Rhys Irwin exceeds all expectations on Supersport debut
Donegal teenager Rhys Irwin exceeded all expectations as he made his debut in the Dunlop Masters Supersport Championship at Mondello Park on Saturday and Sunday June 22nd and 23rd. Battling changing weather conditions and a field of much more experienced riders the seventeen year old took a fantastic debut outright win as well as a hat trick of victories in the cup class for less experienced riders. Despite the success of the weekend the team were in little mood to celebrate as they heard the news which emerged from their home county of the tragic accident on the Donegal Rally.
Rhys Irwin began the weekend as one of the least experienced riders in the Supersport field, as he was having his first outing on the Superstock Yamaha previously used by his older brother Caolán. Running in the Supersport ‘Cup’ for less experienced riders, the Kilmacrennan youngsters aim was to take a podium in his class and possibly run at the front of the overall race and he set himself up to achieve this with second place in Cup qualifying and fifth place overall.
Having been stopped twice due to incidents Saturday’s race one was finally completed over just six laps. Rhys maintained his focus throughout all of the stoppages and rode brilliantly to put himself in contention heading into the last lap. Going into the final corner he was sitting third, and best of the Cup riders, when the leader fell and delayed the second placed rider. Rhys got a better run than his rival out of the final corner, but at the flag he came up just short and missed out on a first time win by two hundredths of a second, but still took an impressive first place in the Cup class
Race two took place on Sunday morning and the conditions were tricky, as the track was greasy following light but steady rain. Having set second fastest time in race one Rhys lined up on the front row of the grid and made short work of taking the lead. The Donegal rider then proceeded to amaze onlookers with his maturity and ability as he built a lead in the difficult conditions to take a fairytale first win on his debut weekend.
The final race on Sunday afternoon was run on a soaking wet track with Rhys relegated to fourth on the grid due to the championships reversed grid rules. Initially he ran third but dropped back to fourth as he settled for taking a third Cup class win and preserving his bike for a planned British Championship debut next weekend.
Speaking after the win the clearly subdued rider said. “At any other time I’d be over the moon with the wins but today its a bit hard to get excited following the news from Donegal. The weekend went better than expected and I’d like to thank everyone who made it happen, including all of my sponsors and my family. We’ll move on now to the British Championship at Knockhill where it will be much tougher to get the results but this weekend has been a great start so I’m really looking forward now to making my British Superstock debut.”