The 2017 International Island Classic is run and done, with Australia missing out on the International Challenge trophy by a mere 11-points, with it coming down to the final race of the weekend as mechanical problems effected the field throughout the weekend.
Not unexpected perhaps for a Classic racing meet – even one of the calibre of the Island Classic, but still disappointing to the riders, teams and of course the spectators nonetheless.
It would have been great to send the Poms back with their tail between their legs, but with the amazing racing on offer and Alex Phillis taking the win in the final race of the weekend it’s hard to complain, especially after the Australian team closed the points difference in the final race.
The Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit came alive in the fourth and final race in the multi-national event after Aussie rookie Alex Phillis (Suzuki XR69) won a thriller ahead of Jeremy McWilliams (Harris Yamaha) and Steve Martin (Suzuki Katana), taking an early lead that he maintained through to the finish line in front of a cheering local crowd.
With Jed Metcher (Harris Honda) and Shawn Giles (Katana) also performing strongly, Australia managed to claw back some points on the UK, with Payl Bryne representing Ireland in the top five, but it wasn’t enough to deny victory to the visitor for the third successive year – with the tireless veteran McWilliams also taking home the individual standings for the fourth time.
Aussie hard-charger Chad Hern (Harris Honda) was forced out of the final race with a broken cam chain, with Hickman also out.
It was a welcome result after the initial three races, where McWilliams took three from three, with teammate Peter Hickman claiming second spot in Race 3, with Aussies Shawn Giles, Alex Phillis and Jed Metcher completing the top five.
In Race 2 it was a similar result with the UK taking the top two spots with McWilliams and Hickman, while Metcher, Phillis and Giles took third, fourth and fifth respectively.
Race 1 on Saturday saw McWilliams in the top spot, with Giles slotting into second, with Hickman third, while Phillis and Metcher completed the top five. Australia’s hopes took a blow early on with Cam Donald unable to compete due to a mechanical problem, while fellow Irving Vincent rider Beau Beaton started Race 1 but was forced to retire. Phillis also experienced poor luck in Race 1 when a flat tyre ended his race early.
The final score saw the United Kingdom complete the event on 651pts ahead of Australia (640), Ireland (539), America (357) and New Zealand (323).
McWilliams said of the event and result, “Riders leave absolutely nothing in the tank at the International Challenge, and that’s what makes it so special to compete in and win. We are allowed to ride bikes on the limit by the owners, and it’s been an honour to represent the UK and get the job done again in 2017. My teammate Peter Hickman is right when he says this is some of the hardest and toughest racing you’ll find anywhere, so that always makes winning extra special.”
On the last race McWilliams also said, “I just went in too hot and the bike stepped out, Alex is exceptionally fast at turn 11 – and also at turns two and six for that matter! So I knew that was it for me as far as pushing for the win.”
Phillis elated, as he completed his rookie International Challenge campaign in the best possible way said, “I knew Jeremy was close behind so I just had to stay focussed and get on the gas as hard as I could coming out of turn 10 on that last lap. I have really enjoyed riding the XR69, and I knew that once we had ironed out a few fueling niggles I would give myself a great chance of pushing for a win. I also got a great start in the last race, so that always helps.”
Phillis only finished 11th overall in the individual standings after his race one DNF, with McWilliams running out an easy winner on 159pts from Metcher (147), Giles (147), Ireland’s Paul Byrne (McIntosh Suzuki, 140), UK’s Conor Cummins (Harris Yamaha, 133), Steve Martin (132), Ireland’s Derek Sheils (XR69, 132), and another batch of UK riders: McGuinness (Harris Honda, 125), James Hillier (Harris Yamaha, 118) and Hickman (116).
The highest point-scorer for America was Pat Mooney (XR69), and for New Zealand it was Glenn Hindle (XR69).
Irish non-riding captain Mike Meskell was delighted with how his team performed, “We had some good bikes and some not so good this weekend, but they held together and we have achieved our goal of getting closer to the top two teams. We want to be regarded as a serious competitor to Australia and the UK, and we will come back bigger and stronger in 2018 with better bikes, including two XR69s.”
American head honcho Dave Crussell said, “Our bikes and riders finished every single race in 2017, which is a fantastic achievement. Our bike development has paid off, and I was particularly delighted with the form of Pat Mooney and Barrett Long.”
Despite not being able to beat the American Team on the International Challenge ladder, New Zealand captain Duncan Coutts was far from despondent, “We were a bit unlucky in that last race with Damien (Kavney) a DNF, but a couple of our bikes were really strong and we’ll be back to fight on again in 2017.”
In the massive weekend of historic competition, Murray Seabrook collected the Phil Irving Memorial Trophy for the most points collected by a competitor outside the International Challenge races. Seabrook defeated closest competitors Dean Oughtred and Lachlan Hill.
2017 INTERNATIONAL CHALLENGE RACE RESULTS
- Jeremy McWilliams (UK)
- Shawn Giles (AUS)
- Peter Hickman (UK)
- Conor Cummins (UK)
- Jed Metcher (AUS)
- Chas Hern (AUS)
- Alex Phillis (AUS)
- Paul Byrne (IRE)
- Steve Martin (AUS)
INTERNATIONAL CHALLENGE FINAL STANDINGS
- United Kingdom – 651pts
- Australia – 640pts
- Ireland – 539pts
- America – 357pts
- New Zealand – 323pts
KEN WOOTTON PERPETUAL TROPHY FINAL STANDINGS
- Jeremy McWilliams (UK) – 159
- Jed Metcher (AUS) – 147
- Shawn Giles (AUS) – 147
- Paul Byrne (IRE) – 140
- Conor Cummins (UK) – 133
- Steve Martin (AUS) – 132
- Derek Sheils (IRE) – 132
- John McGuinness (UK) – 125
- James Hillier (UK) – 118
- Peter Hickman (UK) – 116
PHIL IRVING MEMORIAL TROPHY STANDINGS
- Murray Seabrook
- Dean Oughtred
- Lachlan Hill
2017 ISLAND CLASSIC CATEGORY WINNERS
- 125cc FORGOTTEN ERA: Simon Oliver
- 125cc NEW ERA: Stephen Kairl
- 250cc FORGOTTEN ERA: Peter Hinton
- 250cc NEW ERA PRODUCTION: Glenn Chandler
- 250cc NEW ERA: Scott Sullivan
- 125cc POST-CLASSIC: Stacey Heaney
- 250cc CLASSIC: John Imrie
- 250cc POST-CLASSIC: Murray Seabrook
- 350cc POST-CLASSIC: Murray Seabrook
- 350cc CLASSIC: Philip Paton
- 350cc FORGOTTEN ERA: Lachlan Hill
- 500cc FORGOTTEN ERA: Tom Bramich
- 500cc CLASSIC: Brendan Roberts
- VINTAGE: Clive Harrop
- FORGOTTEN ERA SIDECARS: Mark Knight/Dave Rumble
- POST-CLASSIC SIDECARS: Max Hooper/Brad Gorrie
- UNLIMITED CLASSIC: Garth Francis
- UNLIMITED FORGOTTEN ERA – Minor: Dave Fuller
- UNLIMITED FORGOTTEN ERA – Premier: Marty Craggill
- INVITATIONAL P6 OPEN: Michael Neeves
- NEW ERA FORMULA 750cc: Scott Campbell
- NEW ERA FORMULA 1300cc: Dean Oughtred
- UNLIMITED POST-CLASSIC: Dean Oughtred