Honda Racing will debut their new CBR1000RR-R superbike on the roads at the 2020 fonaCAB & Nicholl Oils North West 200 on May 10-16.
Glenn Irwin, the winner of the last four Superbike races at the North coast event, and Davey Todd, who claimed his first major road race win at last year’s NW200, will race the new machine in the Superbike and Superstock races at Portrush. Alongside his brother Andrew, Irwin will also spearhead Honda’s 2020 BSB challenge and make his debut on the TT’s Mountain course. Accompanied by Honda Racing team boss Havier Beltram, Irwin and Todd visited the North West 200 circuit last week.
Irwin maintains he has ‘zero expectations’ for the Manx event but his success around the 8.9 mile Triangle course means things will be very different for the Carrickfergus racer at the NW200.
‘The North West is an end in itself, it isn’t preparation for the TT’ Irwin insists.
‘I love this part of the world, I love the road racing vibe and I understand why there is an expectation on me.’
His move to Honda comes after spells with PBM Ducati, Quattro Plant Kawasaki and Tyco BMW over the past three seasons. Alongside Todd, Irwin will enjoy Spanish, BSB and Castle Combe test sessions plus the opening two British championship rounds at Silverstone and Oulton Park to familiarise himself with the new superbike.
‘We will have plenty of testing but will everything be in place by April or May?’ he said.
‘Probably not because that is just how racing is. But by the time the North West comes around I think we will be starting to find our feet with the bike.’
Irwin knows he will have to push hard on the new Honda to claim a fifth NW200 big bike victory.
‘Anyone who comes to the North West and says they aren’t trying, well I’ve raced with them all and I think they are trying harder than me!’ he smiled.
‘We all know everyone wants to win here. Look at the fight Michael Dunlop put up to me two years ago. He was the only one who came. Peter Hickman didn’t come, Michael Rutter didn’t come. None of the short circuit men came, but the man who was going to the TT with probably more pressure on him than anyone else came.’
Despite being the rider everyone will be trying to beat, Irwin remains confident he has the experience to handle the pressure from his main rivals.
‘I’ve won a last lap race at the North West and I’ve come around on the first lap five seconds ahead of everyone.’ he explains.
‘I’ve made a mistake and recovered and pulled away again. I’ve won in the wet. These are all things I didn’t think I would do and I can’t doubt what I can do because I have now won four in a row. I am happy because when you win somewhere that feels like home you can take that tag. I feel like this is my house.’
Irwin says he is happy to have new teammate, Davey Todd, alongside him in the Honda garage at Portrush.
‘Davey is one of the good guys.’ Irwin says.
‘He is doing well for himself but doesn’t put it in your face.’
Todd’s Honda seat for the 2020 roads campaign plus the British Superstock championship is a fitting reward for the 24 year old following his stellar 2019 season with the Penz13.com BMW and Milenco Padgett’s Honda teams.
Alongside winning the International Road Racing Championship, lapping the TT at over 131mph and claiming two rostrum finishes at the Ulster Grand Prix, Todd scored his first international road race win in only his second appearance at the North West 200.
‘I felt good from the start and I have always been strong in the wet.’ the Saltburn rider recalled.
‘It was a great battle with so many passes on every lap between Derek McGee and my Milenco Padgett’s teammate, Conor Cummins. The lead was changing all the time. I would go from third to second then into the lead and be back to third on the same lap! It was an aggressive battle but I had a massive smile on my face because it’s the reason we all do this.’
The youngster has enjoyed a supercharged rise through the road racing ranks to catch the eye of Honda’s management. Todd puts his progress down to his experience in a diverse variety of bike racing disciplines.
‘I have raced in everything from motocross to supermoto.’ Todd smiled.
‘I had a couple of years on the short circuits before I came to the roads, then a season on the Irish roads with John Burrows’ team. I have raced in the IRRC series as well as at the TT, NW200, Ulster and at Macau. They are all building blocks that have helped me progress as a rider. I am eager to get back to the NW and TT but also to race in the British Superstock championship to prove what I can do on the short circuits.’
Todd says he wants to learn from teammate Irwin at the North West.
‘Glenn is on a different footing at the North West than he will be at the TT.’ he said.
‘He is the target man at the North West but our mindset is to try to work as a team. We have talked about it and we want to try and help each other. I have a bit more experience than him at the TT and he can help me out at the NW. It would be silly not to.’
That co-operation will only last until the race begins though.
‘Then it will be every man for himself.’ Todd smiles.
‘Once the flag drops we will both want to win and I would love to be battling at the front with Glenn.’