Aaron Morris had to battle hard in order to take victory in the opening race earlier today, but that bout also witnessed some attrition which saw both Team Australia and Team USA lose star players from their numbers.
Jason Pridmore suffered a huge highside at turn 11 in race one and Beau Beaton also got caught up in the incident. Both went down hard which saw the red flag produced, so they could be treated immediately on the circuit. They were then sent off to hospital for further investigation and observation, with broken bones seeming a quite likely diagnosis.
Both machines were also heavily damaged, including that work of art that is the Irving Vincent. I enquired with Ken Horner as to the condition of his machine and he replied with, ‘Trev, you could say it is an engineering project’… Which is a nice way of saying, it is pretty well f#$*ed!
Away we go for Race Two!
Josh Hayes got a blinding start for Team America ahead of Jed Metcher. Larry Pegram was also fired up for this one and right there in the mix alongside Aaron Morris and Paul Byrne as the second International Challenge six-lap race got underway at 1510 on Saturday afternoon.
Hayes maintained the lead around the back of the circuit and down the main straight to start lap two there was nothing separating Hayes, Morris, Metcher and Pegram.
Aaron Morris took his turn at the front of that pack early on lap two, going with him was Jed Metcher and once that pair wound up to speed they left Hayes and Pegram in their dust.
In his quest to take the challenge up to Morris though Metcher made a mistake at Lukey Heights and went down at MG. That left Aaron Morris out in front vritually by himself!
By half race distance Aaron Morris had a four-second lead ahead of the man moving up into second place, and that was a rejuvenated Steve Martin.
Josh Hayes had been pushed back to third place ahead of Paul Byrne and Michael Gilbert.
Larry Pegram rolled to a stop with some sort of problem, a blow for Team USA just as he really looked like he had started to find his groove around the 4.445km Phillip Island Circuit.
2018 had been David Johnson’s year to shine at the Island Classic but 2019 was not running quite as smoothly for the South Australian. Not sure as yet as to what happened to Davoin that one, presumably a mechanic gremlin saw him fail to be a factor in this bout. That will pretty much rule out his chance of backing up his Ken Wootton Perpetual Trophy win from last year for individual honours.
Aaron Morris backed his pace off a little to just maintain the impressive four-second lead for the run towards the chequered flag.
Steve Martin had managed to stretch away from Hayes to a clear second place.
Adding further insult to Hayes was Paul Byrne, the Irishman got the better of the American late in the race and pulled away to make it an all-Australian podium.
With Sunday’s pair of six-lap bouts still to go, Australia leads the International Challenge by a slender 15-points over USA. The Americans are well and truly in with a chance of causing an upset here tomorrow and perhaps stealing the overall team honours glory for the USA.
On current form, when it comes to individual honours Aaron Morris looks virtually untouchable. As long as that Katana keeps its con-rods inside those GSX Suzuki engine cases that is… One little mistake though will be all it takes for Josh Hayes or Steve Martin to get the better of him, as things are very tight at the top.
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