EAST Antrim’s Andrew Irwin is this year’s winner of the coveted Bertie Mann award, which recognises outstanding progress and potential from two-wheel competitors under 21 years of age.
Irwin joins an elite list of previous winners which includes local rider Jonathan Rea, Eugene Laverty, Michael Laverty and his brother Glenn, who won the award in 2010.
“I am delighted at being chosen for this award. It is brilliant to be included amongst such names as Jonathan Rea and Eugene Laverty. Also to join my brother Glenn’s name on the trophy is something special,” he said.
Andrew is son of ex-Ulster and Irish champion, Alan, and brother of Graeme and Glenn who themselves have won many championships. In 2012 the youngest of the Irwin racers won not only his first short circuit title of his tarmac career, but did the double winning both the Ulster and Irish titles in the supertwins class on the Aquarius Couriers Suzuki.
He was arguably the fastest rider to throw his leg over a supertwin machine and by the end of the season had proved just how good he was by lifting both titles.
The 18-year-old said he was delighted with his success: “At the start of the season I was really confident although I kept it to myself. I had trained really hard over the winter and I thought if I did things right I could win the championships. I knew Conor (Parkhill) would be a major threat as he was going to be riding for Ryan Farquhar and his bikes are definitely fast. It’s hard to ride against a fast bike but I just try my hardest in every race and it worked out the way I wanted it to in the end.”
And try he did. Over the season he won five races doing the double at Bishopscourt in September to secure the Ulster title with 46 points to spare over Parkhill. Then he won the Irish championship in style with another victory at Mondello Park to accumulate a 76-point advantage over his great rival.
So, how did it feel to win both titles?
“It was so good to win an Ulster title again because it had been 10 years since I won the Ulster MX title,” he said. “It was also good because the last time I had won I didn’t really understand what I had done, whereas, this time I could really enjoy it.
“It was strange going to Mondello as I wasn’t sure what way to approach the races as the Irish title was not in the bag. I’m not making excuses, but I had a little brake problem in the first race. I didn’t feel as fast as Conor and he beat me fair and square.
“The second race was a good race before we crashed. Glenn had said to me before the race to try and win in style. I always try to win but I didn’t feel 100 per cent in race one so I just went for it in race two and obviously we crashed, through no fault of mine, I might add. Once we crashed I had won the championship so in the third race I just rode as fast as I could because I knew that Conor was good around Mondello. I also knew that if I led and didn’t make any silly mistakes I could win. I didn’t make any and took the final chequered flag of the season.
“It was a good way to finish the year and to give Charlie and Aquarius Couriers, who have helped me so much over the past two seasons, their first championships was brilliant.”
Irwin told the Times he has ambitions to compete in British superstock next year.
“I have a couple of offers to go there but I need the money to go. It is so difficult to raise a budget these days. If I go, the first year will be the most difficult, learning the tracks and getting to grips with a 600 for the first time, as I have never ridden one before.
“I am a fast learner and I believe I will be able to deal with both issues and definitely do well. If the British thing doesn’t come about, I will definitely ride a 600 at home with the aim to get to the mainland the following year. My brother Glenn did two years on a 600 before going to England and look what he is doing now, running at the front of supersport. Anyway, I am my own person and might adapt to things differently to Glenn; who knows?”
All the Carrick teenager needs is a helping hand onto the next rung of the racing ladder. Anyone who fancies helping Andrew can contact him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org