Australian 2017 Island Classic team revealed

2016 Australian Island Classic riders joined by Chas Hern and Alex Phillis

Australia has backed its tried and true warriors to win back the International Challenge from the United Kingdom when the 24th International Island Classic for historic bikes is held at the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit from January 27-29.

Jed Metcher - Image by Russell Colvin

Jed Metcher – Image by Russell Colvin

Melburnian Jed Metcher, who finished equal first alongside UK stalwart Jeremy McWilliams in the 2016 International Challenge individual standings, will be joined in the Australian team by former national superbike champions Steve Martin and Shawn Giles, Isle of Man winner Cameron Donald, Beau Beaton, John Allen and Scott Webster.

Island Classic 2016 - International Challenge Race Four - Jed Metcher and Beau Beaton - Image by Brendan Murphy

Island Classic 2016 – Jed Metcher and Beau Beaton – Image by Brendan Murphy

All seven riders are backing up from last year, which saw the UK win the coveted teams’ event for the second successive year – Australian having won the first 10 attempts stretching way back to 2005.

Shawn Giles won the opening International Challenge race at the 2015 Island Classic

Shawn Giles – 2015 Island Classic

The new faces in the Australian International Challenge team for 2017 are Alex Phillis, the son of ‘Mr Superbike’ Rob Phillis, and Chas Hern.

Harris T-Rex Period 5 Chas Hern

Harris T-Rex Period 5 Chas Hern

Alex will ride the 1982 Suzuki XR69 that his dad crashed spectacularly at the 2014 International Challenge, but which has since been meticulously returned to its former glory.

Alex Phillis is the son of famous Aussie Superbike racer Robbie Phillis

Alex Phillis is the son of famous Aussie Superbike racer Robbie Phillis

Alex Phillis

“I am really excited to be racing at the Island Classic. I have been going to the event for about 10 years now without throwing on the leathers, so it’s all going to be a unique experience. My dad was fast on the XR69 with the few laps he had on it in 2014, so I’d like to think I can be competitive. I’m looking forward to hanging out with my Aussie teammates and hopefully bringing the International Challenge trophy back Down Under.”

Scott Webster

Scott Webster

Phillis’ last appearance on local shores was actually at Phillip Island’s World Supersport round in February 2016 when he finished in a point-scoring 14th position.

Pat Mooney chases Glen Richards and John Allen - Island Classic 2016 - Image by Phil Aynsley

Pat Mooney chases Glen Richards and John Allen – Island Classic 2016 – Image by Phil Aynsley

Save for the two-stroke mounted Allen, who will ride a 1978 Yamaha TZ750, the balance of the Aussie team will join Phillis on four-stroke machinery, with Martin and Giles on 1982 Suzuki Katanas, Metcher and Hern on 1982 Honda Harris F1s, Webster on a 1982 XR69, and Beaton and Donald aboard the rapid-fire 1978 Irving Vincents.

Island Classic 2016 - Steve Martin - Image by Russ Colvin

Island Classic 2016 – Steve Martin – Image by Russ Colvin

The International Challenge is held over four races on the Island Classic weekend, reserved for machines manufactured between 1973 and 1984. Australia and the four other teams – the UK, Ireland, America and New Zealand – are allowed to field eight riders each to make up a maximum grid of 40.

Beau Beaton - Image by Keith Muir

Beau Beaton – Image by Keith Muir

The secret to International Challenge success is both speed and consistency, which were the UK’s trumps cards in 2016 as it filled seven of the top spots in the individual standings, while the likes of Giles, Donald and Marty Craggill failed to land any real blows after a slew of mechanical problems.

Cam Donald

Cam Donald

As a result, the ruthless UK outfit retained the International Challenge trophy ahead of Australia, impressive first-timer Ireland, America and New Zealand.

In the individual standings, Metcher’s two third and two wins produced the same number of points as McWilliams’ brace of second places to produce the second tie in the prestigious Ken Wootton Perpetual Trophy over the last five years.

2015 Island Classic - Jed Metcher and Jeremy McWilliams

2015 Island Classic – Jed Metcher and Jeremy McWilliams

The full squads for the other International Challenge will be announced shortly, but McWilliams will definitely be joined by long-time running mates Conor Cummins and John McGuinness, as well as extra star power in the form of a British superbike-winning rider making his first foray Down Under.

Paul Byrne

Paul Byrne

Meanwhile, Aussie-based expatriate Paul Byrne will return for his second tilt at the International Challenge with Ireland, Dave Crussell will captain the US team, while the New Zealanders will have Duncan Coutts at the helm. The Aussie captain is Rex Wolfenden, and for Ireland the head honcho is Mike Meskell.

Jed Metcher Rex Wolfenden

Australian team camptain Rex Wolfenden with Jed Metcher

The International Challenge forms just a small part of the overall Island Classic event, with 56 races to be held in total, all between four and six laps and catering for bikes from pre-WW1 bikes through to Vintage (1920-1945), Classic and Post Classic (from 1946 to 1972), and the more recent Forgotten Era and New Era classes.

But for many punters the chance to get up close with the machinery in the pits is just as magical as the on-track action, which is why the event is akin to a pilgrimage for so many.

Island-Classic-2016-PA-Jeremy-McWilliams-2

2016 Island Classic

As well as the Japanese Big Four, other manufacturers on the Island Classic grids will include BSA, Triumph, Harley-Davidson, Ducati, Matchless, Norton, Vincent, Ariel, Indian, Aermacchi, Bultaco and Adler, as well as a bevy of chassis specialists.

Tickets are on now sale at www.islandclassic.com.au, with an advance three-day adult pass for $80* and children 15 and under free. Add on-circuit camping for four nights for $75* per person, purchased in advance.

Island Classic 2016 - International Challenge - Steve Martin signs a shirt for a spectator with Cam Donald

Island Classic 2016 – International Challenge – Steve Martin signs a shirt for a spectator with Cam Donald

VIP options are available in the Club Classic Hospitality suite above pit lane. Club Classic offers the flexibility of a single day starting from $150* or weekend package from $235*.

Gates will open at 8:00am each day with qualifying and racing from 9:00am.

*All ticket prices quoted are in advance.

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