-- Australia wins International Challenge at Island Classic
Team Australia has easily retained the International Challenge team’s event at Phillip Island, the centrepiece of the 2012 Island Classic historic meeting held this past weekend (January 27-29).
Australia was never headed, with the extraordinary depth of talent in the local team proving to be the trump card in its 312pt victory (1198 to 885) over the Jeremy McWilliams-led UK team. The World 13, an amalgam of riders from France, New Zealand, Australia and America, was well back in third on 596pts.
“It’s a pretty easy caper being the boss of the Australian team, and I congratulate all of them for again producing the goods,” said non-riding captain Rex Wolfenden. “But it’s the international riders who come over here which makes this event, as they are just so passionate about their sport.”
Thanks to the deeds of explosive Suzuki Katana pairing Steve Martin and Shawn Giles, with superb back-up support from the likes of Rob Phillis (Katana), Beau Beaton (Irving Vincent) and Mal Campbell (Honda CB1100R), Team Australia enjoyed a near perfect run through the first three legs before the tide turned against them in the final six lap instalment.
Martin’s race evaporated when he inadvertently stalled on the grid, and just when Giles was in sight of victory the battery failed on his machine.
The breakdowns didn’t put Australia’s team win in danger, but it opened the door for McWilliams to claim individual honours for the second year in succession after winning the last race ahead of Beaton and Phillis.
“This has been an incredible weekend and this is quite surreal to be honest,” said the 47-year-old former 250 GP winner. “Eleven days ago I lost my mum and there was a chance I wasn’t going to come, but I am sure she would have wanted me here.
“Sometimes racing doesn’t go to plan, and I commiserate with Shawn and Steve for stopping in the last race. But the speed of these guys was amazing – the improvement since last year has been amazing.
“I’ve had some up and downs this weekend, and at the start I just wasn’t getting anywhere with a host of carburetion problems.
“But I went into fighter mode in the last couple of races and really put my head down. And I’ve proven that to win you’ve got to finish, first and foremost.”
McWilliams finished 4-3-3-1 across the four legs to complete the challenge on 149pts, just in front of the extremely impressive Beaton (3-4-4-2, 147pts), Phillis (5-6-5-3, 141pts), Martin (2-2-1-18, 137pts) and Campbell (6-7-6-5, 136pts).
McWilliams also received the inaugural Ken Wootton International Perpetual Trophy for his victory, in memory of the late Aussie motorcycle journalist and a key driver of the Island Classic event.
Giles, the three-time Australian Superbike champion, just got home in the first two International Challenge races after fierce scraps with Martin. Another Aussie, Josh Brookes (Suzuki XR69), was also jockeying for top position in race one before a loose exhaust system caused him to highside spectacularly at turn one, with his stricken machine cartwheeling through the infield. Understandably, that was the end of his abbreviated campaign.
In race three, Martin enjoyed clear air all the way after Giles’ bike jumped out of second gear just after the start, before it all went pear-shaped for the duo – clearly the fastest riders on circuit – in the finale.
Martin’s consolation was a new lap record – 1:38.707, set in race three.
Meanwhile, South Australian Levy Day was awarded the Phil Irving Memorial Trophy for the highest individual point-scorer across the weekend, after scoring maximum scorecards across two classes – 500cc Classic and 350cc Classic.
Other winners included Ryan Taylor (1000cc New Era), Scott Webster (Unlimited Forgotten Era), Mick Damon (Unlimited Classic), Glenn Hindle (350cc Classic), Craig Ditchburn (500cc Post-Classic) and Simon Cook (Unlimited Post-Classic).
INTERNATIONAL CHALLENGE – 2012 AMCN International Island Classic
Final point score – Team: Australia - 1198; UK - 885.15; World 13 - 596.62
Race One (decl after three laps )
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