British Talent Cup podium for Rhys Irwin at Czech Grand Prix
Donegal teenager Rhys Irwin put in his best performance to date in the British Talent Cup last weekend (August 2nd – 4th), as the championship for aspiring Grand Prix stars supported the Czech round of the MotoGP World Championship. Racing in Brno, Irwin battled back from a slow start in Saturday’s race to take his first Talent Cup podium and followed it up with fifth place on Sunday to complete his best weekend in the championship.
The Brno circuit is known for its long straights, including the infamous drag up ‘Horsepower hill’ to the final chicane. With Rhys carrying up to eighteen kilos of a weight disadvantage, compared to his younger rivals, the Czech circuit was expected to be one of the hardest for Rhys to get a result at.
Right from the start of practice however, the talented youngster was at the front, as his ability through the corners helped him overcome his speed deficit, leaving him in a much more competitive position than he expected. Second place in first practice was followed by third in the second session and third once again in qualifying, putting him on the front row of the grid for both races.
Saturday’s race took place on a streaming wet track and Rhys took it easy in the opening laps as he bedded himself in to the conditions. At half distance the Irish rider was sixth with a long gap to the lead group but a series of fastest laps took him into fifth place and allowed him to close the gap to the leaders. With three laps to go Rhys latched onto the back of the group fighting for second place and began to work his way through getting up to third at the start of the last lap.
As expected the long up-hill run to the finish saw Rhys overtaken once more but he forced his way back into third at the final chicane. As the riders turned onto the finish straight the second placed rider fell, leaving a three way drag-race to the line to decide second place. Unfortunately for Rhys his weight disadvantage once more came into play as he was pipped at the line for second place leaving him third by three hundredths of a second.
Sunday’s race was dry as the grid lined up, with Rhys once more starting third. A steady start once again saw him sit seventh at the end of lap one. By half distance the field had split at the front with two riders battling over the lead as Rhys emerged from the pack to join a second group of two trying to chase them down.
With three laps to go the gap to the leaders had closed dramatically but unfortunately for Irwin the efforts of making up for his lack of top speed had worn his tyres excessively and he began to fade away from the lead battle. At the flag the Irish youngster was disappointed to miss out on a chance to battle for the podium again but he was still well clear in fifth place as he completed his best weekend yet in the Talent Cup.
Speaking after Sunday’s race Rhys said, “I’m really happy with Saturday’s result. I’ve had so many fourth places this year I thought I was never going to get on the podium and to do it at the Czech MotoGP is just amazing. It was a really tough race. My bike was cold at the start so I took some time to bed myself and the bike in and then I pushed really hard to close the gap and I managed to catch them. Sunday’s race was much the same but I had to push my tyres so hard to catch the leaders that the grip just faded in the last three or four laps and I had to settle for fifth, which is still my best weekend in the Talent Cup.”
Rhys Irwin’s final outing in the British Talent Cup will be at the British Grand Prix in Silverstone at the end of August.