Donegal based Motorcycle Racing brothers, Rhys and Caolán Irwin, both made impressive starts to their 2019 campaigns at the opening rounds of the British Superbike Championship In Silverstone, UK over the weekend of April 19th – 21st.
Younger brother Rhys got his second season in the British Talent Cup off to a flying start as he battled at the front of the field across qualifying and the opening two rounds of the championship on the way to two top five finishes. Racing at the same event older brother Caolán also started his 2019 Superstock 600 challenge strongly, on board his Oasis Bar and Clean Rubber backed Kawasaki.
The British Talent Cup was created in 2018 by MotoGP promoters Dorna, aimed at finding the next Motorcycle Racing star from the British Isles. With Rhys, along with a number of last years front runners, returning for a second season, the championship was expected to be even more hotly contested, but no one could have predicted just how close it would be.
Throughout practice and qualifying Rhys was right in the mix as he gradually moved up the leader board with his best run of the weekend coming in qualifying, where he grabbed fourth place with his final lap. The Donegal teenager's time placed him on row two of the grid for the weekend's pair of races, less than two tenths of a second off the fastest time. Proving just how tight the 2019 series is, the top fifteen racers were covered by less than a second.
The weekend's pair of races proved to be just as tight as qualifying, with a large group of riders circulating together throughout both encounters. The race one order was constantly changing, but Rhys stayed in contention throughout, grabbing fifth at the flag, and finishing the race as part of a group of six riders who crossed the line within two tenths of a second of each other.
Race two followed a similar pattern with up to a dozen riders battling for the lead in the early stages. As the race wore on the group decreased slightly to eight but the battle continued to rage at the front. Rhys led the group on a couple of occasions but then got bumped back down the order before recovering to again finish fifth, thereby securing fourth in the championship standings.
Speaking after the opening British Talent Cup weekend Rhys Irwin was happy the outcome, saying “I am delighted to have made such a strong start to the season. I was in the mix right from the word go and came so close to picking up my first BTC podium. With this weekend's results under my belt I can really push on for the rest of the season with the next goal being my first British Talent Cup win.”
Caolán Irwin arrived at Silverstone with a brand new and untested Kawasaki, having made a last minute decision to switch from his 2018 Yamaha. The Oasis Bar and Clean Rubber backed machine was fitted with brand new Ohlins suspension courtesy of Irish agent PCRS Bikesport and with no time to test, the team did a fantastic job adapting to the unfamiliar equipment. Having honed the new machine across the practice sessions, Caolán produced an excellent qualifying performance to line up fifth on the grid for the weekends' single race.
A strong start to the race saw Caolán settle into fifth place in the early laps. With more mileage under his belt the twenty year old began to push on lap four, setting a lap quick enough for third best lap of the race, as he closed on the leaders. Unfortunately a mistake a couple of laps later, as he was closing in on fourth, saw the Donegal rider crash out of contention, bringing a premature end to what was an extremely positive weekend.
Speaking after the race Caolán was his delighted with his performance despite being disappointed by the end result. “I am delighted to have started the season in a positive way, we decided to use this weekend as a test due to the last minute change in manufacturer but we ended up being competitive straight away, which is very positive for the rest of the year. I have to pay tribute to my team, especially my side of the garage Wes, Brad and Kevin for the 12 hour days all weekend. I also need to thank Clean Rubber, Oasis Bar, DS Environmental, James Gibbons and Medlar Racing along with PCRS Bikesport who provided our new Ohlins suspension.”
Rhys and Caolán will both be back in action in two weeks time at Oulton Park in Cheshire, Caolán will continue in the Superstock 600 class while Rhys will switch to the Moto3 championship where he will have his first outing of the year.