Andrew Irwin: A first BSB win, controversial crashes and a race ban
By any standards, Andrew Irwin's first full season in the British Superbike Championship has been an eventful one.
A maiden race win at Thruxton, controversial crashes involving series leader Scott Redding at Silverstone and Cadwell Park and a race ban for re-mounting and riding back to the paddock at Oulton Park being just some of the highs and lows of his 2019 campaign.
Overall, the Carrickfergus rider is positive about his year with the factory Honda Racing team and could yet collect the Riders' Cup title.
That prize is awarded to the leading rider outside of those who qualified for the end-of-season Top Six Showdown and Irwin currently lies eighth overall in the series, five points behind team-mate Xavi Fores with three races to come at the final round at Brands Hatch on 19 and 20 October.
- Irwin secures fifth in Donington opener
- Irwin misses out on Top Six Showdown after sanction
- Irwin secures maiden victory at Thruxton
"It's definitely been a positive year with more highs than lows - I managed my first BSB win and got Honda back on the top step of the podium for the first time in a couple of years," said Irwin.
"It could have been even better as I made some mistakes at very important times which ruined my chances of making the Showdown. Those were all down to me but I had to learn this year to try and make next year better.
"I'm just behind Xavi, who brought lots of experience from World Superbikes with him, and have a chance to finish ahead of him in the standings.
"I was employed as the rider to learn and absorb as much from Xavi as possible. I've done that and I've beaten him more than he has beaten me. It's been a strong year but there is a lot more to come."
Andrew was involved in a collision with former MotoGP rider Redding in the first round at Silverstone in April and the pair had another 'coming together' at Cadwell Park in August.
"The one at Silverstone I don't believe was a mistake. It was '50-50'. If you both go for the same piece of track that can happen.
"The one at Cadwell was completely my fault. I went into him and took him out but I held my hands up and apologised for it. I can only say sorry, I can't turn back the clock.
"That incident came at a bad time for me as I had started to hit form but that track was maybe a bit more difficult for our bike."
'I look back and think 'why did I do that?'
A resulting penalty meant Irwin had to start the first race of the subsequent round at Oulton Park from the back of the grid and a further sanction followed when he was banned from competing in race two for re-mounting and riding his machine back to the paddock, against race rules, after crashing.
"Someone's bike broke down in front of me, I hit them and then I rode the bike back to the pits, which I got the penalty for," explained Andrew.
"I missed the next race and had to start the third from the back of the grid. It's one of those things you look back and think 'why did I do that?'.
"I didn't obey the marshals' instructions to me - they told me not to go back and they said it to me about five times. I rode back and I shouldn't have done it.
"The marshals don't get paid to work at motorcycle races. They are volunteers and I should have respected them more. It was a spur of the moment decision and something I have apologised for."
Deal in place for 2020
The Northern Ireland rider has a deal in place for next season and while there will be no official announcement of his plans until November he is confident that the package he will have will allow him to contend for regular podiums.
"I'm really looking to the future. I believe what I've put pen to paper for will mean I can be a frontrunner, a serious contender for podiums week in, week out.
"I'm excited and believe in the package and the people I will have around me."