Off-season with Glenn Irwin
“Probably the best advice for Ryo is to ring Kiyo and keep ringing Kiyo! Ask him for all the advice he knows!”
Last season all eyes were on Honda Racing UK and their new signing Glenn Irwin, who joined the team alongside his brother Andrew. Add into the mix the arrival of the brand-new and eagerly awaited CBR1000RR-R Fireblade SP, with a shortened season and limited development time, 2020 was looking to be a challenge for the Louth-based team.
However, storming into action at the first round Glenn was on the podium in all three races, which he followed with a win at the very next round. Despite finishing the year fourth overall, Glenn was a firm championship contender having led the series for the majority of the season.
This year he’s back aboard the race winning new Fireblade SP and with the season now slightly delayed and due to start at the end of June, we caught up with him to see how his preparations for 2021 have been going:
What have you been up to during the off-season?
I’ve been running a lot, but I’ve really got into hiking, to the point where I wasn’t just out buying hiking boots, I was getting all the equipment and spending a lot of time on the Mourne Mountains. I’ve got one eye on the season but I’m also enjoying myself, we’ve already had the start of the season delayed slightly, but I’m not stressing about it, we experienced delays last year, so this off-season I’m quite relaxed. I also move to a new house this month, so that’s exciting and I’m spending a lot of time internet shopping, so there’s enough going on!
Have you taken anything from last year, which you can bring to this season that might help you?
I think a lot of what I’ll take from last year are the positives. There are some new bikes out, some riders have changed teams and possibly a new tyre into the series. I’ll maintain the attitude we go, we work hard, work quietly and as a team. Last year it worked, and I’d like to do the same, it was a good approach that kept the goal realistic. It’s not that my goals aren’t realistic, but it’s a good mentality to have and it brought out the best in me, I felt focussed and relaxed, so I’ll keep that going.
Did you feel pressure at all last year to prove yourself coming into a new team on a brand-new bike, after what was a difficult 2019 season for you?
Going to Honda I didn’t feel any pressure, 2019 didn’t end too badly and I was reminded that I could ride a motorbike. I prepared and covered every scenario. I worked closely with the team and with Harv from a mentality point of view, professionalism, and I think everything we put in worked, which made the sense of pressure not be there. For sure if I hadn’t prepared or changed anything perhaps there would have been, as how can you expect a different outcome by doing the same thing over and over again - if you were to expect a different outcome, you’d be very foolish. I was happy with the changes I made to my own character, we worked well as a team and I arrived into the season in a good headspace which we kept throughout the year.
Will it be easier this season, than last, as you’re with the same team and on a proven race-winning machine with the CBR1000RR-R Fireblade SP?
I don’t think you can ever say ‘racing is easy’, I never go into a season thinking ‘yeah it’s an easier year’, I think it will be variable. I think there will be things that are better for us. For sure there’s definitely things on the Fireblade that will be better, a new tyre might be better for us, but it might not be. So, there might be things that help, but we also know that racing gets tougher every year. Each year the bar always gets raised, so we need to move with the challenge and the rest of the field, if not further.
Were you expecting the new Fireblade to be as competitive as it was in its first season, and with limited testing time?
We knew from the start that the Fireblade was coming quite late, Harv was talking about getting top-six, top eights in the beginning and he was really good at keeping our feet on the ground. Andrew and I both said to him ‘Harv you know we’re going to be on a Stocker at the first round.’ But at the same time, we’d ridden the bike at Andalucía, as well as Qatar for the European media launch; that was a fantastic event and we could feel how good the bike was and also listening to the comments from the media who were also impressed. We knew from the off what we had, and it was exciting. But did we expect to do what we did at the first round? No. Then to go to Snetterton and do what we did there riding through everyone to take the win, no we didn’t expect it at all.
Who do you think will be your main competition this season?
Well, there’s always the old protagonists as such, the ones who have been in the series for a number of years. I see the Yamaha boys continuing to be strong, Ducati, all three of them. There’s lots of young kids too, you have Kyle [Ryde], Bradley [Ray] we have seen how fast he can be on his day and if he can do that every weekend he’s a huge threat, as on his day he’s as fast as anyone! There’s too many, if I keep going, I’ll name the entire grid! I’m excited to see how my new teammate goes, but it’s also his first year so the expectation for him has to be different, but I’m excited to see what he can do when he’s up to speed and knows the tracks as such. The key is to focus on ourselves, focus on the development of our own bike. This year we will have development, we will have time to do these things and if we can improve our package and be as good as last year, if not a little better, we should have a fun season.
What are your thoughts on the championship changes this year? How do you find three races each weekend?
I think it’s good and also how it was, with the closeness of the series, you know every weekend we were pretty much racing, we didn’t have the big TT gap or North West, which from a Honda point was disappointing as we were going to those events, but when it comes to BSB three races is good. A racer always wants to race and any racer that says they’d rather do an extra free practice session over a weekend probably needs their head examined! It’s a format I enjoy and will be different again this year with a sprint race, which is why it’s hard to make predictions on how the championship will go. Because we don’t know if that will suit us or not, does it bring tyre life back into it, is it a gamble to go onto a soft tyre, and different things like that. Stuart [Higgs] and his team as a race series are probably as good as any race series in the world of staying ahead of things, there’s many things the British championship does that gets adopted by other series, which is a credit to MSV.
You have a new teammate this year with Ryo making his BSB debut, what top-five tips would you give to him about the British circuits?
I think the first thing would be the mentality, the Armco is so much closer! So, I would probably enter the North West 200 at the start of the season if I was him, so when he gets to BSB he’ll feel like he’s at Suzuka or something! [Laughs] When you go to Cadwell you feel like you’re at Silverstone after a road race, so that would be a good start.
Second tip would be to absorb. There is so much and BSB is a crafty little series, there’s so many knacks about it – the circuits are very different to the world stuff and all the little secrets are important, so I would be like a big sponge.
Third one, the last time I spoke to him he told me the next time I’ll see him he’ll be able to speak good English. Being a racer is more to just riding round a track, it’s also the atmosphere in the garage, your happiness and feeling at home, so to adapt to England and make it a home from home.
Number four, and probably the best advice would be to ring Kiyo and keep ringing Kiyo! Ask him for all the advice he knows. Kiyo is one of the legends of BSB, he’s someone I loved racing with.
The last one would be to enjoy it, if he enjoys it then no doubt, he’ll be there for a long time.
The Honda Racing UK team is busy preparing for the start of the 2021 Bennetts British Superbike Championship, which kicks off with Round 1 at Oulton Park on 25-27 June. For the full 2021 schedule click here.