Foto Friday: Glen Irwin – Road Racing needs to be like a holiday
A picture is worth a thousand words but the memories of a picture can be even more important. What does a picture mean to you and what does the moment captured mean?
Last week Alex Lowes shared his memories of the 2018 Suzuka 8 Hours and what it feels like for a rider to given the final stint of that famous race.
For Week 4 of Foto Friday we wanted to take take a dive into Road Racing. What does it feel like to race on the roads? How does a rider react to the challenge of keeping calm on the grid for a race filled with danger but that consumes their lives? To find out we sat down with Glenn Irwin for his thoughts and memories of the Northwest 200. The Honda rider should have been gearing up to fly to the Isle of Man for his TT debut but while that will have to wait 12 months we wanted to know what he thinks about as the grid clears and suddenly all he sees in front of him is an empty road…
There’s no pressure to win at a Road Race. That’s what they say but standing on the grid for the start of a big bike race at Nortwest 200 and all you can feel is pressure. This is a moment of the season where the top riders are given their chance to excel. In recent years that’s meant Alistair Seeley and Glenn Irwin going toe to toe. They’re the star attractions to the Causeway Coast and the men to beat. The pressure builds as the grid starts to clear.
For Irwin the goal is to make sure that he doesn’t add pressure to himself. Treating it like any other race isn’t his mindset. A road race isn’t like any other race. The dangers are clear for everyone to see. Public roads and over 200mph can be a lethal mix so you need to be relaxed and on guard. For Irwin a road race is a holiday. It’s an experience to enjoy and one to savour.
The Honda rider should be preparing for newcomer’s practice on Sunday but with the TT cancelled due to the Coronavirus pandemic he’ll have to wait another year to feel that rush. It’s been a tough pill to swallow but one that hasn’t diminished his ambitions.
“Road Racing is a holiday for me,” explains Irwin. “You’re doing something special and there’s a great atmosphere but I treat it as a holiday so that I enjoy it. When I imagine the Northwest 200 I think about the people. I can see the buzz on the grid. When it clears all I can think about is the field screaming down to York Corner. Even just thinking about it the excitement builds in me. When I was a kid I always wanted to race on the roads.
“Road Racing is dangerous and you need to respect the roads. You aren’t afraid of racing on the roads but you realise what can happen on the roads. It focuses your mind. You need to think about it more and prepare for it. There are certain places that aren’t worth pushing hard on the course because they give you any extra time at the Northwest 200. You flow through those sections rather than scrape for a laptime. No matter what bike you’re riding you’ve got to know where you can push and ride hard.
“Comparing racing on the roads to racing on a short circuit can be summed up in on word; detail. You spend your time working on the details. You’re trying to find a zone to settle into. In BSB it’s about finding a zone where you can get to your limit and you don’t think about the safety factors. With the roads it’s about bedding in to the event and becoming part of the culture. It’s about embracing the event and being grateful for what you’re doing.
“I love Road Racing. You get so pumped up by it when the adrenaline starts to pump through your body as you think about. It’s amazing because sometimes you’re on a treadmill and your mind drifts to the Northwest or the Isle of Man and suddenly you realise that you’ve had to stop because you’ve not been breathing! The nerves and anxiety of the roads do that to you and then you realise that you’ve been on auto-pilot. Standing on the podium at the Northwest after winning a race is still the stuff of dreams for me.”