Three-time British Superbike Champion John Reynolds made his first visit to the Island Classic this year and competed in the International Challenge races under the Team New Zealand banner.
Consistent results throughout the weekend saw Reynolds finish equal sixth in the overall individual points scores taken from the four by six-lap International Challenge racs.
Phil: John Reynolds, three times BSB champion, first visit to Phillip Island for quite some time and probably first ride at this track on a classic motorcycle as well, sum up your thoughts of the weekend.
John Reynolds: “It’s been a fantastic week, it’s been hard work to be honest with you. The circuit I know, but it’s so hard to get every single apex right, and when you’re on a brand new bike that you’ve never ridden before, and it’s a classic bike as well, you don’t know how fast and how hard to push, and of course Phillip Island is one of the fastest circuits in the world. So there’s going to be crashes, there’s gonna be big ones, I’ve been cautious, as I didn’t want to damage anything, myself or the bike, but we chipped away and the bike honestly was absolutely brilliant. It got quicker and quicker as the week went on, and ended up doing half decent time so I’m really happy.”
Phil: Alan Cathcart said this is one of the most prestigious and biggest classic events in the world, you’re thoughts?
John: “I’ll go with that, throughout the world the classic scene is massive, it’s massive in the UK and certainly in Australia. So many beautiful bikes and so many interesting stories of what we’ve got and how we became, it’s fascinating. It’s truly an eye opening insight into the Australian classic world.”
Phil: You’re probably a household name with your BBS victories in England, were you surprised by how many people know about your exploits here in Australia
John: “Yes it’s been mind blowing, I obviously keep an eye on who’s doing well in the Australian Championships and in the USA and you know we’re all mates. We don’t know each other but we all know of each other, if you know what I mean. We keep an eye on each other, it’s great, Josh Hayes is a legend, and it’s been an absolutely brilliant week. I’ve made so many friends, and people I’ve known about but never spoken to, and now I can actually say I know them.”
Phil: Are you surprised how hard the guys were prepared to push?
John: “Yea to be honest with you. I knew it was going to be pretty quick, but my god these guys were absolutely on the ragged edge. I’m not prepared to push that hard, but I slowly and gently got quicker and quicker, as the time went out, but I could do with two or three more days actually.”
Phil: Seems that there will be four more days, this time next year. Can we pen your name in for team UK or team New Zealand next year?
John: “You can certainly put my name down for that one, but obviously you need a ride, the bike, and the team around you. I’ve been working with the Carl Cox SGB – Suzuki Great Britain and without them helping this wouldn’t happen. So a massive thanks to Carl Cox and his team, for helping us achieve what we did. It’s just been a mind blowing week, there’s so many interesting people.”
Phil: Congratulations on your effort and great to see you here john.
John: Thanks so much.
Ken Wootton Perpetual Trophy
Steve Martin AUS 152 points
Aaron Morris AUS 150 points
Josh Hayes USA 141 points
=Shawn Giles AUS 141 points
Larry Pegram USA 130 points
Michael Gilbert USA 128 points
=John Reynolds NZ 128 points
Mark Miller USA 121 points
Craig Ditchburn 120 points
Barrett Long 114 points
2019 International Challenge Points – Three Nations
It has been a somewhat frustrating time in recent years for the TBR/D&D pairing of Steve Martin and Shawn Giles, but 2019 saw them steadily get on top of their set-up.
Steve Martin went on to take top individual honours across the four six-lap Island Classic International Challenge races, while Shawn Giles finished equal third with America’s Josh Hayes.
Phil caught up with Shawn after the event for rundown on the 2019 Island Classic through the eyes of Shawn Giles.
Phil Harlum: Three-times Australian Superbike champion Shawn Giles, a good weekend but it could have been a lot better without a couple of minor mechanical gremlins.
Shawn Giles: “Yea, I think it was the second race on Saturday, I went to go out and when the bike was fired up by the boys it was misfiring. They had the tank off, actually the plug leads had got mixed up, so I had to start from pit lane. I had to come from last through to 12th I think (it was 12th), I can’t remember exactly, where I finished. Full credit to the team they built a new bike for us this year and a new chassis, Phil Tainton had done some suspension work, I spoke to the boys about some geomoetry and Dale Gilbert built a new chassis. The bike feels awesome, but we’re still finding our feet with it, and the last two races it was getting better and better. So if there’s anyone out there who wants to sponsor us (laughs), it’d be great just to get some time on the track and get the bike better. Overall I was really happy with the weekend, there was a bad crash there in the first race yesterday and Jason Pridmore had some quite bad injuries, and Beau Beaton was involved, so I don’t like seeing that. But for us being able to race this Island Classic, it’s a fantastic event and thanks to Ken Wootton for telling me about it after I retired racing. He said, ‘You should come to the Island Classic’ and I’m glad I did. I really really enjoy racing here, once every year, and you know I don’t race anymore, but once a year for the Island Classic… it’s a truly special event, and I hope I can do many more.”
