Irwin Racing finished off their debut season in the British Superbike Championship paddock with a strong weekend at the Brands Hatch finale over the weekend of October 12th to 14th. Moto3 Production competitor Rhys Irwin, took his best result of the year, along with his first ever podium, while in Superstock 600, older brother Caolán had his most competitive weekend of the season qualifying on the second row of the grid and then racing to sixth place.
The weekend did not start as well as it ended for the Donegal based team, as an engine issue for Rhys in Moto3 qualifying left him unable to take his place on the grid for Saturday’s opening race. A long road trip by Rhys’s father Ivan, to collect a replacement engine, enabled the teenager to make the grid for Sunday’s race, where he would have to start from thirty second and last on the grid, nineteenth of the Production class bikes.
Away from the lights Rhys immediately set about climbing the order and an outstanding first lap saw him up to nineteenth overall and seventh in his class. Progress continued on each lap and just after half distance the Motorcycling Ireland backed Honda was into the top ten and lying third of the production bikes. By the flag the Kilmacrennan teenager had moved up one more place to ninth as he achieved his first ever podium in Moto3 and secured seventh in the final championship standings.
Caolán Irwin’s weekend went much more to plan as second in the opening practice session was backed up a strong performance in qualifying. Following a tight battle the Oasis Bar and Clean Rubber backed rider produced his best qualifying of the season to line up sixth, less than two tenths off a front row start. A good getaway at the start of the race left Caolán running with the lead group, in seventh place, and by lap three he had regained sixth. Further progress was made as he then ran in fifth place from half distance until the final lap where he was just pipped for the place on the run to the flag.
Caolán’s strong end to the season, where he picked up his best finish since round five, meant that he never finished a race outside of the top ten on his way to ninth overall in the series. His impressive performances, including a first ever podium, at Snetterton in June, left his as the top rookie in the Superstock 600 class.
Speaking after the final weekend of his Superstock 600 season Caolán said. “I’m really happy with sixth place to end my first season in BSB, what a year. At round one I qualified nineteenth, 3.8 seconds off third, this weekend I qualified sixth 0.2 seconds off third, which shows how much progress I and the team have made. This final result means that every time I’ve finished I’ve been inside the top ten, I’ve secured ninth in the championship, finished as top rookie, and had a podium at Snetterton earlier in the year, which is more than I dreamed off at the start of the season. Massive thanks to everyone who made this year possible.”
Rhys Irwin was also delighted with his final race of the year as he finished his BSB season with a podium. “After my bike blowing up on the first lap of qualifying, and having to start from 32nd on the grid, I didn’t expect that. Third position and my first BSB podium with second fastest lap of the race is a great way to end this part of my season. A massive thank you has to go out to Bradley Thurston and Stephen Knight for the loan of the engine and my team for sticking it in last night. I can’t thank everyone who has helped get me here enough, Motorcycling Ireland, Mum and Dad, Eamon Medlar, Wes, Galfee , Wogey, Arnie, Katy and Brad and everyone else who has helped out.
Following a successful first season in BSB, Irwin Racing may be finished for 2018, but both riders still have one more event to complete. Caolan’s thoughts are already on preparation for the final of the Masters Young Racer of the Year at Mondello Park on October 24th, while Rhys is looking forward to his final British Talent Cup race of the season at the MotoGP finale in Valencia, Spain, on November 17th & 18th.