Author: Oli Rushby Pics: Tim Keeton & Bonnie Lane Posted: 14 Mar 2016
British Superbike rookie Glenn Irwin has spent the last few weeks getting to grips with his new 200bhp+ Ducati Panigale R.
Considering he’s one of the first to admit he’s a rider known for his aggressive style, Irwin has taken a calm, collected and mature approach to testing with his new Be Wiser Ducati team.
Stepping up from the supersport class, the 25-year-old has completed three tests aboard his Panigale R superbike so far. An initial test at Portimao in January was followed up by two Spanish tests, at Cartagena and then Guadix last week.
In all three tests, Irwin’s goal was to get as many laps under his belt as possible to familiarise himself with his new bike and get used to the extra power.
“We had the initial test in January and followed that up with Cartagena and Guadix,” said Irwin speaking exclusively to Bike Social. “We probably haven’t turned as many laps as we would have wanted, but Cartagena was good for us as we realised that either the Ducati wasn’t great there or that we had work to do at tracks like that.
“In Guadix we found we weren’t so much on the back foot, don’t get me wrong we’re not where we want to be with the bike and we’ve still a lot of development work to do but we’re closer in terms of lap times, especially on old tyres.”
Crucially, Irwin has taken his time at all three tests, knowing not only was he on a completely new bike but he also had no experience of the circuits he was riding.
“Everyone sees me as wild, and I am. I’m absolutely off the rails at times, not in a bad way, but excitable and exuberant,” he confessed. “When I’m on a bike I’m a bit different, yeah I’m aggressive and I love a lunge, but I’m a lot more mature than people think.
“This is Spanish testing, there’s no way I could go to Cartagena and bang in a quick lap when I’ve been there once and crashed straight into a tyre wall. I’d never even seen an on-board lap of Guadix because I’d spent so much time trying to learn Cartagena again, so to be 1.5 seconds off a world superbike winner from the end of last year on a bike which is a bit more ahead of us at the moment in terms of mileage in testing, it can’t be that bad! We weren’t looking to do an ultra-fast lap.”
Feeling more and more confident with his bike as testing went on, Irwin says he felt he could start to push on the Ducati by the end of the final test, but having never tested in Spain before he was reluctant to say where he felt he was in terms of preparation compared to his rivals.
“In the last few sessions at Guadix I was starting to feel like I could push for the first time. I was starting to push the front a bit more and get some feeling from the bike. Before we went testing I said I wanted to spend a few laps behind Shakey but I still haven’t done that because we’re still a little early on the development of the bike so I’m doing it all on my own. I don’t think I’ve even done a lap behind anybody! I haven’t really done any Spanish testing before so for me the big teller will be when we get to Silverstone in a few weeks and everyone’s on track. I think we’ll be a lot closer than people think.
“Every time we go out on the bike we are improving. We’re finding directions, both bikes are going in a similar direction at the minute which is a good thing as we’re finding a clear path to go so we need to work hard with that to give me the best I have underneath me. I’m trying to learn off Shakey and grow off myself, it’s a big step and a big challenge so I’m trying to bring in all the confidence I’ve had from previous years and hopefully it’ll work, but I think it needs to be done in steps.”
When asked about his goals for the season, Irwin acknowledged the level of competition but made his aims quite clear.
“You’ve 20 odd guys who could probably achieve the showdown and you want to be one of them. I’m not gonna turn to you and say I want to be 10th, 15th or 20th so I have to set myself a target and believe you me that target is going to be hard, but that’s what I want. It’d be wrong if I told you I’m going out to finish 12th! It’s going to be tough but **** it.”