Phil: This year was a little bit different, with the UK team not turning up in the usual strong numbers, but a very strong challenge from the USA, including a lot of guys you wouldn’t have raced against before. How was it to race against those guys, like Josh Hayes, who won four national championships and only gave up racing just over a year ago.
Shawn: “Considering Josh had never seen the circuit before, Phillip Island is a hard circuit to master and he seemed to do that pretty well. To come out with the last race win was certainly showing us that he’s very versatile and able to get hold of Phillip Island. It was a great weekend and the American team was really strong, so I guess it’s gone from the Ashes to the America’s Cup, and they had a really good strong field. I’m sure they’ll make it even better in 2020. Jason (Pridmore) was really fast, unfortunately he had that accident and I hope he’s better, and I hope Beau’s better too.”
Phil: Take that pit lane start out of your performance, this weekend, you had to be happy with how you’ve gone on the bike. As you said it was a brand new bike, really untested, so it looks like the team’s on the right track and sets up a pretty good strong chance for 2020.
Shawn: “Definitely, I’d love to be able to ride the bike more but the old bikes are getting harder to get parts for, and the boys have got some really passion with their Suzuki Katana. It’s great to see that passion and to see Dale Gilbert, who hasn’t been feeling well, he built a new chassis for my bike, and Phil Tainton who I’ve had a long career with has helped out, and the bike is feeling really good. I think with a few more changes to the bike I reckon there’s quite a strong possibility of doing some high 35s on that bike and it felt so good this weekend. I ran the tyres that I ran last year as far as compounds, there’s new era Dunlops out now and I’ve pretty much ridden Dunlop most of my career as you know. So we’ll see what we can do in the new year.”
Phil: Just on that, how happy were you and the team to see the performance in Race 3 where you had three Katanas leading the field? It’s been a long time since that’s happened. It’s been the domain of F1 bikes for quite a few years now.
Shawn: “It certainly has and to think that we’re riding Suzuki Katanas that don’t have any aerodynamic package at all, we have this little triangular screen, if you can call it a triangle. Where with the F1 you have the full fairing, and a lot of aerodynamics, it’s certainly helps them around Phillip Island but it’s great to see the Aussie home grown superbikes shine this weekend. Hats off to Josh Hayes for showing up, we tied for the overall third and he rode exceptionally well considering he’s never ridden here before.”
Ken Wootton Perpetual Trophy
Steve Martin AUS 152 points
Aaron Morris AUS 150 points
Josh Hayes USA 141 points
=Shawn Giles AUS 141 points
Larry Pegram USA 130 points
Michael Gilbert USA 128 points
=John Reynolds NZ 128 points
Mark Miller USA 121 points
Craig Ditchburn 120 points
Barrett Long 114 points
2019 International Challenge Points – Three Nations
Four-time American Superbike Champion Josh Hayes was a bit wide-eyed when he first rode Phillip Island last week.
Hayes remarked, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, that he had his eyes closed at turn one for the first day or so. Then once the racing started he was really taken aback at just how hard competitors at the Island Classic International Challenge were willing to push the limits.
With Team USA front liner Jason Pridmore injured in race one, it fell to the 43-year-old to step up and deliver for this team. He did exactly that and by the final race of the weekend he had really found his groove and romped away to a clear win in that last six-lap bout of the event.
Overall, Hayes was the third highest points scorer across the four Island Classic International Challenge races, finishing on equal standing with three-time Aussie Superbike Champion Shawn Giles.
Phil Harlum: So we’re here with four time AMA Champion Josh Hayes, great to have you here, we’ve spoken about it before, Phillip Island a special place, the atmosphere, it’s what makes this event..
Josh Hayes: “I’m trying to imagine it being anywhere else and I don’t think it would be any good. I think the track is amazing, fortunately for me it suits our bike pretty well, but you know the atmosphere, the area in the world, all of it is a part of it. It’s just fun to be around a fun group of people, and I don’t think there’s a person in this paddock who’s making money. It’s 100 per cent about passion, people who are willing to spend their money because they are passionate about motorcycle racing, and it’s hard not to enjoy being around people like that.”
Phil: The event obviously is all about racing, when it comes down to the International Challenge, you now know how serious the guys take it…
Josh: “Well I didn’t until I got here, now I realise just how serious the guys take it.”
Phil: Obviously you took it pretty seriously in that last race, off to a fantastic start and then put your head down. The first two or three laps were amazing, that’s what built up that eventual race win for you.
