Bishopscourt in Co Down will reverberate to the sweet soundtrack of the exotic Panigale R on Saturday, October 22, as Irwin brings the might of Paul Bird’s top-flight BSB team to Northern Ireland’s premier short circuit meeting.
The Carrick man sensationally finished on the podium at Thruxton in the summer with an excellent ride to third place in race two during a solid rookie season in the BSB championship, which concludes next weekend at Brands Hatch.
Irwin’s father Alan is a two-time winner of the coveted Sunflower trophy and the 26-year-old is fired up to add his name to an illustrious list of past winners that includes famous names such as Joey Dunlop, Johnny Rea, Sam McClements, Steve Cull, Steve Hislop, Brian Morrison, Jim Moodie and Rob McElnea.
More recently, Michael Laverty and current World Superbike champion Jonathan Rea have clinched the spoils, plus Michael Rutter and reigning Sunflower king Danny Buchan, who will return to the event on a Kawasaki ZX-10R in a bid for a hat-trick of victories.
Irwin, though, is eager to grab the headlines on his home patch and told the News Letter he will go all out to land the big prize.
“It’s the first time in my career that I’m going to the Sunflower without thinking about winning the 600 race or the Supertwin race – this time it’s all about the Superbike,” he said.
“Don’t get me wrong, if the weather conditions weren’t great then you could have a chance of winning the big race on a 600, but you would need a lot of luck and this year I’m going on a bike that gives me the chance to go and win the Sunflower.
“It’s not going to be the case that I’m just going to turn up and blitz the lap record in the first practice session because since 2011, I’ve ridden a 600 in the Sunflower about three times and we will have a bit of learning to do with the big bike.
“But put it like this, there’s no way I’m going there to finish second and I don’t want that to sound cocky, but it’s my home race and nobody wants to get beat at home,” added Irwin, who will make his debut at the Macau Grand Prix in November on Bird’s Ducati.
“My dad has won the Sunflower trophy a few times and obviously I’d love to add my name on there, but it’s not going to be easy because it sounds like the competition is going to be good.
“Danny [Buchan] is the reigning Sunflower king as such and he’ll be difficult to beat on the Kawasaki, which is basically the same bike as the PBM team ran last year. It’s a great chance to be able to bring the Ducati over and try and put on a show for the fans.”
In addition to Irwin and Buchan, BSB frontrunner Christian Iddon is touted to spearhead the charge for Northern Ireland’s Tyco BMW team as some of the British championship’s big guns take on the Irish Superbike regulars.
Irwin’s younger brother Andrew, meanwhile, will be a leading contender in the Supersport races on the Gearlink Kawasaki.
Ryan Farquhar is also set to run two of his KMR Kawasakis in the Supertwins class, with David Haire in line to ride one of the 650cc machines.
Entries for the Hillsborough Club’s JAS Finlay Sunflower meeting close on Saturday and more exciting news will be confirmed over the coming weeks.
Practice and qualifying will be held on Friday, October 21, with three races scheduled featuring Superbike and Supersport Cup, 125cc and Pre Injection machines.
On Saturday, October 22, morning warm-up starts from 9am followed by a 14-race programme.