The Hawkstone Park round of the 2018 Maxxis ACU British Motocross Championship was an agonising affair for Hitachi ASA KTM UK’s Graeme Irwin who had to deal with intense pain at the Shropshire circuit.
For Irwin in MX1, the luckless reigning champion entered the event with a bulging disc in his back. For most people, they wouldn’t think about wrestling a KTM 450 SX-F around the demanding Hawkstone track, but the Northern Irishman was nothing short of superhuman.
Qualifying in fifth position, he went on to finish second in the first moto – just 0.8 seconds behind championship leader, Jake Nicholls. In the second moto, the Carrickfergus man once again gritted his teeth and despite spending most of the race in fifth place, climbed up to third on the final lap to finish third overall on the day.
With two rounds to go, Irwin sits third in the championship – 52 points back from the leader, Nicholls, and just 13 points adrift from Evgeny Bobryshev in second.
“I have a bulging disc in my back, and I am in agony,” revealed Irwin. “So, I need to go and see a doctor and get it sorted. It’s such a shame because the last few rounds have been going so well, excluding Duns that is, that was a nightmare!
“Today after qualifying I wasn’t even sure if I’d be racing, so in the first race I spent most of it on the pegs, hoping Jake [Nicholls] would make a mistake that I could capitalise on because I could not commit to the rough stuff.
“I had to take my time – push where I could and take my time in other places and just be smooth.
“The second race was just horrible. From the first lap I was in pain, it was a nightmare. I had to take the slower and smoother lines and, in the end, we still weren’t that far off. I honestly think if I was fit this would have been a 1-1, but hey – shoulda woulda coulda!”
Team Manager, Lee Tolan, said: “Graeme, he’s suffering from a bulging disc, so we didn’t enter this round in the best situation. He went out and qualified P5 which considering the circumstances was okay. We thought he wasn’t going to go out for the first race after that, but he insisted he was going out and look what happened – a second, wow, I couldn’t believe it! I’ll take my hat off to him for that one, the man has got the heart of lion. Out he went again for the second moto, sitting in fifth for the most of it before ending up with a third. What a day! What a guy!”