The 2015 Vauxhall International North West 200 has been given a boost as Gear Link Kawasaki duo Glenn Irwin and Ben Wilson are to be on the start line next May.
The teammates will race their British Supersport championship ZXRs in the three 600cc races at Portrush and Irwin will also ride in both Supertwin events on the VRS squad’s ER6.
The 24-year-old Carrickfergus rider made his road racing debut at the Ulster Grand Prix last August, leaving Dundrod as the fastest ever Supertwin rider over the 7.4 mile circuit.
Irwin is confident that he will be able to have a similar impact at Portrush on his NW debut.
“I want to ride the North West and be competitive,” he said after visiting the seaside circuit this week.
“I did the Ulster on a bike that I hadn’t ridden before against the big names and got a lap record so why can’t I do it at the North West?”
Irwin, the son of 80’s and 90’s road racing legend, Alan, is on a high after finishing fourth in this year’s British Supersport championship.
“In the 600cc class I will be on a bike I know and hopefully by the time the North West comes around I will have had some British championship wins under my belt,” he predicted.
“I like the format with Thursday and Saturday racing as it gives me time to suss things out and I just need to pick my Dad’s brains to make sure that I am competitive.”
His older teammate is slightly more cautious in his approach to what will be his pure road racing debut.
“I saw the track in 2013 when I was at the North West as Alastair Seeley’s teammate and I just fancy a go at it now,” Wilson said.
“I think the time is right now to have a go on the roads, I am the right age. I have to start somewhere and this is the biggest road race there is so it’s the one to do.”
The Lincolnshire rider has plenty of experience having raced for the Gear Link squad since 2009. He lost out to Alastair Seeley in the 2011 British 600cc championship by just one point but he is not predicting such a close finish against the 10 times NW winner next May.
“I think that I will have to come back and get in a few more laps,” the 32 year old said after driving the circuit this week.
“That will pay off for me.”
Wilson says he isn’t bothered by the fact that he will be rubbing elbows with the world’s best road racers in the mass start rush down into Primrose on his debut.
“At one time it was their first time to road race too,” he smiled.
“I just have to get it right for me.”
Irwin is similarly undaunted.
“The roads guys know their game and we know ours,” he said.
“I had a really good battle with Keith Amor at the Ulster and I have a lot of respect for all of them.
“But I won’t feel threatened. I just want to enjoy it because I never thought I would get the chance to race against legends like Keith and Ryan Farquhar.”
Eight times NW winner Steve Plater introduced the Gear Link duo to the superfast 8.9 mile course in his role as Rider Liaison officer and he was impressed by their attitude.
“They have been soaking up everything that we have been talking about and they are fully aware that you can’t run before you walk,” Plater said.
“Glenn and Ben are at the very top of their game in the British Supersport championship and it is mega for the event to have two of the frontrunners in that series racing at the North West.”
Meanwhile, former Grand Prix star turned road racing aficionado Jeremy McWilliams will return to the Vauxhall International North West 200 next May, looking for his second victory at the north coast event at the ripe old age of 51.
But the big news for both the organising Coleraine & District Motor Club and race fans alike, is that the Glengormley man is seriously considering a second class at the May showpiece on either Supersport or Superstock machinery.
McWilliams, who has become an integral part of Ryan Farquhar’s old guard in the KMR SGS International Kawasaki Supertwin racing squad at the North West, said a potential deal is imminent.
“The idea for 2015 is to do a couple of road race meetings with KMR,” said McWilliams.
“The obvious one is the North West and I would like to go back to Armoy, as I really like the meeting. I have a soft spot for it, I like the people that run it and the whole atmosphere around the event is great,” said McWilliams, who on that basis is not looking at scaling down his road racing interest next term.
“I will probably only ride the 650 Supertwin at Armoy, but I am considering riding two bikes at the North West.
“I am undecided what bike I will ride, but it will more than likely be a 600cc bike or a Superstock, although I need to get a chat with Mervyn first to see where we are at with it.
“I’ve enjoyed watching both classes when I’ve been at the North West and it’s a long week up there, so we will look at it and see what happens.”
Before then McWilliams will head up a strong British team at the Island Classic in Melbourne next month.
McWilliams continued: “Although I’ve won the individual prize before we’ve never won the team event in Oz so it’s good to have such a strong squad for the event.”