Motorbikes: Trio chase Odyssey glory

Larne's Glenn McCormick tries to keep Doagh's Martin Barr and Carrick's Graeme Irwin apart before this weekend's Belfast Arenacross showdown. INLT 03-903-CON
Larne's Glenn McCormick tries to keep Doagh's Martin Barr and Carrick's Graeme Irwin apart before this weekend's Belfast Arenacross showdown. INLT 03-903-CON

White-hot, non-stop, awe-inspiring Arenacross racing and Freestyle Motocross is set to explode into Belfast’s Odyssey Arena this Saturday (January 19) when the UK’s top racers and Europe’s leading FMX athletes come together for a night of pure adrenalin.

Leading the local interest will be Graeme Irwin and Martin Barr in the pro class, along with teenager Glenn McCormick in the ‘rookie’ class.

At the opening round of the four-round series, Martin Barr finished fourth in the final, while Graeme Irwin took seventh.

“I’m really happy with fourth,” commented Barr after the O2 Arena round in London last time out. “I qualified ninth for the final and didn’t do anything stupid. I was pushed wide at the first corner on lap one and had to fight through from last. In the closing stages, I was catching second and third, but a backmarker got in the way and that was that. The bike was real good and, with a few small adjustments, it will be even better,”

Barr only put together a deal in the past couple of weeks which sees the Doagh man race for the Vigors MX KTM team.

Looking to this weekend in Belfast he could easily make the podium. Two years ago he won the event on a Suzuki, so, what were his thoughts about this year’s meeting?

“I’ve only had a very few outings on a bike since the end of last season, so my preparation is not ideal, but it is a four-round championship. At the opening round I used my head and now arrive in Belfast in contention. It’s been a stressful couple of months sorting out a deal for 2013, but I feel physically good. I know it will be hard as I am lacking bike-time, but come this weekend in Belfast I should be firing on all cylinders and I am really looking forward to it. There is nothing like racing in front of your home fans.”

Carrick’s Graeme Irwin joined the Heads and All Threads Suzuki squad for this season and starts as one of the favourites for his home round. The last time he raced at the Belfast venue was back in 2002 in the 60cc class, so to arrive on the RMZ 250 Suzuki will be a different ball game.

He kicked off his season at the opening round of the Arenacross at London’s O2 and was unlucky not to have at finished on the podium. He was the fastest qualifier in his group and in his two heats and qualified eighth overall.

In the final he had nothing but bad luck, as he explained: “I got a bad start and was involved in a first-lap pile-up. When I got that sorted, a rider who swerved across me at the triple jump caught me. I braked hard and came off which meant that I was miles behind but with the fastest lap of the race I fought my way back to seventh. I am confident that I could have won the race had it not been for the incidents, but that’s racing. The bike, however, was 100 percent and I am really looking forward to the Odyssey.”

He added: “My last appearance was on a 60cc machine, so it will be my first time on a proper bike and I’m can’t wait to race in front of a packed Odyssey. Hopefully, after the first round in London I won’t have any more silly problems. I know what I have to work on and in Belfast I will be a good challenger for the win.”

Asked if he thought it would be between himself, Barr and Gordon Crockard for the rostrum he said: “I would like to see the three of us on the podium. Gordon has had a couple of hard seasons but if he brings his ‘A-game’, he is a hard man to beat. It will be interesting.”

Last, but not least, Gleno ace Glenn McCormick will be riding in the ‘rookie’ class on the new Watt Motorcycles / Agnew 250 KTM. It will be his first time out on the bigger bike, but he has raced at the Odyssey on four previous occasions in the junior classes so knows what to expect from the home support. “It is my first time out so we will see how it goes. It will be a bit of craic,” smiled the 17-year-old.

Home hopes may rest on the shoulders of Barr, Irwin and Crockard, but they face stiff opposition from London winner Adam Chatfield, runner-up Neville Bradshaw from South Africa, and Tom Church.