Josh: “Well you know I tried to give you the thumbs up, to say ‘Hey man things are good, I’m ready to go’. So I just wanted to do my job. Crussell and Jason asked me to come be a part of this, and you don’t want to come in as what they consider a ‘name’ and then not perform well, so I wanted to do a good job, and that was the most important thing. When I got in front those first three laps, I made a mistake in Honda and ran wide, I thought I had a freight train of people behind me, and I was just running like a scared rabbit, so it was just wanting to do a good job, and be in the race, at the front. That’s what I wanted, to kind of clear and have my own race was nice.”
Phil: We talk about how special this track is, after four days of riding it, what’s you impression now? Especially after winning a race.
Josh: “You really need to ask me this again, to ask anybody again? Because it’s so obvious it’s one of the most amazing tracks in the world. And I have truly enjoyed my time here, and of all the places in the world away from America that I would want to go ride a race track, this is top of the list, without a doubt top of the list.”
Phil: So we can pen your name in for the 2020 event, same bike, next year?
Josh: “If Dave Crussell will have me back, there’s a reasonable chance I’ll be back for the event next year. With any luck I could maybe find a ride for my wife Melissa and bring my little son Hawk, who’ll be two, and let him see Australia too.”
The 2019 running of the Island Classic saw another highly successful event at the famous Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit, boasting international legends of motorcycling on a bevvy of rare and precious classic machinery.
There was plenty going on over the weekend, with over 50 races, so here’s a look at some of the smaller classes, which while not as renowned as the International Challenge, still feature amazing racing and incredible machines.
350cc Forgotten Era
While the focus is regularly on the Unlimited capacity class in Forgotten Era, which is not unexpected with bikes that are easy to source and easy to tune, the 350 class is one that is sometimes overlooked.
The 350 class is dominated by true period Grand Prix class TZ350s and regularly puts on some of the best racing of the weekend, making it something not to miss.
However for 2019, with the loss of leaded race fuels (the 40+ year diet of 350GP bikes!) kicking in, there was a chance that this class could be a lottery as riders and tuners got to grips with the various replacements that have come to light.
While there was a little mechanical mayhem which unfortunately beset a couple of front runners, including Kiwi Steve Brown and Taswegian Grant Boxhall, the fuel change didn’t put a damper on proceedings.
The headline should read ‘Lachlan Hill Dominates Again’, but that would ignore the enormous efforts that class newcomer Keo Watson put in riding Western Australian Neil Robinson’s immaculate TZ350.
Lachie has dominated the class for five years and rightly so, with his riding efforts, but also a willingness to develop his bike, which has put him less than 1/10th of a second outside the lap record.
In 2019 Lachlan took four wins from four races and his excitement in doing so was visible on the last lap of race four.
However, Keo Watson wasn’t concerned with reputations and methodically went about taking the fight to Hill with three strong second place finishes. Racing saw Watson get ahead of Hill a number of times, including in a spectacular Race 2 on Saturday afternoon.
Watson led on the last lap and after trying a move at the exit of Turn 2, finally making a pass under brakes at the Turn 4 hairpin on the last lap. The pace was strong enough that Hill reset his own personal best lap time and had a moment or two at MG.
By race four, Hill was in a relatively safe position on points for the class at 75 to Watson’s 60, but he would have had one eye on the Phil Irving Trophy as well. For four laps Watson and Hill were hardly separated, until suddenly there was only one of them.
A tyre experiment for the last race proved costly with Watson tucking the front and low siding at Hayshed, leaving Hill a very large gap over second placed Christopher Hayward. This one DNF unfortunately dropping Keo Watson from second down to sixth overall for the weekend.
Forgotten Era 350 for years has also had a strong Kiwi presence, fielding many riders in the class every year for 19 of the 26 years the event has run. 2019 was no different with eight riders and they were somewhat hampered by only being able to tune for the new fuels from Thursday onwards. However they were well on the case by Friday, though many of the team had made use of the exceptional talents of Bruce Woodley of Powerflow Engineering to keep things under control.
Jock Woodley was the most consistent of these, again landing third place overall with four strong rides – the same overall result as 2018. Chris Hayward had a number of lonely rides for second overall.
The unlimited Classic bikes were run concurrently with the Forgotten Era with Garth Francis taking four class wins on his 750 Norton, mixing it with the mid-field TZ350s.
