Team America for 2020 International Challenge announced
Team America have thrown down the gauntlet to defending champion Australia ahead of the 2020 International Island Classic, which will run at the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit this coming Australia Day long weekend (January 24-26).
America’s 12-rider squad for the International Challenge teams’ event 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.
Team America also boasts the first woman to take part in the International Challenge – Melissa Paris, who made her professional debut in the 2009 and has world supersport, world endurance, AMA and Spanish CEV experience on her vast CV.
Melissa is the wife of Josh Hayes and said on her inclusion in the US squad, “After hearing what a great time Josh had last January I’m so pumped to go this year!”
Husband 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. Even got my feelings hurt a few times!” said Hayes of his 2019 Island Classic debut. But when I was able to win the 4th 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, more about 2 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 2yr old son, Hawk, joining me. Even better is that Melissa will be riding a Mojo Yamaha TZ-750 in the International Classic races. With her experience of riding all types of motorcycles, and all over the world, I think she will be a strong asset for the American team. For her and Hawk to get to experience Australia again with me also, is just icing on the cake.”
The final race victory of 2019 catapulted Hayes to third in the individual standings on a countback ahead of Aussie Shawn Giles, while Pegram and Gilbert were fifth and sixth.
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 bike of choice for the majority of the team will again be the Yamaha based CMR FJ 1250, while the Americans also have three potent Yamaha TZ750 at their disposal.
America finished second in the 2019 International Challenge behind Australia and ahead of New Zealand, but the addition of Szoke, Knapp and Price could cause some real headaches for Australia which is shooting for its 13th win in 16 starts.
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.
Meanwhile, the United Kingdom returns to the Interactional Challenge arena in 2020 with a new-look team, which will be announced next week.
Grab your 2020 Island Classic tickets today
The Island Classic, is now in its 27th year, is the largest historic motorcycle racing event in the Southern Hemisphere. The weekend honours a century of motorcycling in three action-packed days, with the International Challenge just one element of an event that celebrates the splendour of historic racing across all levels.
As well the International Challenge, the Island Classic includes 52 other races for machines across the six historic racing categories: Veteran (up to 1919), Vintage (1920-1945), Classic (1946-1962), Post Classic (1963-1972), Forgotten Era (1973-1982) and New Era (1983-1990).
Individual accolades will also include the Phil Irving Perpetual Trophy, awarded to the rider who accrues the most points outside the International Challenge races, for the highest scorer in the non-International Challenge events.
Qualifying will begin on Friday for all classes, followed by a full program of racing on Saturday and Sunday. For more information and tickets, visit www.islandclassic.com.au (link). Pre-purchase and save on general admission and camping tickets, with children under 15 free.
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.”
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.
Heat and wind. Those were the two words on everyone’s lips at Phillip Island today as they sweltered through oppressive conditions. Ambient temperatures nudging towards 40-degrees does not make for the nicest weather to be working on highly tuned air-cooled machines, it was downright tortuous in fact.
That did not stop more than 500 historic motorcycles taking to the track today though with 15-minute qualifying sessions for all classes of racing. Seven races were also on the card for the opening day of Island Classic 2019. There had been a practice session attended by almost all riders on Thursday, but Friday was the first official day of the event.
Plenty of spectators also made the pilgrimage down to Phillip Island to check out all the action and the Island was buzzing with the huge influx of tourists here to celebrate the Australia Day long weekend. Those not taking shelter from the heat, were instead enjoying the dazzling blue waters of Western Port Bay.
The stiff north-westerly breeze, the gusts of which did cause some riders a few problems, did have the useful side-effect of keeping track temperatures a lot more manageable that they might otherwise have been.
One crew that had not got much sleep overnight were the guys twirling spanners for Team America’s Steve Rapp. The 47-year-old took a hefty tumble yesterday with a stuck throttle pitching him and the CMR prepared and FJ1100 powered Yamaha down the road. The bike was a mess, and his mechanics worked through the night in order to repair the machine for today.
As first qualifying for the International got underway just after midday, track temperatures were already starting to nudge their way towards 50-degrees celsius.
That did not stop Aaron Morris dropping in a 1m37.943 on a Suzuki Katana to top the timesheets ahead of David Johhnson, the South Australian recording a 1m38.518 on an XR69 Suzuki.
