Macau newcomer Glenn Irwin was the sensation of the 2016 Macau Grand Prix. Irwin laid out his stall when he qualified 7th fastest on the Be Wiser/PBM Ducati, less than half a second slower than Ian Hutchinson’s third quickest time.
The Northern Irish BSB star’s impressive debut included setting the fastest first sector time which includes the blindingly quick Mandarin corner. But Irwin did admit feeling slightly daunted by the surroundings.
“This place is f**king mental.” Irwin smiled as he tried to come to terms with the total absence of run off on the Chinese street circuit.
“It is as dangerous as hell, it has to be the most dangerous track in the world. But we race to get a buzz and this place gives you one hell of a buzz!”
The 26 year old made an impressive roads debut at last year’s North West 200 and Ulster Grand Prix, finishing on the podium in Supersport races at both events. Irwin has made no secret of his ambitions between the hedges but PBM boss Paul Bird confined his outings to the BSB series for 2016 on the Ducati Panigale. With the British championship season now over Irwin was delighted to be making his Macau debut.
“I went almost five seconds faster from the morning practice to the qualifying session in the afternoon.” he explained on the first day.
“I’ve still got another hour and fifteen minutes track time before the race so there is plenty of learning can be done in that. There are lots of places I can make up time.”
Irwin has also shown maturity in his approach in spite of his youthful enthusiasm.
“I went out in qualifying with Hutchy and Horst Saiger and some of those fast boys and I was overriding the bike so I came in after four laps. When I went out again I was more relaxed and faster.”
An electrical fault in the race will see Irwin listed as a DNF in today's race it is no reflection on the impression he has made on road racing's establishment at the sport's most gladiatorial venue.
For 10 of the 12 laps Irwin was matching the hot pace of Macau winners Peter Hickman and Michael Rutter and multiple podium finisher, Martin Jessopp.
"I was able to stay with them comfortably and alright they were a bit faster than me through corners like Mandarin I could pull them in again." he smiled.
Eight times Macau winner, Michael Rutter is one of those who has been impressed.
“Glenn has been absolutely fantastic today.” he said.
“He has been riding well in the BSB, one of the toughest series in the world and with his ability I didn’t think he would be far away today. From the moment he said he was entering Macau on the Ducati, which is well suited to this place, I thought a podium finish wasnt out of the question.”
"Macau is a crazy place." Irwin says.
"Crazier by far than anything I have ever done. Nobody in the world except for the riders who do Macau give this event the credit it deserves and I'll be back to have another go."
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