350cc Forgotten Era / Unl Classic Race 1
Lachlan HILL (VIC) 7:28.326
Keo WATSON (NSW) +0.226
Christopher HAYWARD (SA) +9.698
Jock WOODLEY (NZ) +18.418
Trevor TAYLOR (NZ) +43.875
Garth FRANCIS (VIC) +43.933
Andrew McLAREN (NZ) +53.017
Andrew PITMAN (SA) +54.228
Jason HOWCROFT (NZ) +54.249
Bob SAYER (NSW) +1:06.492
350cc Forgotten Era / Unl Classic Race 2
Lachlan HILL (VIC) 9:10.046
Keo WATSON (NSW) +0.528
Steven BROWN (NZ) +20.106
Christopher HAYWARD (SA) +24.079
Grant BOXHALL (TAS) +51.375
Trevor TAYLOR (NZ) +57.771
Andrew McLAREN (NZ) +58.408
Andrew PITMAN (SA) +1:01.021
Jason HOWCROFT (NZ) +1:06.185
350cc Forgotten Era / Unl Classic Race 3
Lachlan HILL (VIC) 7:16.508
Keo WATSON (NSW) +13.392
Christopher HAYWARD (SA) +18.027
Jock WOODLEY (NZ) +38.496
Andrew McLAREN (NZ) +45.835
Trevor TAYLOR (NZ) +56.749
Robert HEATHER (VIC) +1:00.192
Jason HOWCROFT (NZ) +1:00.937
Garth FRANCIS (VIC) +1:09.734
Andrew PITMAN (SA) +1:10.471
350cc Forgotten Era / Unl Classic Race 4
Lachlan HILL (VIC) 9:07.796
Christopher HAYWARD (SA) +18.391
Jock WOODLEY (NZ) +40.970
Andrew McLAREN (NZ) +53.058
Andrew PITMAN (SA) +53.714
Trevor TAYLOR (NZ) +59.035
Jason HOWCROFT (NZ) +1:06.288
Kevin McDONALD (NZ) +1:07.944
Phil OADES (NZ) +1:20.652
Garth FRANCIS (VIC) +1:30.929
350cc Forgotten Era Standings
Lachlan HILL 100 points
Christopher HAYWARD 73
Jock WOODLEY 68
Andrew McLAREN 61
Trevor TAYLOR 60
Keo WATSON 60
Andrew PITMAN 54
Jason HOWCROFT 51
Phil OADES 42
Kevin McDONALD 34
Unlimited Classic Standings
Garth FRANCIS 100
William MOONEY 70
Dan GLEESON 56
Brendan BURNS 49
Bob SAYER 40
David WEATHERHEAD 18
500 Forgotten Era / Open Post Classic
Based upon current form, the question was going to be who was going to come second? Current ASBK Supersport 300 champion Tom Bramich on the incredibly reliable Ron Angel Racing Paton 500 was looking too strong to bet against, which was a prediction seen out by the weekend.
The answer as to who would claim second was Keo Watson with four second places, but don’t let the results let you think these were processional. Yes, Bramich was away in race one and two but also had Unlimited Post classic bikes to play with. By Race 3 on Saturday afternoon, Watson was well on to his game and running with Bramich, never more than a second apart the whole race with neither having a speed advantage.
Race 4 saw Tom in a strong position chasing for an overall win, which ensured the clean sweep with Watson second, while Christopher Hayward put in four great rides in third each time for third overall.
Due to an accident in the International Challenge Beau Beaton on the big Irving Vincent didn’t feature in the Unlimited Post Classic past Saturday lunchtime, but in his earlier showing he reset the lap record in race two for a run away win by 10 seconds up over Dean Oughtred on his immaculate Carl Cox Racing / Dynoverks CR750, backing up his win in race one.
With Beaton out for the weekend, Oughtred had a clear run in Race 3, but a DNF in race four let evergreen Laurie Fyffe through for the overall win, with Robert Wallace just missing out pushing him back to third.
Steve Martin put in a stellar effort at this years Island classic to claim the Ken Wootton Perpetual Trophy from fellow Aussie Aaron Morris by a two-point margin. It was obvious to see the improvements made during the weekend that then provided Steve the confidence to really push for results.
Steve kicked off the weekend with a seventh place in the International Challenge Race 1 after a restart following a nasty crash which saw both Jason Pridmore and Beau Beaton out of the weekend through injury.
Race two saw Steve Martin forge his way into a second place finish behind Aaron Morris before then leading a Suzuki Katana 1-2-3 in Sunday morning’s race three. While Josh Hayes took the final race four win, Steve Martin took the runner up position and the overall highest points score across the four Island Classic International Challenge bouts.
Phil Harlum caught up with Steve in the aftermath of the 2019 Island Classic.
Steve Martin 2019 Island Classic Interview
Phil Harlum: Steve Martin, tell us about the weekend, it’s obviously one that started off a bit slow, but it didn’t end like that.
Steve Martin: Nah, it’s just unbelievable, when I look back at the weekend, you know… as usual I didn’t really prepare, went for two runs thinking that would be enough. I ended wearing myself out so I gave up on that. I really just can’t explain it, I worked hard on the set-up, and I was in contact with Phil Tainton, who was helping me out with a few different things, and I think that made a bit of a difference.
