BSB rider Glenn Irwin reveals mental health struggles

Top British Superbike Championship rider Glenn Irwin reveals his struggles with mental health over the years and discusses Isle of Man TT cancellation

Glenn Irwin

British Superbike Championship rider Glenn Irwin has revealed how struggles with his mental health has affected his performances over the past year, saying he could ‘always tell when he (I) was going to race well’.

Irwin was on the ascendancy when he made his BSB debut in 2016 with the Paul Bird Motorsport Ducati team, notching up his maiden victory in 2017 and going all the way to third overall in 2018 when he was unexpectedly elevated to team leader status in the wake of Shane Byrne’s potentially career-ending injury.

That success earned him the chance to join Quattro Plant Kawasaki – champions in 2018 with Leon Haslam – for the following season as part of a deal that would see him get more road outings.

However, it would prove to be a sobering year for Irwin as he struggled for pace on the Kawasaki ZX-10RR, leading to a mid-season split and a move to Tyco BMW. Despite improved results, they too parted ways before the close of the year ahead of his switch to Honda Racing for 2020.

Though Irwin doesn’t reference his experiences in 2019 directly, the Ulsterman admits he has had a tough time in the past year especially to understand his struggles with mental health.

“The best thing is nowadays people tell you 'it's ok not to be ok' so I wasn't afraid to seek the proper help, which I did and continue to do," he told the BBC.

"I've had battles with my mental health but that has made all the difference. Particularly over the past year I have struggled with it. I could always tell when I was going to race well. When things were right they were right, when things weren't right they weren't right at all.

“People do struggle and I'm always happy to reach out to people. If I can help someone out along the way I get a great buzz doing that. There is no better feeling than feeling that you are your old self again."

Glenn Irwin’s Isle of Man TT debut on hold

With North West 200 wins and a Macau GP victory to his name, Irwin’s move to Honda for 2020 – where he will be paired with his brother Andrew in BSB – was also supposed to see him make his debut on the Isle of Man TT. 

However, the 2020 event has now been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, while the start of the BSB Championship has also been postponed indefinitely for the time being. Though disappointed, he nonetheless agrees with the decision.

“The health of the population is the most important thing right now but from a less significant racing point of view I'm gutted about the TT being called off.

"I've put so much effort into it - I've been over there for three days every two weeks and the preparation has been really, really good.

"The big picture is that that won't be wasted. It's frustrating and it is a year lost but at least I am quite young, especially in the road racing game. It is what it is and next year won't be long in coming around."