Graeme Irwin has had quite the season. A difficult start to the year on an under powered 250 meant a change to the 450 half way through and it was on that bike that Irwin showed his full potential.
On the back of his 450 speed Irwin is moving up full time to the big bike in 2014 and he is already motivated to challenge for the British title against the likes of Whatley, Simpson and Nicholls.
We caught up with Northern Irishman to talk about his season, winning the Weston beach race and his hopes for 2104.
How would you sum up your season overall?
I was expecting more of myself in the 250. I wasn’t happy with where I was finishing whatsoever. I had a couple of good races, obviously I won a couple of Red Bull races and one race of the British championship. I wanted to be a contender to win the championship this year and I wasn’t. I think my speed was good but I wasn’t getting the best starts and there are a lot of fast bikes in the British championship and I don’t think we had the fastest bike and we know that.
Once we got unto the 450 I think it proved it wasn’t really me, my speed was good and every race on the 450 I was really happy with. To end the year winning the Weston beach race was a really good high.
The Weston looked be wet and miserable, what was it like to ride?
It got wet! The tide came in and it was constantly wet. It was different every lap and you had to constantly think. If you got stuck you could lose a couple of minutes. Some guy could maybe take your line so you are always looking for different lines. You had to be really strong and open your eyes to find the lines. I think that was maybe the difference because I found a few good places, and I could put the bike where I wanted, some of the other guys were just riding the same lines.
That is a pretty prestigious race to win, it must be good to get your name on that list and also get the exposure it brings
Exactly. I met Jeffrey Herlings at the airport and we were talking, I told him I won it this year and he said he won it the year before but I was a wee bit gutted because he got £10,000 for it – £9,000 in start money and £1,000 for winning. I rocked up and won it but I didn’t get any start money!
You went to Japan to race, how was that experience?
It was really good, the only thing I was I got injured the week before at Weston. It took the excitement out of the trip. I was still really looking forward to it because I thought I could definitely still ride. I got there and won my qualifying heat on Saturday but I didn’t feel comfortable on the bike. I could ride a couple of laps fast but I was in no shape to ride a bike. On the Sunday the track was really wet and heavy. The first race I took to many painkillers, it’s easy done when you want to race so bad, but it also put me on a different planet. I did three or four laps of the first race but I had to pull in because I had crashed twice. I had fallen on my bad shoulder and I couldn’t even feel the pain.
Between the first and second race I tried to drink lots of water to flush the system and I had a 40 second lead but got stuck. I had no strength in my left arm to pull the bike out, s it wasn’t too fun!
Was it your shoulder you dislocated or your collarbone?
It’s called the AC joint, I basically dislocated my collarbone at the sternum. The best thing for it is rest, it is best not to operate on that joint as it can be quite a dangerous operation.
Just moving onto the 450, you were quick on it straight away and even at the Nations it was pretty much a stock bike. You must have been really pleased with your speed against the big names.
I was happy with my speed. A lot people maybe saw the results that we didn’t qualify but I went out and gave it 100%, I honestly did.
All weekend I only made one mistake but in the B final I jumped off the side of the track, coming through then back up we only finished just behind the guys we needed to beat to qualify. That was the only negative or big mistake I made from the weekend. At the end of the day Ryan Dungey did the exact same thing!
Moving on to the British next year, you have Simpson and Nicholls coming in but you have already shown you can run Whatley’s pace so it’s game on as far as the British championship. But maybe it will help you get more respect and show you are good enough to ride Grand Prix if you can run with the two British GP riders.
I totally agree, everyone says it’s going to be hard but at the end of the day I have always said there is not enough GP riders in it. I would like to think I can run with them guys, if you win a British championship without them guys people will ask who you beat. I would rather Jake and Shaun being there so I can put up as much of a fight as possible. It’s easy for me to turn round and say I want to win a British championship and say next year is my year, but I am just going to go out and try 100% and fingers crossed it’s puts me in a position but if it doesn’t it won’t be through any lack of effort on my side.
Do you know if you get to do any GPs this year? The GP teams don’t really seem to follow the British championship.
Yeah I am definitely going to do a couple. I have to pay to do the GPs myself but I am going to do as many as I can, it’s money well spent. You get to race with the best guys in the world and it brings you on. Obviously I am not going to do them if I am not prepared or struggling in the British. At the end of the day it is still my dream to race the World championship and that is where I want to be.
Do you feel smoother on the 450?
Yeah I feel smoother on it, but you have to ride the bike where the power is and if you are struggling for power you are pushing the bike to the limit. I think the Suzuki 450 is a really good bike and I gel with it quite well.
Are you pleased to be staying with the Suzuki team? It is a bit of continuity for you as well…
Definitely, working with Neil Prince is a big bonus. If I am ever going to win a British championship it will be with Neil. He has got the experience, this year I proved I can run with Whatley. It could be good next year but a lot of fast riders are putting in 100%. Fingers crossed we can do enough to do. I just want to thank everyone that has been behind me and got me to where I am.
Interview by Jonathan McCready
Picture by Kev Reid