Image: Russell Colvin.
The Island Classic’s International Challenge grid is taking shape for 2020 after Team America announced its 12-rider squad for the Phillip Island event on 24-26 January.
Team America not only boasts three riders who finished in the top six of the individual standings in 2019 – Josh Hayes, Larry Pegram and Michael Gilbert – but it’s now also added seven-time Canadian Superbike champion Jordan Szoke and former AMA front-runner Taylor Knapp to its ever-strengthening roster.
The squad will host the first female to take part in the International Challenge, Melissa Paris, who made her professional debut in the 2009 and has WorldSSP, EWC, AMA and Spanish CEV experience on her vast CV.
Her husband, Josh Hayes, is expected to be a powerhouse for Team America, and the four-time AMA Superbike champion – and second on the all-time race winner’s list behind Aussie Mat Mladin – will have fond memories of winning the fourth and final International Challenge race in 2019 on his Yamaha FJ1250.
“In the first race of 2019 I was quite taken back by the level of competition on these classic era bikes,” said Hayes. “[I] Even got my feelings hurt a few times!
“But when I was able to win the fourth and final challenge race, and returned to our pit to find the captains of all the other teams there to celebrate alongside us, I knew this was a special event that’s more about two-wheel passion than business, and something that I wanted to continue to be a part of.
“In 2019 I was able to test the Mojo Yamaha a handful of times. Also, I rode in MotoAmerica’s Supersport races at seven events – racing for my wife’s MP13 Racing Yamaha, with her also as my crew chief.
“The 2020 Island Classic is going to be a family event for me this year with my wife, Melissa, and my two-year-old son, Hawk, joining me. Even better is that Melissa will be riding a Mojo Yamaha TZ-750 in the International Classic races.”
Dave Crussell will once again captain the American squad, and also on his roster are Jorge Gurero, Joe Pethoud, Brian Filo, Bruce Lind and Robert Ruwoldt.
The Australian team for the International Challenge features David Johnson, Shawn Giles, Jed Metcher, Craig Ditchburn, Aaron Morris, Scott Webster, Cameron Donald, Steve Martin, Beau Beaton, John Allen and Alex Phillis.
The United Kingdom returns to the Interactional Challenge arena in 2020 with a new-look team, which will be in the coming days.