After winning his first MX1 British championship last year, Graeme Irwin signed for the Hitachi ASA KTM UK team for a tilt at MXGP.
The stacked field hasn’t made life easy and a crash at the last round of the Maxxis ACU British Championship at Blaxhall left him with serious burns on his back and arm after getting trapped underneath his bike in a freak crash.
I spoke to Graeme after the MXGP of Lombardia to reflect on his season so far and to find out what’s in store for the coming weeks.
Dirt Bike Rider: Two solid results today with 18th and 16th, how was your weekend?
Graeme Irwin: We had a major drama today, my bike stopped after the first race. We thought it was mechanical so BC [Graeme’s mechanic] swapped the engines. It was nearly time to go but there was an electrical problem and we didn’t have time to fix it so I had to take the spare bike out. It has different settings but we managed to swap the forks.
DBR: So you did better in the second race on your spare bike?
GI: Yeah, it’s the bike I started the year on. its got slightly different specs but that bike is an animal, it’s so fast.
DBR: You’ve had a rough couple of months with some MXGPs that were below your expectations, then the injury at Blaxhall that forced you to miss two GPs, but it seems like you’re back on track with two point-scoring rides but more importantly you looked confident and were fighting for positions.
GI: I had a good weekend in Matterley – okay I was 21st in the second race but I felt good and was just tired. This weekend I was there all weekend. Last week in France was difficult for me for various reasons, partly the conditions but also the track not being up there on my favourites list. [Graeme broke his neck there in 2011, ending his season]. This weekend feels like we’re back on track and I really needed this. It’s still not where I want to be but I think we showed that I can run with them for the first 15 minutes, I just need to work on myself, just riding at that speed.
DBR: It seemed like you had a good rhythm in the middle part of the race but you lost a few places in the last five minutes. Is that a fitness issue or just maintaining the pace until the end?
GI: My fitness is good, I just need to believe in myself more. I need to believe that I should be there, I sometimes feel like I could go faster but instead of pushing forward I hang back. I know my fitness is strong.
DBR: Next weekend is probably the biggest meeting of the year for you and the team, the British championship at Desertmartin. It’s the home race for you and the Hitachi ASA team so I imagine you’ll have lots of friends and family there as well as team guests. Does that put any extra pressure on you?
GI: I really look forward to Desertmartin every year – honestly it’s my favourite race. It’s the only time I get to race at home and all my friends and family go there. I love the track and everything about it, the build-up and everyone buzzing for it.
DBR: From a fans perspective I think the championship is really exciting this year with you, Jake Nicholls, Bobryshev and EBB all battling.
GI: Obviously we’re only three rounds into an eight-round series, but I have a bit of work to do with Mr Nicholls. He’s been riding really well and I need to get on top of that. We’ve raced at his home track at Blaxhall, and now it’s time for my home track so hopefully I can close that gap. I think its unrealistic to think we’re gonna walk away with the red plate, he’s got a thirty-point lead but we need to get on top of it and not let it get any bigger. There’s no better place to go 1-1 but Bobby is riding well, Tommy Searle, EBB and Monticelli; the British championship is pretty stacked this year and it’s good.
DBR: After that there’s two flyaway GPs to Indonesia but I know the team aren’t going which I’m sure you’re disappointed about but how will you use that time when you’re not racing.
GI: We’ve got some testing to do this week with BC, then after Desertmartin I’m having a week at home with the family. My wife is currently sunning herself in California with her family so hopefully she’ll be back to spend some time with my family in Northern Ireland, and recharge the batteries. We have a couple of tough GPs after that so I need to get back across to Belgium, and ride a lot and put the work in.