Phil: Tell us about the races though, you gradually got better and better as the weekend went on, culminating with victory in race three, and a strong fight to second place in the final race.
Steve: Absolutely, as soon as I got feeling in the bike, then I could tell what it was doing, in the last couple of years I really haven’t been able to feel what the bikes been doing. But this year I could feel what it was doing, give good feedback, and as soon as I did that, I knew what I wanted to go faster. As soon as I knew what I wanted, bang, the pace was there, and then obviously the more I rode… The last time I rode a bike with a race number, was here last year – I only race here, four six-lap races each year, which isn’t enough against guys like Josh Hayes, and our young guns.
“So the more laps I did the more confident I got. In the third race I got a sniff of it and I went for it. I could see I had a bit more grip than Phillis, and Metcher, who were in front of me at that time, and I thought it’s now or never, so I went for it. I didn’t even realise it was the final lap at the point, so when I came over and saw the chequered flag, I had made my move at the right time.”
Phil: Tell us about the race through victory and how special that was, because it’s been a couple of years since you’ve won an International Challenge race and few years since you won any sort of championship.
Steve: Well, it’s been 10 years believe it or not. In 1989 I won the Australian 1000cc Production championship, 1999 I won the Australian Superbike championship, 2009 I won the World Endurance championship, and in 2019 I’ve now won the Phillip Island classic, so I’m looking for a long term 10 year contract!”
Phil: Congratulations Steve well done, it’s been a big effort from you and the team!
Steve: “Thanks mate and thanks to everyone out there.”
Unlimited Forgotten Era – Premier – Craig Ditchburn
Unlimited Post-Classic – Laurie Fyffe
Unlimited Classic – Garth Francis
New Era Formula 750cc – Scott Campbell
New Era Formula 1300cc – Aaron Morris
Phil Irving Memorial Trophy
Highest Individual Point Scorer outside International Challenge Tied for equal first place at 200 points
Levi Day – 250cc New Era; 500cc New Era
Lachlan Hill – 250cc Forgotten Era; 350cc Forgotten Era
Tom Bramich – 500cc Post Classic; 500cc Forgotten Era
Overall Phil Irving Memorial Trophy Standings
Lachlan Hill = Levi Day = Tom Bramich – 200 points
James Doddrell – 172
Scott Campbell – 169
Christopher Hayward – 145
Keo Watson – 142
Malcom Campbell – 141
Colin Sleigh = Tony Logan – 140
Des Heaney = Paul Smith = Stacey Heaney – 139
Jock Woodley – 136
Murray Seabrook – 135
Mark Laing-Hughes – 133
Roly Orr – 132
Garth Francis – 131
Eric Salmon – 127
Scott Findlay – 124
David Manson – 121
Robert Wallace – 120
Ben Burke – 118
Justin Mellerick – 117
Danny Ahern – 114
Bruce Meredith = Quentin Blazley – 110
Nathan Spiteri = Trevor Taylor – 108
Andrew McLaren- 106
Ben James = Glenn Hindle – 105
Aaron Morris = Beau Beaton = Ben Bramich = Robert Heather – 100
FIM Oceania Historic Road Race Cup
The newly revamped Trans-Tasman battle of the FIM Oceania Historic Road Race Cup favoured the Kiwis as they claimed a 139-point victory over the Aussies at the 26th International Island Classic, presented by Visit Phillip Island.
The revised format of the FIM Oceania Historic Road Race Cup, designed to create greater parity, more opportunity for all class riders, and a tougher spirit of competition between the nations saw competitors across the four classes; 350cc Forgotten Era, 500cc Forgotten Era, Unlimited Forgotten Era and 500cc New Era take part in the competition. Riders had to qualify for their respective nations, with competitors with the three closest lap times from each country, in each class, selected for the final squads.
New Zealand’s Jock Woodley was the winning team’s top scorer, accumulating 136 points after four strong top 10 finishes in the 500cc Forgotten Era class and three top five finishes in the 350 Forgotten Era class, along with Andrew McLaren who scored four consistent top 10 finishes in the 350cc Forgotten Era class for Team New Zealand, as well as 45 points in the 500cc Forgotten Era class.
Jason Howcroft also proved dependable, finishing inside the top 10 in all four 350cc Forgotten Era races.
Whilst Team Australia’s Martin Craggill was the top individual point scorer amongst the FIM Oceania Historic Road Race Cup contenders, securing 76 points from his four podium finishes in the Unlimited Forgotten Era class, Team Australia was unable to match the consistency of the Kiwis.
The locals struggled with mechanical problems with four out of the team’s 12 riders failing to score any points for Australia.
