BSB: Irwin targets British title in 2018 after penning new PBM deal

Glenn Irwin has signed for a third season with Paul Bird Motorsport to ride the Be Wiser-backed Ducati in the MCE British Superbike Championship in 2018.
Glenn Irwin has signed for a third season with Paul Bird Motorsport to ride the Be Wiser-backed Ducati in the MCE British Superbike Championship in 2018.

Glenn Irwin says he feels ready to step up to the mark in 2018 and challenge for the MCE British Superbike title after penning a new deal to remain in Paul Bird’s Be Wiser Ducati team.

The Carrickfergus man’s prospects of making it into the Showdown this season were thwarted when he suffered serious arm and shoulder injuries in a crash in practice at Knockhill in June.

However, he turned his fortunes around with a breakthrough victory last weekend at Silverstone and Irwin has been granted a third season in Bird’s team alongside five-time BSB champion Shane ‘Shakey’ Byrne.

Irwin attracted interest from other teams in the BSB paddock, but the 27-year-old said his ‘number one choice’ was to stay at PBM.

“As a rider I think it is always good to have interest from other teams and interest from anyone really – sponsors or fans too – it gives you encouragement. For me, it was always my number one priority to seal the deal where I am,” he told the News Letter.

“I think I have earned it this year but at the same time I have got to give Paul [Bird] a lot of respect for giving me a third year and also sticking by me whilst I’ve been hampered.

“My goal for next year is to win the championship and before this deal came about, no matter where I was going to be, that was going to be my goal,” he added.

“It’s the first time I’ve ever stayed with a team for three years and obviously I was with Gearlink for two years, which proved to be successful. Three years is cool and it would nice to be having this conversation about the same deal in five years, but it’s down to me to make all that happen.”

Prior to his setback at Knockhill, Irwin was holding fifth place in the championship standings after the first three rounds, boosted by a third place at Donington and a runner-up finish in race two at Oulton Park.

His fine form continued at the North West 200 in May, where he won the blue riband Superbike race on the Italian Panigale to the delight of the home fans in a scintillating finale.

However, he came crashing back down to earth as the BSB series resumed, picking up injuries that ruled him out of the Scottish round at Knockhill as well as round five at Snetterton.

He made a tentative return at Brands Hatch but was a long way off his physical peak. The Ulster rider persevered at Thruxton and Cadwell Park, but Irwin’s hard work finally paid off last weekend when he claimed a breakthrough win in race one of the triple-header weekend at Silverstone.

Irwin could be forgiven for dwelling on what might have been this season, but he prefers instead to look forward rather than backwards.

“We had a huge curveball obviously with the incident at Knockhill, which has been talked about a lot, but it probably put everything I had done this season into jeopardy,” said Irwin, who will round off 2017 by returning to the Macau Grand Prix in November.

“To come back, win at Silverstone and be quick in practice, and to feel good in the dry race before I crashed out was key.

“I tend to look at the positives and I could look at this year and say ‘I should’ve been here in the Showdown,’ but the way I see it, I have learned a lot for next year and that outweighs the disappointment of this year. It’s now about doing a good job for the team and I think it’s more important that Shakey wins the title rather than worrying about the Riders Cup.”