NW200: World Superbike king Jonathan Rea says Superbike favourite Glenn Irwin 'can handle weight of expectation'

Six-time World Superbike champion Jonathan Rea says Glenn Irwin can handle the pressure of ‘being expected to win’ in Saturday's Superbike races at the North West 200.

By Kyle White
Friday, 13th May 2022, 5:54 pm
Updated Friday, 13th May 2022, 7:11 pm

Rea is an avid supporter of Northern Ireland’s top road race and has been back on the north coast this week soaking up the unique atmosphere, where he is due to participate in a chat show on Friday night in the hospitality marquee at the race paddock in Portrush.

The factory Kawasaki racer, currently second behind Spain’s Alvaro Bautista in this year’s championship after the first two rounds, is enjoying some down time before heading to Portugal next week for the next round at Estoril.

Honda Racing UK rider Irwin has won the last four Superbike races in a row at the North West and underscored his status as the pre-race favourite with a searing 124mph lap in Thursday’s final practice session, shattering the qualifying record and unofficially dipping under Michael Dunlop’s 2016 lap record by 1.8s.

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Six-time World Superbike champion Jonathan Rea is a big fan of the North West 200.

And Rea – who hails from a road racing family with his father Johnny a former winner at the Isle of Man TT, while his grandad famously sponsored Joey Dunlop – says Irwin holds a strong hand following an impressive start to the British Superbike Championship.

“It’s a difficult one because it’s a circuit that doesn’t just require talent and a fast motorcycle, it requires a lot of strategy as well,” he told the News Letter.

“It’s very rare that you get bikes going that fast for that long, so slipstreaming and tactics is very important.

“Experience is everything, but in saying that Glenn [Irwin] has a great ‘short’ record around there so far and he’s done amazing.

Glenn Irwin has won the last four Superbike races at the North West 200.

“It seems like he has really clicked with his bike in BSB and he’s had a great start to that campaign.

“He’s almost expected to win, and it’s probably not nice to have that pressure there because the expectation for Glenn to be at the front is high, but he will expect that from himself as well.”

Rea also had a word for Alastair Seeley, whose two victories on Thursday evening have increased his record haul of NW200 wins to a staggering 26.

“You can never discount Peter Hickman, plus Alastair Seeley of course is great for local interest because he’s the most successful rider ever at the event and he is such an experienced North West 200 rider,” Rea said.

“So with Alastair’s success, coupled with the fact he’s riding for a local team, it’s great and exciting to see him taking on the titans of road racing like Hickman and Dean Harrison.

“It’s a strange one though because a lot of these riders have their own priorities for the year, and for Peter Hickman it’s BSB and the Isle of Man TT, and probably for Dean Harrison the North West is used for a bit of a warm-up to the TT.

“So it’s an amazing event for our local riders to roll their sleeves up at and get stuck in.”