Carrick’s Andrew Irwin is on the verge of securing his place in the all-important Bennetts British Superbike Showdown in only his first full season in the championship.
The Honda Racing rider heads into this weekend’s crucial triple-header round at Oulton Park in Cheshire in sixth place in the standings, albeit only a single point ahead of Smiths Racing BMW contender Peter Hickman.
Irwin, who made his BSB debut in 2018 after being called into Paul Bird’s Be Wiser Ducati squad as a replacement for the injured Shane Byrne, will be forced to start race one from the back of the grid this weekend after the 24-year-old was penalised at Cadwell Park.
The former World Supersport rider took out PBM Ducati’s Scott Redding in race two and was hit with two penalty points by Race Direction, with his accumulative total resulting in a further grid penalty.
Irwin, though, says he doesn’t feel any extra pressure ahead of the decisive triple-header.
“At the minute we go to the next round in a better place than the riders in seventh and eighth if you look at it that way, looking at the points,” he said.
“I don’t feel like there is any pressure because I feel that people don’t expect us to get through because the last time at Oulton Park our rivals were much stronger than what we were.
“In my head, and I have always said that I have wanted to be in the Showdown this year, I wanted to be in a position to fight for a place in the top six: that is what we are doing, and now we have one round to go.
“I don’t give up I never do. OK, I have to start at the back of the grid for the first race of the weekend, but you never know what is possible and anything can happen in the races.”
Irwin is also only five points ahead of his Honda team-mate Xavi Fores and the battle for the sixth and final Showdown spot promises to be hot and heavy at Oulton, when none of the top-six hopefuls can afford to make any mistakes.
“We have three races so it is important to finish all three,” Irwin said.
“If it is dry the front three are fairly consistent and Danny (Buchan) is there too now and has a little bit more at the moment.
“But for us it is about having three solid results and seeing where we are at the end of the Oulton Park weekend.
“Don’t get me wrong, in race three I will be trying to gain as many points as I can, and I will be fighting really hard to do it, but I know so long as I have given a hundred per-cent in all of the sessions and in the races then I will still be happy,” he added.
“Hopefully we will still be in the top six at the end of the weekend.”
Championship leader Josh Brookes (PBM Be Wiser Ducati), ex-MotoGP rider Redding and Tommy Bridewell (Oxford Racing Ducati) are already confirmed in the Showdown.
FS-3 Kawasaki rider Danny Buchan is also but assured of his place among the title fighters, leaving the final two spots up for grabs.
Tarran Mackenzie (McAMS Yamaha) is in fifth position, just five points ahead of Irwin, who has Hickman and Fores breathing down his neck.
Tyco BMW’s Christian Iddon is also in with a chance, although he is currently 21 points behind Irwin, whose older brother Glenn has no prospects of reaching the Showdown after struggling this season following his move to the Quattro Plant Kawasaki team.
He claimed his best results of the year at Cadwell Park on the Tyco BMW and the 29-year-old is determined to finish the seasons strongly with one eye on 2020.
“At Cadwell Park we were top nine, then top six; I am not surprised to be in that position because I know that is where both myself and the team can be, but it is a very strong class, so it shows the potential of the bike and team,” he said.
“What is more pleasing is that I haven’t even tested the bike, I have just gone from race to race, so to do what we have in a short space of time is good for me but shows the level the team are operating at.
“In terms of development, there is so much more to come and that is exciting, giving where we know the bike is at the minute. I am excited for what comes next that’s for sure.”