East Antrim’s Glenn Irwin is gearing up to compete in his first-ever road race - the Ulster Grand Prix.
The young Gearlink Kawasaki rider is relishing the thought of lining up under the Joey Dunlop grandstand for the first time to compete in Thursday and Saturday’s supertwins races.
The adrenalin levels are sure to be high as he heads off down the flying kilo for the first time.
“I’m really excited at the prospect of riding the Dundrod circuit,” said the Carrick man. “It will be a couple of firsts in a way as, apart from the circuit, I have never ridden a 650 either. But, at the end of the day, it is a motorbike with two wheels, an engine and Pirelli tyres. If it is quick enough, I will be good enough.”
How does he view the whole experience?
“I will treat Dundrod with the respect it deserves but I am there to race. I suppose the whole thing will hit me when I get there but, as I said earlier, I am looking forward to it and I would like to thank, not only Noel Johnston and Robbie Sylvester, but my long-time sponsor MET Healthcare for making one of my racing dreams come true.”
Another East Antrim prospect, Jamie Hamilton, will have to sit out this year’s Ulster GP.
The 23-year-old Ballyclare rider was one of the pre-race favorites for the supertwins race, having finished runner-up in 2013.
After four wins at the Bush Road races followed by his double at Skerries, he was expected to be up there with the front-runners in the supersport, superstock and superbike events at the Dundrod 150 and Ulster Grand Prix.
Unfortunately, his crash in the Skerries Grand Final has meant that no matter how hard he tried to regain full fitness it hasn’t happened and he has had to withdraw under doctor’s orders.
“I have done everything I could to make the Ulster,” said Hamilton. “I even rode at the Armoy races but at the end of racing I was in great pain with my leg and had to be readmitted to hospital for further treatment. I then saw a consultant who told me I needed to rest and the Ulster Grand Prix was not on the agenda.
“I am gutted, but I will have to take his advice and sit this one out. I might go and spectate, but it’s not the same.”
The Ulster GP and Dundrod 150 have all the ingredients for superb racing. The entry reads like a who’s who of road racing. Topping the list must be Michael Dunlop on the factory BMW superbike, while Tyco Suzuki’s Guy Martin will also have a big say.
Martin’s team-mate, William Dunlop, says Dundrod is his favourite race track and would love nothing better than to put one over his brother in the superbike races.
Bruce Anstey, the fastest man ever around the Dundrod circuit, will ride the Padgetts Honda and can’t be ruled out of the rostrum positions and along with Dean Harrison, Ian Hutchinson and Keith Amor to name but a few.
Noel Johnston, Clerk of the Course at the Ulster Grand Prix said: “It’s great to see riders like Glenn Irwin and Danny Webb, who traditionally only compete on short circuits, trying their hand at road racing. I think this year’s lineup shows how strong the sport is today. To see riders with not only British but world championship experience lining up at Dundrod will be a real treat for spectators.”