British Superbike prospect Andrew Irwin says Christmas has come early as he prepares to make his debut for the Honda Racing team next week at Monteblanco in Spain.
The Carrickfergus rider is unable to contain his enthusiasm as he counts the days to his first test on the CBR1000RR Fireblade SP2.
Irwin and former World Superbike frontrunner Xavi Fores will lead a new-look line-up for Honda in BSB next year, with the 24-year-old Ulsterman earning his chance after impressing as a rookie this season on the PBM Be Wiser Ducati after he was brought in as a replacement for the injured Shane Byrne.
Irwin’s best results were fourth place finishes at Oulton Park and Brands Hatch, and he also sensationally qualified on the front row at Thruxton in third alongside his brother Glenn and Luke Mossey.
After finishing as the runner-up in the 2017 British Supersport Championship behind fellow countryman Keith Farmer, Irwin made the switch to the World Supersport Championship with PTR Honda this year, but the opportunity to join his brother Glenn in Paul Bird’s team was one he simply could not overlook.
It was a decision that ultimately paid dividends and now Irwin is determined to kick on and take his career to the next level.
“I always said I took a gamble to go to BSB. Every boy’s dream is to ride in the world championship and I was doing it, although it maybe wasn’t as glamorous as what I thought it would be,” Irwin told the News Letter.
“You always want to be on something competitive and I made the move to British Superbikes with Paul Bird’s team on the Ducati and it kicked off my career I believe.
“I’m able to live off the sport now and I don’t have to work at the moment, even though I still do. It’s something that I’m proud of and that my family can be proud of as well, to have three of us who are professional motorbike riders [Andrew, Glenn and British motocross star Graeme]. It’s not something that many families achieve and now, looking back, it was the best decision I made career-wise – one that was unknown, but it’s definitely paid off.”
Irwin will fly to Spain on Saturday ahead of next week’s test at Monteblanco, which carries additional importance with the new winter testing ban taking effect during January and February.
“I actually fly to Spain on Saturday and then I’ll be testing the bike for the first time on Monday and Tuesday at Monteblanco,” he said.
“In BSB now there’s a testing ban in January and February, so it’s really important to try and get out there and get a direction with the bike, which means if there is something that we need to work on, then we’ve got January and February to sort it out ahead of testing starting proper in March.
“It’s more of a shakedown test rather than going out and trying to break any lap records. I can’t wait to get out there and I think the Honda is a bike that will suit me; it’s more of a stereotypical bike than what I was on previously because it’s an in-line four and it’s what I have always raced pretty much in 600s.
“I’m excited and I think we can do a good job next year. The ultimate goal is to battle for the Showdown – that’s what I want to do and I don’t see any reason why I can’t be thereabouts. I’m working harder than I’ve ever done before to be in the best shape possible.
“The main thing will be consistency and especially finishing each race. If we’re finishing seventh or eighth at the start of the season then we’ll take that and just keep building from there.”
Irwin is one of five Northern Ireland riders in BSB in 2019, joining his brother Glenn (JG Speedfit Kawasaki), Keith Farmer (Tyco BMW), Josh Elliott (OMG Suzuki) and David Allingham (EHA Racing Yamaha).