Eunan McGlinchey: Coronavirus puts NI racer's venture onto world stage on hold

By Richard PetrieBBC Sport NI
Eunan McGlinchey
Eunan McGlinchey won the British Junior Supersport title in 2018

For young Northern Ireland motorcycling star Eunan McGlinchey, next week should have marked the start of an exciting new chapter in his career.

The Aghadowey rider has been preparing to step onto the global stage in the World Supersport 300 series as he begins his attempt to emulate some of the feats achieved by his highly-decorated compatriot - five-time World Superbike champion Jonathan Rea.

McGlinchey is set to compete at each of the 10 European rounds of the championship, which is entering its fourth season since being introduced to run in tandem with World Superbikes in 2017.

The first round at the Jerez circuit in Spain has already been postponed until October because of the spread of the coronavirus, and with other postponements likely to follow, the 21-year-old is unsure when he will first be out on track competitively this year.

'Huge uncertainty'

"It's disappointing and frustrating for me and my team but obviously people's health is more important than racing bikes. I don't think anyone knows when we will get started, there is huge uncertainty around it all," reflected McGlinchey.

"I'm training three or four times a week and I was on a bike for the first time in four months in Spain during February. I wanted to see if my fitness would be able to stick the heat levels there.

"I'm thankful to Team #109 for giving me the chance to show what I can do at world level and ultimately I 100% want to reach a stage where the likes of Jonathan Rea is at.

"He has proven that it is possible for someone from this part of the world to achieve the kind of things that he has done.

"I'm confident in my own ability - now it's up to me to prove that I am fast enough to be there."

'These boys are crazy'

McGlinchey marked himself out as a potential star of the future by winning the 2018 British Junior Supersport series, just two years after making the switch from motocross to tarmac racing.

Last year he finished fourth in the British Superstock 600cc standings - but it was a one-off ride as a wildcard in World Supersport 300s at Donington which made a lasting impression on the promising young Northern Irishman.

"A French team offered me the ride and it was one of the best decisions I have ever made," explained the ex-Irish Supersport Cup and Production Twin champion.

"To be back on a 300 after riding a 600 felt weird as initially it was a lot slower but once I was out on track with the others the speed was phenomenal.

Eunan McGlinchey
McGlinchey won the Irish Supersport Cup and Production Twin championships in his first year of short circuit racing

"The way the others were riding really blew my mind. I was thinking 'these boys are crazy..I need to buck up my ideas a bit or I am going to get swallowed up here'. It was exciting, but also a bit scary.

"I had to go out and be as crazy as everyone else. If they were going faster and faster I had to go faster too and push it to the limit.

"Once the flag dropped they were flat out and the speeds they were doing, I was pulled in by it and was moving up the timesheets to the extent I thought I could get on the podium.

"In the end I crashed in qualifying and was unable to take part in the race but the feeling of being involved in it all never left my mind and that confirmed to me that was what I wanted to do this season."

'Catching Carrasco and running near the front'

A total of 50 riders from across the world have had their entries accepted for this year's championship - among them Ana Carrasco from Spain, who in 2018 became the first female world champion in a solo motorcycling championship.

Last year Carrasco, who like McGlinchey will pilot a Kawasaki Ninja 400, broke her personal points record while having to settle for third place overall, Manuel Gonzalez succeeding her as champion.

"Ana won a world championship and you have to bow your head to her for that and say well done but she is beatable, along with every other rider out on track," added Eunan, who also enjoyed a double Supertwins success on home soil in McAdoo Racing colours at the Sunflower Trophy meeting at Bishopscourt in October.

Eunan Mcliinchey and Jeremy McWilliams
McGlinchey is congratulated by ex-GP rider Jeremy McWilliams after winning the Supertwin race at the Sunflower Trophy

"This is a challenge I am relishing and I want to run near the front with people like that. All the bikes are around the same level so there is no reason I can't be competitive.

"There will be other riders who have been racing for a few years and know the circuits better than I do but I will have plenty of time in the practice sessions to learn.

"I've been studying the tracks online and watching races from last year and I believe the Kawasakis will be the bike to beat this year, although the first round will tell a tale.

"If things work out my plan would be to stay in World 300s for another year maybe and then my preference is to try and stay at a world championship level, perhaps either Moto3 as part of the MotoGP paddock or Supersport 600. Riding at that level brings you on and makes you a faster rider."

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