The heat was oppressive as competitors lined up for the fourth and final six-lap decider of the 2018 Island Classic International Challenge at Phillip Island today.
Heading into the final bout Australia held a slender seven-point lead over Team UK thus it was still all to play for when the lights went out at 1545 on Sunday afternoon and the talented field of riders blasted off the line.
A line that, according to officials, was baking in a track temperature that was nudging towards 65-degrees celsius. The ambient temperature in the shade was registering 38-degrees. There’ll be plenty of sunburn suffered amongst the many thousands of spectators that braved the harsh sun today to bear witness to a great weekend of action.
Exiting the Island though would prove problematic not only for racegoers, but also holidaymakers on the Island. The road surface had melted and lifted on the road towards San Remo.
Those problems, and a massive amount of Public Holiday long weekend traffic, had vehicles travelling at walking pace for the entire afternoon. There were reports on social media that it had taken people taking almost two hours to get from Cowes to the other side of the San Remo bridge.
A bit of a cloud had been hanging over the race three results as riders readied for race four. Troy Corser had been forced to start the penultimate race, race three, from pit-lane, and had been reported as not continuing to the very end of the pitlane before joining the circuit, but instead, knocked some cones over in his rush to get up to speed. As a result Corser was pushed two rows further back on the grid for race four.
No sooner had the final bout got underway had two riders gone out of the race. Glen Richards down on lap one and Cam Donald out with a mechanical failure.
Corser was fired up from the moment the lights went out as he blasted straight up to fifth place early on lap one, while up front it was again Dave Johnson, as Jeremy McWilliams and Peter Hickman gave chase.
As they crossed the stripe to start lap three both Johnson and McWilliams carded 1m37.6s lap times, as the pair started to pull away from third placed Hickman and a determined Troy Corser, who was now up to fourth place after squeezing past Dan Linfoot.
McWilliams then closed right up onto the tailpipe of Johnson and started to show the South Australian a wheel here and there, piling the pressure on and trying to force Johnson in to some sort of mistake.
The pace then got hotter… That leading duo both down to 1m37.2s next time around, despite the ridiculously hot 65-degree track temperature. With so little between Team Australia and Team UK in the points, the battle for the race win could also decide the battle for outright International Challenge honours.
McWilliams pulled out of the slipstream into turn one on the final lap and pulled away from Johnson a little through turn three, and then built on that buffer through the back section of the track to sprint away from Johnson and take the race win.
Peter Hickman was a relatively lone third place while Dan Linfoot just managed to pip Corser and take fourth position, another result that was telling in the final International Challenge points tally.
And when the Computime abacus spat out those numbers, it was Team Australia the victors.
While Jeremy McWilliams won that final bout, Johnson’s second position was good enough for him to claim individual overall honours and the Ken Wootton Perpetual Trophy.
Despite plenty of problems and a lack of horsepower this weekend Troy Corser claimed third outright on equal points with Paul Byrne. A frustrating but also rewarding weekend for Corser who still looks as trim and taut as he did when he claimed the first of his two World Superbike Championships over 20 years ago.
Island Classic 2018
International Challenge Race Four Results
Johnson AUS +2.578
Hickman UK +5.842
Linfoot UK +8.086
Corser AUS +8.121
Byrne AUS +8.556
Giles AUS +15.999
Rutter UK +18.287
Martin AUS +18.885
Ditchburn UK +26.496
Johnson UK +28.774
Colin Edwards USA +30.628
Beau Beaton AUS
2018 International Challenge Team Points
2018 Ken Wootton Perpetual Trophy
David Johnson 158
Jeremy McWilliams 157
Troy Corser 139
Paul Byrne 139
Dan Linfoot 138
Peter Hickman 133
Beau Beaton 126
Colin Edwards 124
Steve Martin 123
Shawn Giles 122
2018 Island Classic International Challenge Entry List
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