Team UK win Island Classic International Challenge – Ryan Farquhar takes individual honours Jed Metcher makes up for race three disappointment with dominant race four win Island Classic International Challenge 2015 Race Four Report and Results Words By Trevor Hedge – Pictures by Trevor Hedge and Russell Colvin
Australian riders dominated the final International Challenge race today at Phillip Island with Jed Metcher putting in a stellar performance to make up for his race three disappointment earlier in the day, when the 24-year-old was forced to retire from an almost certain win. No such dastardly luck befell Metcher in the final stanza as he fought his way past Cameron Donald on lap three before pulling away to a clear win.
Donald was very strong early on but in the final laps succumbed to attacks from Shawn Giles and Paul Young. The latter pair rounding out the podium in that order, with Cameron Donald finishing fourth after struggling with rear tyre life all weekend.
Brendan Roberts had been leading the individual riders points after race three, and was looking odds on to take that mantle but a mistake on the last lap where he ran on at turn one, the front sprocket nut on his Katana coming loose and costing him his chance at the trophy. The battle for individual honours was now down to Conor Cummins and Ryan Farquhar.
Farquhar had Cummins in his sights and did everything he could to get past both McWilliams and Cummins on the final lap to pip him at the post. Farquhar’s fifth place just ahead of Jeremy McWilliams and Conor Cummins earned him the Ken Wootton Perpetual Trophy for the highest individial points score amassed across the four International Challenge races.
Steve Martin’s problematic weekend finished on a reasonable note with him finally managing to get the TBR/D&D Katana home in the final race to take eighth place ahead of John McGuinness, while Mike Edwards rounded out the top ten.
While the Australian team certainly had plent of outright speed with the likes of Cam Donald, Shawn Giles, Brendan Roberts, Paul Young and Jed Metcher, various technical gremlins or mistakes befell all of them in one race or another during the course of the weekend to rob them of important points and it was that lack of consistency that cost them the International Challenge in 2015.
Team UK also had their problems, particularly with pole sitter McWilliams struggles to get his machine off the line successfully, but overall Team UK were more consistent, had less failures and made less mistakes. Most of their catastrophic failures happened early, during qualifying, the hard working mechanics pulled together to get the bikes in the best possible shape for Saturday and Sunday with what few spares they had with them.
While McWilliams was clearly the fastest rider in the team, it was the hard work and smart racing of the rest of the team, the consistency of Farquhar and Cummins that helped bring Team UK the title they so desperately wanted. John McGuinness and Mike Edwards bounced back from problems in Saturday’s opening race to score excellent points in the final three bouts to ensure a popular victory for their team.
“This is a great day for the UK team, and understandably there’s a fair bit of emotion in the pits at the moment,” said McWilliams. “The International Challenge is extremely tough and you’ve got to be there in every race.
“This weekend, we had solid riders and solid equipment and we proved to be more reliable when it counted.
“But we still had our fair share of issues, but to get past those headaches and take the victory is an absolutely sensational result.
“And congratulations must also go to Ryan (Farquhar), who was incredible all weekend.”
Ryan Farquhar was absolutely ecstatic on his return to the pits, as he knew with Roberts making that mistake on the final lap all he had to do was to get past his countryman Conor Cummins before the flag to take the individual honours. He knew individual honours were his.
After the immediate celebrations with many members of the team before he even managed to get his helmet off, eventually died down, the realisation also set in around the pit box of Team UK’s International Challenge win, and with that a palpable sense of relief.
All the late nights, the incredible expense incurred to prepare the absolutely awe inspiring machines for these events, and then to ship that precious cargo all the way to Australia for this one event… All the pressure then lifted off their shoulders and the man behind so many of the Team UK machines, master technician Roger Winfield, who had felt and carried so much of that weight on his own back, like he has done for many years of Island Classic competition, sat down in a chair and was suddenly overwhelmed with emotion of it all. If anyone ever doubted how much this means to Team UK, one glance at Roger sat in that chair brought home just how much the 2015 Island Classic International Challenge win meant to them.
Farquhar’s tally was 141pts from consistent 8-4-6-5 finishes, just edging out Cummins who managed a 139pt haul from his 7-6-5-7 scorecard. McWilliams (Yamaha Harris F1, 2-1-17-6) was third overall on 138pts, his lowly result in race three coming after he stalled his bike on the grid and had to make a charge through the pack from last position.
Roger Winfield was perhaps too emotional to speak to us directly after the race but Ryan Farquhar was only too pleased to put into words how much his own achievement meant to him.
“This is a dream come true, I knew I had one go at this on the last lap, to get past Conor to get the overall win, and to be fair the thoughts of the team went out the window, I was riding for pride.”
Jed Metcher was pleased to finish his weekend on a high note after the disappointment of having to relinquish almost certain victory in race three, “I have been saying all weekend that we deserve a win, that previous race would have been nice but we had to finish on a high note and it is great to be able to do that for Scotty Owen who prepared the bike, and the Race Center boys who did the suspension with so little time to get it working well.
“Pirelli gave us a selection of tyres to choose from and what we picked was a 180 Supersport tyre, and we were putting 170hp through that but it proved to be an amazing tyre.”
With Jed’s Historic duties out of the way now he turns his mind towards testing here next week in preparation for his World Superbike wildcard appearance late next month.
A huge crowd turned out to enjoy the 2015 Island Classic as it once again underlined its position at the top echelon of motorcycle race events held in this country, and further built upon that success to keep expanding the event’s prominence on the international stage as one of the most coveted and celebrated Historic Motorcycle Racing Competitions in the world.
Make no mistake, this event is hotly contested and at the top level no expense is spared in pushing these machines well beyond their intended limits.
The quality of the field is absolutely unbelievable, many of them are certainly not as young as they once were when at the top of their games but rest assured they all want to win and the competition is fierce. These riders have not achieved what they have in their glittering careers by being soft, and they show no signs of going soft as the years wear on. The determination and ferocity they display as they ride these fairly unwieldy and hugely powerful machines around one of the fastest racetracks in the world at incredible pace is awe inspiring. I thank them for making this event in to what it is today and Phillip Island management for having the vision to have built this event in to what is something truly exceptional.
If, as a punter, I was to attend one event a year in this country, the Island Classic would be that event, absolutely no doubt about it. If you haven’t been before, do yourself a favour and make sure you are here in 2016. You won’t regret it.
TAHBILK INTERNATIONAL CHALLENGE FINAL POINTS
United Kingdom 617
New Zealand 341
TAHBILK INTERNATIONAL CHALLENGE INDIVIDUAL RESULTS
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