Glenn Irwin believes both he and Honda can take a step back before finding greater progress in 2020 as he prepares for a fresh start at a new team with a new but familiar team-mate.
The Northern Irish rider endured a season of contrasting fortunes after becoming Leon Haslam’s replacement at defending BSB champions Quattro Plant JG Speedfit Kawasaki, as a difficult start in BSB was soothed by a fourth straight Superbike race win at the North West 200.
But a split from the Kawasaki team mid-season before a short stint at Tyco BMW ended a tough year for Irwin as he assessed his options for 2020.
Looking to dovetail his BSB efforts with a sustained road racing programme, Irwin became the ideal pick for Honda Racing and the launch of its new CBR1000RR-R SP Fireblade. Irwin teams up with younger brother Andrew Irwin in BSB while partnering Davey Todd in Honda’s efforts at the North West 200 and Isle of Man TT for 2020.
After joining the media launch of the new Honda Superbike at Qatar’s Losail International Circuit, Irwin is naturally impressed by the ‘fresh out the box’ level of the bike before he gets his first experience of the BSB-specification Superbike later this month.
“To be competitive in Superbike requires a lot of work and the team are fully aware of that but we have a nice base package to start with. The potential is there, it will take a lot of work, but it is nice to say the potential is there,” Irwin said.
“For a complete road bike, the pace you can do on this thing is incredible. All the electronics that come with it I can see how it’d be so good on the and how good it will be on track.
“2019 was tricky and I can’t thank the team enough for the opportunity they have given me. With that we’ve ended up with my dream ride, considering everything that came with the Honda package in terms of the other racing we’ll do aside from BSB.”
Looking at his own career, Irwin also sees it as the ideal situation to reinstate himself within the front-running BSB ranks while also making his mark on his Isle of Man TT debut this year.
“I think it is a perfect platform to rebound and I am aware I need to rebound as well, so no bold statements anymore. I am prepared to take a step back to take two forward, I think it is something we can do,” he said.
While a pair of brothers at the same Honda team has made headlines in MotoGP this winter, the Japanese manufacturer also welcomes two siblings into its factory-backed BSB squad.
The elder Irwin, who outscores his brother with two BSB wins to one, is certain the natural closeness and competitiveness of their relationship will only be beneficial.
“I had a few rounds where a couple of years ago where he was my team-mate and he was just a kid [at PBM Ducati in 2018], new to Superbike and now he is a race-winner,” he said. “The rivalry can work both ways. Brothers are brothers, some get on, some don’t.
“We’re lucky we have a great friendship, he is my best mate as well and we encourage each other a lot.
“There is nobody more than you want to beat more on track than your brother but you don’t have a hatred towards each other, no jealousy, we like to see each other do well.
“I think for the team they have pulled a nice move because to develop a bike you need a clear understanding, two team-mates that are both competitive – I think we have a really nice blend and I’m looking forward to having him as my team-mate.
“There will be complete honesty with each other, if I don’t get the strong result that day I want my brother to get it.”