King's Lynn pub the Red Cat has 170mph landlord
PUBLISHED: 13:28 26 March 2011
Archant Â© 2011
The Red Cat is home to superbike fan landlord who enjoys a quick spin
It’s not every pub that welcomes bikers, but one West Norfolk landlord positively encourages them – when he’s not hitting 170mph on the track himself.
Peter Irwin usually draws the line at having the two-wheeled steeds brought into the bar, but makes an exception for King’s Lynn’s superbike champion Pete Baker – and his monster 1,000cc Suzuki, which can hit an incredible 200mph.
The Red Cat, in North Wootton, near King’s Lynn, is a traditional country inn which has been in the same family since 1920. But behind the gingerbread Carrstone facade lies the beating heart of an ardent born-again biker.
Mr Irwin, 57, started his love affair with bikes many years ago when he cut his teeth on a Yamaha 200. After a gap to raise a family and run his business, it was only a year ago that he bought a track bike and found himself hitting speeds positively licence-killing on public roads.
His friendship with champion rider Mr Baker has been forged over pints – of engine oil, petrol, clutch fluid and the occasional shandy.
Mr Baker only began his racing career at the age of 36, relatively late, but 17 years later he has been Superbike Champion no fewer than 15 times.
“I have always loved bikes and started with a Yamaha 125. I got married, got a mortgage so I was 36 when I started racing and I’ve had my share of success,” he said.
He runs MotorcyclesDirect.com and when he’s not working on his own bike he repairs, tunes and generally takes care of bikes for his customers.
With encouragement and technical help from Mr Baker, Mr Irwin now has a 750cc Suzuki track bike which he has been using for about a year at various circuits including Snetterton and Mallory Park.
“I had a big bike on the road which is capable of achieving tremendous speed, so I thought we would do it properly and get on to a track.
“Pete has been brilliant and his technical knowledge is second to none; it has really helped.” he said.
He even has his own Red Cat Racing team which involves his future son-in-law Martin Seal, of Anmner, who is equally keen on track racing, which is just as well because his fiancée, Samantha, has a bike licence herself.
Mr Irwin’s other daughter, Victoria, is a partner in the businesses and loves to watch the bikes, but doesn’t ride one.
The Red Cat is also one of a list of sponsors for Mr Baker – and with an annual bill of £15,000 for tyres alone, the sponsors are a vital part of any team.
Mr Baker has, for the first time, been given a wildcard entry into the British Superbike rounds where top names such as Steve Hislop and Troy Bayliss have won honours.
The Baker team could be asked to take part in races if another team can’t compete in a particular round for any reason – and it’s a challenge that Mr Baker relishes.
“Some of the bikes we could be up against have a budget of £1m – so my tyre bill is nothing in comparison,” he said.
His Morello Suzuki GSX-R 1000 has an eye-watering price tag and is packed with enough electronic gizmos to baffle Doctor Who. It has traction control, launch control (to stop wheelies) and full data download so Mr Baker can analyse every last move he made on the track.
“You can still crash it, though – and I have,” he said.
The Red Cat will be hosting an evening with Mr Baker – and the bikes – on Friday, April 15 at 8pm.
“We like to do something a bit different and know there are people out there who are interested in what Peter does,” said Mr Irwin.
It’s safe to say the mummified cat (yes, it’s red) safely in a case screwed to a beam, won’t have seen anything like it in the time that Mr Irwin and his forefathers have been in the business.