America’s Josh Hayes proved his pedigree by adapting quickly to the Phillip Island layout to finish Q1 in P3 ahead of Shawn Giles and Jason Pridmore.
Team America have really stepped things up a level in regards to team strength this year. That 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.
Some riders were suffering carburettor problems in the heat and fuel boiling issues as the oil-air-cooled machinery struggled to maintain their composure in the conditions.
The wind picked up much more force in the afternoon and switched to a south-westerly. This was met with sighs of relief by everyone up and down pit-lane as it helped to take the sting out of the heat and temperatures started dropping back to a much more manageable 28-degrees.
Ahead of the second and final International Challenge qualifying session Aaron Morris took to the circuit again to claim pole in the New Era Formula 1300 category with a 1m37.685. Before that final International Challenge Qualifying was to get underway though we had some races on the schedule.
Pre-War / 125 P-CL & FE / 250 P-CL and Classic
The opening race of the 2019 Island Classic was the combined Pre-War, 125 Post Classic & Forgotten Era, 250 Post Classic and Classic.
The somewhat strange combination forced by a limited number of entries across these categories.
Murray Seabrook and Roly Orr quickly broke away from the pack on their 1972 Yamaha TD3 machines but Seabrook then ran off the track at turn four and his chance of a race win went down the slip road with him. Terry Morris recovered from a bad start to chase down Roly Orr and by lap two was tussling with Orr for the lead. A mistake by Orr on the final lap gave Morris the advantage he needed to take the win at the chequered flag.
Lachlan Hill started the combined 250 Forgotten Era, 125 New Era and 350 Classic from pole position on his Rotax powered machine that is backed by Ron Angel Classic Racing. Hill immediately streaked away from the field and was in a class of his own onboard that machine.
R2 – 250 FE / 125 New Era / 350 CL R1 Results
Lachlan Hill (2FE)
James Doddrell +3.117 (1NE)
Mark Laing-Hughes +19.077 (1NE)
Grant Boxhall +21.870 (2FE)
Ben Bramich +21.998 (3CL)
David Manson +36.290 (1NE)
Phil Paton +37.092 (3CL)
Robert Heather +60.276 (2FE)
Colin Meredith +105.239 (3CL)
Ross Hollands +1 lap (3CL)
500 Forgotten Era & Unlimited Post Classic
This one was shaping up to be a much closer battle with little separating Dean Oughtred on a CR750 Honda and Tom Bramich on the Ron Angel baked Paton during qualifying.
It was the indomitable Laurie Fyffe though that scored the holeshot on his CB750 Honda.
Beau Beaton’s Irving Vincent has suffered numerous problems which had led to a poor qualifying performance but the big booming Melbourne built machine was quickly into the lead and streak away from its pursuers. If anyone would know how to ride it defensively though it would be Beau Beaton, who was now in his tenth year of ridiing the Horner built machines, would it hang together for the four-lap race distance…?
Hang together it did and Beaton rewarded his crews efforts with a clear win over Dean Oughtred by over ten seconds while Simon Cook got the better of Laurie Fyffe to round out the Unlimited Post Classic podium.
In the 500 Forgotten Era sub-category it was Tom Bramich on the Paton BM3 who claimed the win from Keo Watson and Chris Hayward. Bramich had also claimed an outright podium ahead of the Unlimited Post Classic bikes of Cook and Fyffe.
500 FE & Unlimited Post Classic R1 Results
Dean Oughtred +10.589
Tom Bramich +13.414 (5FE)
Simon Cook +27.751
Keo Watson +28.576 (5FE)
Laurie Fyffe +31.092
Chris Hayward +31.478 (5FE)
Jock Woodley +36.609 (5FE)
Steven Brown +36.755 (5FE)
Robert Wallace +42.964
Unlimited Forgotten Era Premier
Beau Beaton was quickly back in action after his victory in the Unlimited Post Classic to take another win in the Unlimited Forgotten Era category.
He had to work harder for this one though as Marty Craggill made life hard for Beaton with Craig Ditchburn also dipping his TZ750 oar in from time to time.
In fact Ditchburn managed to get the better of Craggill late in the race to take second place. Glenn Hindle was fourth ahead of Bernie Leen and Justin Mellrick while young Drew Sells took seventh ahead of Scott Webster.
