away. Ev­ery­body knows I like to race and I will get stuck in and make a chal­lenge.”

‘I’ve been told there are places where the front wheel goes straight up!’ GLENN IR­WIN

BSB podium win­ner is a def­i­nite NW200 Su­per­bike con­tender

Glenn Ir­win hopes to bat­tle at the front

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