Team New Zealand will be looking to defend their title at the 2020 International Island Classic.
Aaron Morris had his perfect record spoiled in race three when gearbox woes saw him get pipped at the post by Steve Martin and Shawn Giles. With no parts to fix it ahead of race four, the Corish Motorsport squad are having to make do by dropping three teeth off the rear sprocket on the TBR Katana in order to try and contest the race with only the first three gears.
Those woes had allowed the TBR/D&D Katanas get the better of Morris in the third bout and had seen Steve Martin close to within five-points of Morris heading into Sunday afternoon’s final six-lap race.
Problems for Josh Hayes with his Yamaha running on three-cylinders, and a jump-start penalty for Larry Pegram in race three, had hurt Team America’s chances for overall victory in the International Challenge. Heading into the final battle in the four race war Team USA trailed Australia by 35-points. The team had put in a whole new ignition system in to Hayes’ machine ahead of this final six-lap race of the 2019 Island Classic weekend.
They are away!
Josh Hayes fired off the line to head the International Challenge field like a rat up a drainpipe! Hayes led the field by a full second through the first split as Jed Metcher, Alex Phillis, Steven Martin and Aaron Morris gave chase. A 1m43.26 for Hayes from a standing start, and he backed it up with a 1m37.215 to extend his lead out to 1.6-seconds as they started lap two.
The battle for second place was hotting up with Alex Phillis battling with Jed Metcher while Steve Martin was looking to join that game.
Aaron Morris was suffering with those gearbox problems and struggling for pace as he tried to defend his fifth place from Giles, Pegram and Gilbert. He could not muster enough speed to keep them at bay and was passed by all those riders by half race distance. The individual trophy was slipping from his grasp with every position lost. During that middle part of the race on points, with Steve Martin in fourth, and Aaron Morris in ninth, that put the pair on 150-points apiece…
Steve Martin then got the better of Alex Phillis to move up to third place and started vying for second place with Jed Metcher.
Up front Josh Hayes had pulled the plug and was managing a three-second lead before taking the chequered flag as the clear race winner to finish the event on a high for Team USA.
The American effort for the 2019 Island Classic was absolutely outstanding and added some great flavour to the International Challenge event for 2019.
Team UK was sorely missed, without a doubt, but with Team America coming on so strong it only leaves me sailvating at just how good it might be if a Team UK came back in strength to really shake things up. Word is that something along those lines might happen for the 2020 Island Classic! That would truly cement the Island Classic as the most serious historic road racing event held anywhere in the world.
New riders to the event, including race four winner Josh Hayes, were genuinely shocked at how hard the fast runners ride in this event. And were in wide-eyed awe at the speed of the renowned Phillip Island circuit.
Steve Martin top scoring individual overall
Steve Martin pipped Phillis and Metcher in what was an almost photo finish to take second place in this final race, and with it Steve scored enough points to take out the Ken Wootton Perpetual Trophy for the highest individual points scorer. The winning margin over Aaron Morris was two points.
Shawn Giles took fifth place in the final race ahead of Larry Pegram, Michael Gilbert and John Reynolds while Aaron Morris limped home to ninth place. Those gearbox problems costing him his chance at overall individual honours. But that’s historic racing, as much as the riders battle on track, the pit crews do battle all weekend in pit-lane in their own race just to keep their fast but fickle mounts running.
Team Australia win International Challenge
Team USA put up a valiant fight in that final battle but in the end Australia won the war with 676 points to America’s 634. Team New Zealand scored 460 points.
Conditions were again quite friendly to both competitors and their fickle machinery at Phillip Island today. Friday’s fierce temperatures were now a distant memory and the cooler weather was also making things a lot more pleasant for the crowd.
A couple of guys not enjoying things today though were Jason Pridmore and Beau Beaton. Pridmore had a massive highside at turn 11 on Saturday and the chasing Beau Beaton was left nowhere to go apart from over the top of Pridmore’s machine. The pair were both attended to by medical staff on the circuit before being sent off to hospital where Pridmore was confirmed to have broken his leg, while Beaton was diagnosed with a fractured L5 vertebrae, along with small fractures to his pelvis and Sacrum.
The Island Classic International Challenge battle though must go on!
After Saturday’s two six-lap races things were tight at the top. The new and improved Team USA had really stepped into the breech left by the absence of Team UK. Still, the absence of a credible Team UK is keenly felt and they are sorely missed.
Ahead of the third bout Australia led the USA by only 15-points. With a perfect scorecard on Saturday Aaron Morris led the way on individual scores ahead of four-time AMA Superbike Champion Josh Hayes. Steve Martin had been getting more comfortable as the weekend has progressed and finished second to Morris in race two after Hayes had some problems late in the race.
