It was a painful and frustrating end to Graeme Irwin’s 2018 season after a broken wrist at the last GP ruled him out for the MXoN at Red Bud as well as the final round of the British championship.

But prior to the injury, Irwin had shown some impressive speed on the Hitachi ASA KTM at the GPs and proved he had the pace to mix it with the top 15 in the world once he had recovered from his gruesome third-degree burns earlier in the year.

Now the race is on to get back on the bike for next year and if possible make his 2019 debut in front of his home crowd in the Belfast Arenacross before concentrating on his main goals for the year, the world and British motocross championships.

As always Irwin was cheery and positive in the face of adversity as we caught up with him during the press launch of the Belfast Arenacross that will take place on the 18th and 19th of January.

It’s been a rough last couple of months for you! How are you feeling and how is the wrist?

It’s starting to feel pretty good, we start physio next Thursday. It has definitely been a rough couple of months to say the least but I am just looking forward to getting back on the bike. It would be good if we can make this event here (Belfast Arenacross), that would be pretty awesome to have it as the first race back.

Pic: Scott Dunne

You’ve raced the Belfast Arenacross before and you have raced some big races all over the word, but it is a pretty big buzz I’m sure in front of the home crowd in an arena!

I raced it in 2001 and won on a 65 and won again in 2002, that’s how long back it goes. I remember it was awesome. I had a rough night on a Suzuki here a few years ago so it would be awesome to be back in front of the home fans. Everyone knows that if Northern Ireland are playing football or whatever we always have the best atmosphere, there is no better place than to ride at home, especially if you look at the atmosphere for the British championship at Desertmartin, so to have that in an arena, it will be electric.

The crash at Imola that broke your wrist, you were already in the air when you came over the jump, what happened before it?

The best way I would describe would be like the Chad Reed crash at Millville, the way the bike swapped before the take-off, the bike went one way and I went the other. Unfortunately it was a double jump so there was a lot further to fall that it would have been if it was a table-top.

I’m sure it was pretty hard watching the Des Nations!

To do it the Sunday before the MX of Nations, we were scheduled to flying I think to Chicago on the Tuesday, that was a complete bummer. The Motocross of Nations is the biggest race of the year and to miss all that, it’s definitely a bummer.

Irwin enjoys riding in front of his home crowd Pic: Nigel McKinstry

What are your aims for next year now you have a year’s experience under your belt in GP?

To be honest I want to win the British championship for a start, winning it last year and losing it this year my goal is to take it back and in the GPs I want to break into the top 15 in GPs.

And you have the speed for that as you showed at the end of the year, so that must give you confidence.

Yeah, it’s such a frustrating class, it is so much on the start. People look from the outside and see you are fifteenth and think that’s not very good but when you have a look at the lap times, one second faster and you are into the top ten against so many factory guys. So the plan again is to approach it with more experinace now we know what to expect and I’m sure we will be better.

Irwin gets to grips with MXGP Pic: Nigel McKinstry

Everyone talks who the fastest Irwin is, but you are the only one who made it in motocross, so it has to be you, right?!

Exactly! Funny, the BBC with Stephen Watson were scheduled to cover that with us (Irwin brothers competing against each other in different disciplines), the day after the Sunflower short circuit race, but with my wrist injury that had to get cancelled. But I’m sure we are going to get put together again and make sure it happens.

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