Unlimited Forgotten Era Premier Race One Results
Craig Ditchburn +0.860
Marty Craggill +1.027
Glenn Hindle +14.472
Bernie Leen +15.769
Justin Mellrick +16.508
Drew Sells +17.307
Scott Webster +18.725
Duncan Coutts +23.951
Steve Stanwix +27.557
David Crussell +29.073
Matthew Ineson +36.061
Martin Hodgson +36.089
Denis Ackland +38.450
Albert Tehennepe +43.463
Unlimited Forgotten Era Minor
Due to a massive entry list in the Unlimited Forgotten Era class the field had been separated in to two with the slower machines in the field put into another sub-category. Pete Byers the victor ahead of Dave Fuller and Dan Sandler.
Unlimited Forgotten Era Minor
Steve Dobson +10.950
Dave Fuller +16.391
Daniel Sandler +26.237
Bruce Andrew +31.146
Garry Kellalea +31.180
Wade Boyd +36.352
Allen Bromley +41.336
Neil Howard +46.687
Tim Wotton +48.530
International Challenge Final Qualifying
The temperature had dropped quite dramatically ahead of the second and final qualifying session for International Challenge competitors got underway at 1545 on Friday afternoon. This certainly suited not only competitors, but also their tyres, and their machinery.
Jed Metcher certainly welcomed the cooler conditions as his T-Rex Honda Harris had not coped at all well with the more oppressive heat earlier in the day.
Aaron Morris and Jason Pridmore were the first men to dip into the 1m37s this afternoon. A 1m37.341 the early benchmark from Morris to Pridmore’s 1m37.642. Those laps stood the test of time to see Morris take pole and Pridmore P2 on the grid for tomorrow’s first International Challenge bout.
Paul Byrne would also score a front row start position courtesy of a 1m38.056 ahead of David Johnson, Jed Metcher and Josh Hayes.
Cam Donald was nowhere to be seen, more problems with the Irving Vincent we believe preventing the two-time Isle of Man TT winner to join the circuit in the second session and having to rely on his 1m44.5s from QP1 for his grid position. That QP1 run had also been troubled for Donald as he managed only two laps and was far from his potential pace.
International Challenge Qualifying Results
Aaron Morris 1m37.341
Jason Pridmore 1m37.642
Paul Byrne 1m38.056
David Johnson 1m38.104
Jed Metcher 1m38.122
Josh Hayes 1m38.202
Beau Beaton 1m38.286
Steve Martin 1m38.454
Shawn Giles 1m38.642
Larry Pegram 1m38.819
500 Post Classic
Tom Bramich quickly cleared out from the field in the 500 Post Classic four lap race to the tune of more than ten-seconds a lap better than any of his competitors. Bramich and the Ron Angel Paton on another level.
500 Post Classic Race One Results
Paul Smith _+39.154
Tony Logan +65.198
Eric Salmon +73.832
Brendan Burns +90.453
Danny Ahern +90.932
Dean Marsh +109.076
Shan Nicholas-Oliver +109.184
Ben James +116.495
New Era Formula 750
Son led father in qualifying for the New Era Formula 750 with Scott Campbell besting famous father Malcolm (Wally) Campbell on their pair of beautiful RC30 Hondas. In fact the top four qualifiers were RC30 mounted with Nathan Spiteri also on the front row ahead of James Doddrell.
Scotty also led dad away when the lights went out and pulled away to the tune of more than a second a lap on his way to a clear six-second victory over his father while Nathan Spiteri rounded out the podium.
No luck for Ben Burke in this one as he rolled to a stop at turn one on his CBR400 with two laps to run.
New Era Formula 750 Race One Results
Malcolm Campbell +6.075
Nathan Spiteri +9.114
Quentin Blazley +15.446
James Doddrell +18.004
Bernie Leen +19.775
Scott Findlay +26.031
Michael McGuire +35.871
Rob Ruwoldt +37.114
Andrew Relph +37.541
The massive program of qualifying and racing all ran quite smoothly despite the challenging conditions and we actually finished racing at 1630, half-an-hour ahead of schedule. Tomorrow we have a huge program of 22 races beginning at 0900, and then we do it all again on Sunday!