There was really nothing in it due to the tight points scoring system that is used to decide the winner of the Ken Wootton Perpetual Trophy, the award for the highest performing individual rider across the four International Challenge races of the event.
Away we go!
Larry Pegram got a scorcher off the line to lead the field through Southern Loop for the first time ahead of Jed Metcher, Steve Martin and David Johnson while pole-sitter Aaron Morris was in fifth place as they exited turn four. Metcher made a small mistake late on that opening lap and lost a little ground but Aaron Morris had the Katana wound up through the back section of the circuit and round turn 11 and 12 to move up on to the tail of Pegram as they started lap two.
Aaron Morris then seemed to miss a gear or something which allowed Pegram and Metcher to get back past the Katana. Josh Hayes made a mistake and slipped from sixth place all the way back to 15th place with four laps still to go. The fastest man on lap two had been Shawn Giles but the top six were all in the 38s.
While in the the lead on lap three Larry Pegram’s team were informed that he had been given a jump-start time penalty in what would be another significant and costly blow for Team USA. Before he had seen that on his pit-board though Aaron Morris, Steve Martin, Shawn Giles and Jed Metcher had pushed him back to fifth place.
David Johnson’s weekend of woe continued with the South Australia limping back into pit-lane with mechanical problems.
Shawn Giles then put in a new fastest lap of the race on lap four with a 1m37.425 but all that leading trio were now in the 37s. Only two-tenths covered that triumvirate with two laps remaining while Jed Metcher continued to try and chase them down and turn that leading group into a four-way affair.
As they got the last lap board Jed Metcher joined the party to set up an exciting final lap. However, the T-Rex Honda hiccupped on the exit of turn four, causing him to pull the clutch in fearing an impending engine detonation. Metcher was able to continue tentatively, his machine recovering its composure, but his run for the podium was done and he had to settle for fourth.
Aaron Morris had the speed to hold his challengers off around the back of the circuit, but then missed a shift or had some sort of issue on the run towards the main straight which allowed him to be gazumped down the chute by Steve Martin and Shawn Giles.
Larry Pegram crossed the line in fifth, but his jump-start penalty pushed him back to seventh place and promoted his countrymen Michael Gilbert and Steve Rapp ahead of him on the official scoresheet.
Craig Ditchburn scored eighth, Dean Oughtred ninth and honorary Kiwi for the weekend John Reynolds rounded out the top ten ahead of Barrett Long, Mark Miller, Jay Lawrence and Dale Quarterley.
That result should extend Australia’s lead in the International Challenge Team points standings but America will remain with striking distance.
Aaron Morris had to battle hard in order to take victory in the opening race earlier today but that bout also saw both Team Australia and Team USA lose star players from their numbers.
Jason Pridmore suffered a huge highside at turn 11 and Beau Beaton also got caught up in the incident. Both went down hard which saw the red flag produced so they could be treated immediately on the circuit. They were then sent off to hospital for further investigation and observation.
Both machines were also heavily damaged, including that work of art that is the Irving Vincent. I enquired with Ken Horner as to the condition of his machine and he replied with, ‘Trev, you could say it is an engineering project’… Which is a nice way of saying, it is pretty well f#$*ed!
Away we go for Race Two!
Josh Hayes got a blinding start for Team America ahead of Jed Metcher while Larry Pegram was also fired up for this one and right up there in the mix alongside Aaron Morris and Paul Byrne as the second International Challenge six-lap race got underway at 1510 on Saturday afternoon.
Hayes maintained the lead around the back of the circuit but down the main straight to start lap two there was nothing separating Hayes, Morris, Metcher and Pegram.
Aaron Morris took his turn at the front of that pack early on lap two and going with him was Jed Metcher and once that pair wound up to speed they left Hayes and Pegram in their dust. In his quest to take the challenge to Morris though Metcher made a mistake and went down at Lukey Heights. That left Aaron Morris out in front vritually by himself!
By half race distance Aaron Morris had a four-second lead but the man moving up into second place was Steve Martin while Josh Hayes had been pushed back to third place ahead of Paul Byrne and Michael Gilbert. Larry Pegram looked to have rolled to a stop with some sort of problem, a blow for Team USA just as he really looked like he had really found his groove around the 4.445km Phillip Island Circuit.
2018 had been David Johnson’s year to shine at the Island Classic but 2019 was not running quite as smoothly for the South Australian.
Aaron Morris had backed his pace off a little to just maintain the impressive four-second lead for the run towards the chequered flag.
Steve Martin had managed to stretch away from Hayes to a clear second place. Adding further insult to Hayes was Paul Byrne, the Irishman got the better of Hayes late in the race and pulled away to make it an all-Australian podium.
