Glenn Irwin doesn’t seem to be able to catch a break at the moment.
The Carrick man has fallen well below expectations in a year when many, including Irwin himself, expected to see him at least challenging for the Bennetts British Superbike title, if not winning the championship outright.
Irwin signed a coveted contract with Kawasaki to compete for the Quattro Plant Bournemouth Racing squad in 2019, taking over the ride with the reigning BSB champions from Leon Haslam, who teamed up with four-time World Superbike champion Jonathan Rea.
The 29-year-old finished third in the Showdown in 2018 for Paul Bird’s Be Wiser Ducati team and brought his three-season stint on the Panigale to an end on a winning note, clinching his sole success of the campaign at the final round at Brands Hatch. He also claimed the runner-up spot five times, losing out on victory by fractions of a second on several occasions.
An undoubted talent, Irwin’s switch to the Jack Valentine-managed Bournemouth Kawasaki team seemed like a fantastic move for the Ulster rider, but in his own words 2019 has proven to be a ‘nightmare’ so far.
A frustrating vibration problem under braking and during downshifting caused by a non-Kawasaki after-market part plagued Irwin throughout the opening BSB rounds.
It was also well documented that Irwin and his crew chief Simon Green did not see eye to eye, resulting in a parting of ways at Oulton Park in May.
Northern Ireland man Phil Marron, who is the crew chief for exciting World Superbike prospect Toprak Razgatlioglu in the Puccetti Racing Kawasaki team, agreed to split his time to step in and steady the ship.
Irwin also called on Jeremy McWilliams for advice and support as he attempted to revive his fortunes.
The niggling vibration problem was finally overcome prior to round four at Brands Hatch and Irwin was fired up to get stuck in and produce the results he is capable of, but he admitted to over-riding the bike in his desperation to make amends for his lacklustre start to the season.
Last weekend’s sixth round of the championship at Snetterton appeared to have come at the right time for Irwin, who lists the Norfolk venue as one of his strongest circuits.
However, he suffered another blow after being forced to withdraw from the event due to partial vision loss. Irwin was suffering from tonsillitis in the run-up to Snetterton but is unsure whether the problem with his sight is connected.
He is currently taking medication and intends to return at Thruxton in just under two weeks’ time, although any realistic hopes of making the Showdown have evaporated.
Irwin is currently in 16th place, 75 points outside the top six with three rounds to go before the Showdown commences at Assen in September.
He may have been forced to readjust his goals for 2019, but Irwin can still salvage his season and serve up a timely reminder of why he was regarded as a potential challenger for the British Superbike crown.
His contract with Kawasaki is for one year and whether or not that association continues into 2020 remains to be seen, but regardless of how this year pans out, the Ulster rider won’t be short of options.
It would certainly be no surprise to see Irwin in the livery of the Tyco BMW team. The TAS Racing squad has underperformed in BSB over the past few seasons and has not been represented in the Showdown since 2015 - when Michael Laverty finished fourth - and Irwin could be the man to revive their fortunes.
One highlight this year for Irwin was his Superbike victory at the North West 200, his fourth in a row, and with his desire to make his debut at the Isle of Man TT sooner rather than later, a deal with TAS Racing ticks all the boxes.
There are few teams around with such a proven track record at the major international road race meetings, so should Irwin became available at the end of this season, it would be a logical move.
I would imagine Tyco team boss Philip Neill would be equally interested in obtaining Irwin’s signature after missing out last year.
There is still a lot of racing to be done, but Irwin to Tyco BMW could prove to be one of the more solid ‘silly season’ rumours this autumn.