Learning a new circuit is a job that is relatively easy for most motorcycle racers, with most being able to pick up the layout of a new venue in a few practice sessions over the course of a racing weekend. normal race.
But, at nearly 40 miles long, the Isle of Man TT course is a whole different beast – and 2022 newcomer Glenn Irwin says that means he needs a whole different approach .
No stranger to the machines he’ll be on thanks to his time with Team Honda in the British Superbike Championship or road racing in general, coming straight off the back of double Superbike wins at this month’s North West 200 Here in his native northern Ireland, Irwin is nevertheless well aware that he has a huge task ahead of him.
This has led to a training regimen that is almost unprecedented in terms of track knowledge, with the 32-year-old devoting months of his time not just over the past few weeks, but also years in preparation for the 2022 event.
It was originally due to debut in 2020 – but those plans were dashed by the pandemic and the two-year absence from the race.
With things finally set to resume with the start of a week of training on Saturday, Irwin is adamant that he has done everything humanly possible to be as prepared as possible.
“It was flat out,” he admitted to The Race. “What’s been really good is doing all the learning before COVID happened, when it was Xbox, onboard, by the way.
“Then it happened, and what was the point of doing an apprenticeship? Not that it was useless, but there was no hunger, because it was so far away.
“So when the green light comes back on and you go back to learning, it’s almost like you revised a subject a few years ago and then the exam was put on hold – but the learning didn’t been lost.
“That means I’m not starting with a blank canvas, I’m starting with this knowledge bank. For example, I don’t like the new TT game on Xbox, so I downloaded the old one and played it hard.
“When I first started learning the TT I was playing it pinned and my fastest lap was always around 16m49s. The day I uploaded it again I had three or four falls and I I still did a 16m51s.
“I haven’t even played the game, but I’ve studied so much that the track knowledge is there.”
This learning process followed several routes, both in person and virtually. Spending a considerable amount of time on the Isle of Man to ride the course’s 200-plus corners before the start of the British Superbike season, Irwin has obviously had to change his focus since the start of his title campaign.
But, with a massive amount of online resources to work with, he picked one in particular that benefited him the most: an in-car video of a trick his 2022 teammate John McGuinness performed a few years ago.
“I watch the ride aboard John all the time,” Irwin explained. “There’s one that’s at an average speed of 132.9mph and it’s such a clear lap – it’s lap one so there are no glitches on the camera!
“There are a lot of laps to watch, but John’s is so good – the sound is good, the picture is good, it’s a nice clean lap. He told me where the few little mistakes he had made were. I watch it daily.
“I watch it at the gym when I ride my bike and lean with it. Anyone looking at me on the treadmills behind me must think I have my head somewhere else when my elbow is almost down! But I like it, I get sucked into it – and when I get to the Sulby straight, I start pedaling faster!
“Another thing I like to do is put John on his knees when I drive my car, drive around and forget about him, then go back and try to figure out where he is from the sound. I can normally do things right, and I like doing it. It’s like muscle memory, sound, and you think “maybe I shouldn’t be there because it doesn’t sound familiar”. Little things like that.
“I put a lot into it. I started again, and when I go there, I almost feel like I’m ready to ride a bike now. I almost feel like I need speed. When I overtake, I can’t just break speed limits and everyday traffic and drive like an aw**ker, because you’d end up in Britain’s coziest prison.
And with the knowledge of McGuinness’ background no doubt after 23 wins over a three-decade career there, having him on the other side of the garage gives Irwin tons of experience that he’s more happy to cash in. on.
“John sends me lots of pictures,” Irwin added. “He’ll send a shot at me and say ‘where is that?’ Normally I pass them too, but because he’s the one asking me to, it makes me even more determined to get it right!
“It’s good to do it with him, and a lot of people think he can tell me what to do here and there, and I can look at his data – but we’re not there yet. this step where I need its data. I didn’t even do 10 seconds of track time.
While there’s a significant chance to learn how to handle it with his veteran teammate, there’s another part of the whole TT Challenge that Irwin says he’s also looking forward to experiencing alongside McGuinness: the approach of the second most successful TT rider of all time. as his own historic racing journey begins.
“I’m more excited to see, from a professional standpoint, how he performs throughout the TT,” said Irwin of McGuinness.
“To see how he does it. I want to soak up that, because I like his approach. It’s old school – he’s professional, but he’s still John too, and you can still have some crazy with him.
“I still want to keep that identity to myself too, so I’m curious to see him being tortured by the fans. I want to get a good look at the life of John McGuinness.
“He’s a great teammate, very helpful. Yes, he’s older, but his hunger is great and his enthusiasm for work is great! He’s 56 and still loves racing, and I want to be like that too. Andrew [Irwin, Glenn’s brother] probably wants to retire when he’s 40 and not do that anymore, but I want to keep doing that.