Not sure as yet as to what happened to David Johnson in that one but presumably a mechanic gremlin saw him fail to be a factor in this bout.
Weather conditions were much friendlier to all-comers this morning at Phillip Island. Temperatures were nudging the mid 20s today, rather than the furnace-like 40-degree that toasted competitors and their machines on Friday.
Ahead of the first of the premier category International Challenge events for the 2019 Island Classic pit-lane was a flurry of activity as riders and mechanics fettled their fast but fickle mounts. This event is always a battle to keep the highly tuned historic machines going for the 4 x 6-lap races. Not only last-minute fixes and patch up jobs, but even complete gearbox and engine rebuilds are sometimes required during the event.
Aaron Morris looked like the red hot favourite on the qualifying pace form guide, but with many of his competitors being held back during practice with mechanical gremlins, the rest of the field was bouned to get closer come race day.
Paul Byrne, David Johnson, Jed Metcher, Beau Beaton, Steve Martin and Shawn Giles were all in the top ten fastest qualifiers and it was looking as though it would take a momentous effort from Team USA if they were to take it up to the home team in the battle for overall International Challenge Team honours.
American newcomer and four-time AMA Superbike Champion Josh Hayes is still learning the intricacies of the challenging 4445 metres of blacktop that make up the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit.
Jason Pridmore rode last year and thus now has good experience of the circuit and the whole Team America challenge in regards to machinery and back-up has stepped up a notch. Steve Rapp was still building speed after losing track time with mechanical problems, Larry Pegram also still making progress and looking likely to get faster as the event progresses.
The strengthened Team USA has helped to partly fill some of the void left by the absence of Team UK and their brace of star riders, along with the beautiful Roger Winfield prepared machinery that had become a much loved staple of the Island Classic. Still, the absence of a credible Team UK is keenly felt and they are sorely missed. That said, the crowd was still looking pretty strong and there was still a great atmosphere surrounding the event.
None of the Team New Zealand pilots had made it inside the qualifying top ten, such is the competitiveness of the field again this year. Temporary Kiwi Alex Phillis had qualifieid 11th ahead of team-mate Jay Lawrence and this years star Team NZ recruit for 2019, triple BSB Superbike Champion John Reynolds.
We are away!
They jumped off the line at 1220 in near perfect conditions but Jason Pridmore clutch bit a fraction too early and thus was hit with time penalty to be added to his race time.
David Johnson led the field through Southern Loop for the first time ahead of Jed Metcher while through the back section it was Paul Byrne, Jason Pridmore and Josh Hayes all giving chase to that duo as Beau Beaton, Alex Phillis and Shawn Giles also gave chase.
It was on!
Then it wasn’t…
A massive high-side for Jason Pridmore at turn 11 saw the red flag brought out as other riders also ended up in the kitty litter. Pridmore had fallen heavily and also caught up in the melee was Beau Beaton. The Aussie copped a major battering in the tumble and looked perhaps worse off than Pridmore. Both riders were treated on the circuit by medical staff, they were conscious, but in a world of hurt…
Let’s go again!
One person thankful for the re-start was pole-sitter Aaron Morris. He had a terrible start first time around but got away from the line much better in this one only to get swamped on the run toward turn one as Jed Metcher swept through to the lead from with David Johnson and Alex Phillis also forging past Morris by Southern Loop.
Metcher capitalised on his clear air at the front of the field to eke out a small buffer over David Johnson over the first lap and a half but then Aaron Morris wound up the big Katana and reeled in first Johnson, then Metcher to take the race lead. Morris put in a 1m36.789 on that first flying lap on his way to take the race lead, more than a second faster than any other rider in the field on that lap.
Josh Hayes was learning the circuit and his machine fast and by half race distance was really winding it up! Hayes had moved past Shawn Giles and Alex Phillis as he worked his way forward and then took David Johnson for third place just before they got the last lap board.
With one lap to go it was Morris leading Metcher by almost a second with Hayes equidistant back in third place. The trio were still in that order when they got the chequered flag, with David Johnson fourth and Shawn Giles fifth.
Early word was that while both Pridmore and Beaton were in no danger, they had suffered injuries and thus were heading off to hospital for further investigation of their injuries. It seemed unlikely they would take any further part in today’s proceedings.
Jed Metcher is hoping to come back stronger this afternoon to better take the battle up to Morris.
“The T-Rex Honda feels a lot better, but I found the limit quite quickly. I almost lost the front at turn four as I turned up the wick when Aaron Morris went by me. I just simply didn’t have the rear edge grip to get the drive and stay with him. We will work on those issues ahead of the second race later on this afternoon and work a bit more on the setup of the bike. We are aiming to get a bit more rear edge grip and try and get the bike to turn a bit faster in the middle of the turn and hopefully we can dip into the 36’s.”