-- 2011 International Island Classic
McWilliams Top scores in Island Classic shootout; Australia wins Teams Trophy
Former MotoGP star Jeremy McWilliams became the first British rider to win the International Challenge when he claimed four second placings across the four-race format to take overall honours at the Australian Motorcycle News International Island Classic at Victoria’s Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit on January 21-23.
In a tension-packed conclusion to Australia’s premier Historic motorcycle festival McWilliams (Suzuki XR69) and Australian Cameron Donald (Suzuki XR69) went head-to-head in their fourth and final race, McWilliams’ 1.513sec margin over Donald giving the Ulsterman the honour of individual champion, 152pts to 150.
The final race was won by the fastest man of the meeting Steve Martin (Suzuki Katana Superbike), but the South Australian was unfortunately out of the individual points chase by then after an engine failure in race two on Saturday afternoon. His team rebuilt his damaged bike on Saturday night so he could contest Sunday’s two races.
Martin – the circuit lap record holder - won races one, three and four, with Donald taking victory in race two over McWilliams by just 0.146sec after Martin had exited with a blown engine.
A record crowd of just on 20,000 turned out across the three-day event to watch Australia’s best Historic racers take on riders from the United Kingdom, New Zealand, France and the USA. They weren’t disappointed with what they saw, witnessing a new outright Historic lap record of 1:38.964 by Martin in the final race and the first overall win by a British rider in the International Challenge.
“I haven’t ridden this hard since I was up the front in World Superbike,” said Martin. “I came here mainly for some fun but I am really putting in – the pace is pretty hot this year.”
McWilliams, no stranger when it comes to pole position at Phillip Island, drew first blood when he qualified his Suzuki XR69 in the number one grid position ahead of Martin.
The first time McWilliams secured pole at the 4.45km Victorian circuit was in 1999 when he put his 250GP Aprilia on pole. Then he did it again in 2000 on the Aprilia 500GP V-twin, and then again in the first year of MotoGP in 2002, this time on the Proton KR3 500cc two-stroke against the 990cc MotoGP four-strokes. Each time McWilliams had Valentino Rossi behind him.
“I’ve had an amazing time – the size of the crowd has blown me away,” said McWilliams. “I’d love to come back again – I didn’t manage to win a race, so I’ve got some unfinished business.”
McWilliams joins a distinguished list of top points scorers and International Challenge champions in recent years – Martin in 2010, 1987 World 500GP champion Wayne Gardner in 2009, two-times Australian Superbike champion Malcolm Campbell in 2008 and former World SBK number three Robbie Phillis in 2007.
Behind McWilliams (152pts) and Donald (150) was third-placed Michael Dibb (Honda CB1100R, 138), with multiple Irish champion Ryan Farquhar (Suzuki XR69, 137) fourth and Robbie Phillis (Suzuki GSX1100, 135) fifth.
Martin would ultimately finish seventh on the points table due to his DNF in Saturday’s race two, but his three race-winning rides and stunning outright lap record drew appreciative applause from his fellow competitors at the trophy presentation.
In the International Challenge teams event Australia took the honours with 1154.6pts to the United Kingdom on 807.7 and the World 13 on 706.3.
While the International Challenge is the headline class, there were plenty of other racing highlights in the 44-even program and numerous off-track activities to justify the meeting’s position as Australia’s largest domestic motorcycle event – third in spectator numbers only to the international MotoGP and World SBK events.
The Phil Irving Perpetual Trophy for the highest point scorers across all classes over both days resulted in a tie between New South Welshman Laurie Turnbull and Tasmanian Grant Boxhall, both finishing the weekend with 130pts apiece.
Shannons Insurance and Tahbilk Wines joined Australian Motorcycle News as sponsors of the 2011 event with specialist motorcycle website www.mcnews.com.au providing weekend-long video feeds from the meeting.
18th AMCN INTERNATIONAL ISLAND CLASSIC - PHILLIP ISLAND, 21-23 JANUARY, 2011
1 Australia 1154.6pts
2 United Kingdom 807.7pts
3 World 13 706.3pts
TOP 10 INTERNATIONAL CHALLENGE
1 J McWilliams (UK), Suz XR69 152pts
2 C Donald (AUS), Suz XR69 150
3 M Dibb (AUS), Hon CB1100R 138
4 R Farquhar (UK), Suz XR69 137
5 R Phillis (AUS), Suz GSX1100 135
6 S Webster (AUS), Moto Martin Kaw 123
7 S Martin (AUS), Suz Katana 117
8 A Tehennepe (AUS), Kaw Z1000J 115
9 A Lind (AUS), Kaw Z1000 106
10 K Higgs (UK), P&M Kaw 104