Island Classic International Challenge 2016

Team Captains preview their claim for the trophy

Alan Cathcart: Well, first I’d like to start with you Rex. As last year there was a bit of a turnover. After ten straight wins, finally, the Brits beat you. What’s Australia got in store to get revenge.

Rex:  “Firstly on behalf on the Australian team and fans, welcome you all. You guys bring yourselves, all your friends, all your helpers, all your sponsors. To answer your question it was a bit of a bitter pill to lose last year, but Team UK did a great job and deserved to win. They won fair and square they did it better than us.  We have a great group of people, all my riders are focussed, they just want to win. Like any racing you need a bit of luck. And we can do the job, it’s going to be tough. The English have brought a good team. Their bikes are prepared, expect a good fight, but when push comes to shove, the Aussies are going to do it.

Jed Metcher Rex Wolfenden
Australian team camptain Rex Wolfenden with Jed Metcher

AC: Well Keith (Higgs – Team UK Captain), what, what have you got to say to that?

Keith: “Absolutely we enjoyed taking it out last year and rubbing it in here and there. It took us a long time to get there, but we got there in the end and by christ it tasted good when we got there. And we want to taste it again. We’ve got a very very strong team, some great machinery, some great riders and I’m very confident that while it’s going to be close, we can win.”

AC: any new additions to the team?

2015 Team UK - Ran Farquhar, Jeremy McWilliams, Conor Cummins
2015 Team UK – Ran Farquhar, Jeremy McWilliams, Conor Cummins

Keith: “Yes we’ve bought over James Hillier this year..a very confident TT rider..he’s won a few TT’s. Some of the regular competitors that have been coming for a few years, like Jeremy, John McGuinness and Ryan (Farquhar) and Conor Cummins. I’d like to see Conor standing on that podium again and towering over everyone.”

AC: I’d just like to remind you that this isn’t the English team, it’s the British team. We have two Ulsterman.

Keith: “Well actually…it’s the U.K. team, Because some of our guys come from other places in the U.K.”

AC: Australia, have you got any new additions this year?

Rex: “Yes, well we always have new additions. We’ve got Marty Craggill come on board. I probably don’t have to say much about Marty. He’s been out of it for a while, but Marty will be good. John Owen…well known around Australia, a very good rider been around won lots of things for a lot of years. He’s come on board with a very good bike. And we have a good young bloke in Jed Metcher. He will bring his heart and soul into it for the Aussies as well.”

Jed Metcher - Image by Russell Colvin
Jed Metcher – Image by Russell Colvin

AC: And he’s riding your bike?

Rex: “Yes, Yes he is.”

AC: And next up, we have the Kiwis. Graeme Crosby next to me was less than happy with the Kiwi performance last year, so tell me what have you done about it.

Graeme: “Yes, I was a bit disappointed with the points in the total end result. But it’s times like these where you face adversity and dig deep.  And I got to say that the team that we have brought across this year, with the amount of money that has been put in and the bikes we’ve got, it’s a big call you know, we’re still not quite there yet, it’s a rebuilding phase, we’re still getting back on track.”

Graeme: “We do appreciate the invitations to come across here and we try to keep everything nice and for the Irish to put on the weather. And they forgot to bring their wet weather tyres……I would have thought they lived with them all the time………. it’s actually kind of cool as there are upsides and downsides every time you increase the competitive numbers. We used to have 10 now we’ve got 8. It makes it just a little bit more difficult. And when you’ve got the calibre of riders that the English are bringing over…….”

Host: British.

Graeme Crosby
Graeme Crosby

Graeme: “‘Pommies’…………(Crowd laughs) We’ve got some really really talented riders here and you’re out on the track with them, it’s a great opportunity for us to ride with some of the international riders. We don’t get the chance to travel overseas. So for those guys to come over here and have a great holiday is just great.”

AC: Dave, Captain of the American team….a while ago an Essex man. This year, you have brought with you a new element in the make up of the bikes on the track. We’ve had a couple of two-stroke Yamaha’s before. But they were sort of just window dressing to the main team, but this year you have brought out three Yamaha TZ750’s.

Dave Crussell
Dave Crussell

Dave: “Actually, we’ve brought out six in our team. Not all of them are our primary International Challenge team entrants. But our team is really an even mix of CMR, FJ and XR69 four strokes and then TZ750’s. Last year we did pretty well, our third time here. We were pretty happy to beat the NZ team. We were pretty happy to not be last.  We plan to do exactly the same thing again. Cros’s been pretty public about this so we went down to the supermarket and bought him a pound of bacon so, Cros, if you want to take a pound of bacon home with you….”

AC: “This year Fergus and his team have kept fine tuning the team, the package that you have this weekend and one of the important things about the kind of bikes from the era that we reproduce here, is that there were a number of two-strokes in open races, so thanks for bringing the Yamaha’s over.  It was a very defined period of two-stroke existance. It ended in 2002 when MotoGP flipped the switch on them. So many people are very happy to hear two-strokes out on track again, especially when they’re competitive. What about riders? Who have you brought out with you this year?

Dave: “Yeah, our teams basically mixed. About half our riders have been here before. Some on smaller bikes that have stepped up this year. Half the guys are new to the team. Pat Mooney….just found out that Pat has 2500 friends on facebook……… I don’t know what he does with his time…….  We’ve got a lot of two-strokes on our team. But it’s it’s good to see the two strokes on other teams as well. Apart from the Ditchburn’s TZ’s there are many others.”

AC: The other thing this year is that we have five teams. The Irish are here, what was the motivation for this?

Mike Meskell: “I came here last year, had a ball and went back to Ireland and told everyone about it and thought we’d try to bring a team back here  this year.”

AC: And team from the whole of Ireland, so Ulsterman as well. And what sort of bikes?

Mike Meskell: “Absolutely, we’ve got a bit of everything, Suzuki XR69. Nikko Bakker Kawasakis, Harris F1 Kawasaki, Katanas, GPZ11, but no two-strokes though. Maybe next year..”

Irish team captain, Mike Meskell
Irish team captain, Mike Meskell

AC: Have you ever had any vintage superbike bike racing in Ireland?

Mike Meskell: “No..and that was the biggest challenge was to find the bikes. We don’t have any F1 vintage racing only superbikes. So we had to make a lot of bikes. We had to buy two bikes and we’ve had some friends in the UK supply some bikes.”

AC: You must admit it was very hospitable of the Aussies to bring the Irish weather for you.

Irish: “Haha….Yeah…..”.

AC: Well ladies and gentlemen, all I’m going to say is that up here on stage we have the captains of five teams that are going to be at it all weekend, hopefully on dry tracks. All I can say is let battle commence tomorrow, good luck everyone.

Island Classic 2016 - Ryan Farquhar and Jeremy McWilliams
Island Classic 2016 – Ryan Farquhar and Jeremy McWilliams