Forgotten Era – 125cc New Era – 350cc Classic – By Mark Bracks, Images: Cameron White
While the focus of the Island Classic is the International Challenge category with the living legends on track, it is the support classes that make up the vast majority of entries. Without them – the mainstay of historic road racing – there is no way that the event could take place. You can find the 2017 International Challenge report here.
So, instead of just a quick overview of the classes, here is a little more in-depth look at the racing and the passion at the core of competitors that have supported historic racing for years. It is not only the premier class that has excellent racing, so let’s continue the commitment of MCNews.com.au to report on events that are often given scant coverage.
The Island Classic and similar events, such as the Troy Bayliss Classic, possess all the bullet points and exclamation marks that make the nucleus of motorcycle racing – a bunch of mates going out and racing hard and having fun.
The centre of attention over the weekend may be the International Challenge but there are another 52 races for 22 classes with four heats each, spread over the three days.
While some of the racing was rather processional, there were some excellent dices conducted in a number of classes. We saw some intense racing and some capacities and riders punching well above their weight with a number of lap records broken, in some cases multiple times in the one race.
An additional interest is that every competitor in the support classes is in with a chance of winning the much coveted Phil Irving Trophy for the highest point-scorer. With quite a few racers competing in multiple categories and events there were a number in the running for the prize.
For the first time, races were also held on Friday afternoon to free up the program, in anticipation of the expected delays that are part and parcel of historic racing. There were quite a few over the first two days, with red flags due to crashes and track cleaning and some races were held over until the next day. On Sunday however there were no delays, allowing the meeting to finish a lot earlier than expected.
Period 5 and Period 6 were the biggest drawcards with the Period 5 Unlimited Forgotten Era over-subscribed. In fact the field had to be split into two classes, Premier and Minor, although, many feel it should be the Fastest and Not So Fastest.
It’s certainly very impressive to see so many young riders getting into classic racing, but something has to be done to get younger folk to head through the gates as well. We need the younger generation also coming to witness these wonderful old bikes being ridden like they are supposed to be!
The combination of these two classes was a graphic example of how Grand Prix racing advanced during these eras. The more modern 125cc machines outclassed the older bikes, such as Peter Hinton’s 1979 Cotton and Lachlan Hill’s 1979 Nico-Bakker Rotax 250. But in no way did it detract from the action, as the races boasted some very close finishes, only overshadowed by the 350cc FE class.
Steve Ward on his Armstrong has been a regular winner in the 250cc Post Classic and Forgotten Era and the weekend commenced in a similar vein. He took leg one by the second closest margin of the meeting, just 0.282 from good mate, Steve Kairl.
On his RS125 pink rocket, Kairl smashed the 12-month old, 125cc NE lap record by over three seconds. Tait Coghill in third held off Hinton by less than a tyre tread at 0.071sec.
The second leg was a cracker. Hinton led the race for four laps from Ward, but Kairl hunted them down from fourth, despite being 1.4 seconds adrift after the opening lap. As they commenced the last lap the pair crossed the line 0.009 secs apart, with Steve Ward barely third just 0.06 away.
Kairl sported battle scars on his bike and leathers from the close quarter battles as he scraped his elbows, exhaust and pegs in his efforts to win the races outright.
Other 125cc riders, including Lachlan Kavney and Matt Favero gave as they got from Hinton, Hill and to a certain extent Ward. Keaveny DNF’d two races and finished second in the others, as Favero finished third overall with his 4-4-3-4 finishes.
In the 250 FE class, Ward’s threat of another Phillip Island crown was extinguished when he was forced out in the third race and was a non-starter in the last shoot out. Hill finished second behind Hinton in the class in the third leg, with Andy Pitman (SA) on his Yamaha Tz250 third. Hill took out the final leg from Hinton, with Nathaniel Wilson (SA) third.
250 Forgotten Era
Peter Hinton (NSW) – 90
Lachlan Hill (Vic) – 81
Andy Pitman (SA) – 68
125cc New Era
Steve Kairl (NSW) – 93
Tait Coghill (Vic) – 83
Matt Favero (Vic) – 69
350cc Forgotten Era
The 350s were the closest contests of the weekend with the closest finish in leg one when Lachlan Hill on the Ron Angel Yamaha TZ350 nudged out a similarly mounted Steve Kairl by just 0.265 sec. Visiting Englishman Richard Peers-Jones was third. In the second leg Hill beat Peter Hinton by 0.525 sec as Kairl managed to hold off Peers-Jones by just 0.084 sec for third.
Glen Hindle only finished one race in the class and that was when he won the third leg from Hill by just 0.479 sec, with Peers Jones a similar distance away in third.
The final leg saw another winner when Hinton on yet another TZ350 beat Hill by the biggest margin of the weekend – a ‘massive’ 1.3 seconds, with Kairl right on Hill’s ducktail for third.
What was recorded at the end of each lap was no indication of the intensity of the contest around the track with the top positions changing constantly over the four races with a missed braking point or a wrong gear change causing the offender to drop off and have to really fight to get back in touch.
The category again amply demonstrated why two-stokes were such an attraction and proved that there is still a place for the smokers in road racing. Not to mention the sound of a two-stroke – when on full noise, no matter the engine capacity.
350cc Forgotten Era
Lachlan Hill (Vic) – 90
Peter Hinton (NSW) – 78
Steve Kairl (NSW) – 73
350cc Classic and 500cc Forgotten Era
Young Tom Bramich has to be one of the luckiest teenagers around, having been at every historic meeting for the past few years. He has the enviable task of steering two of the most pristine and desirable motorbikes in racing – the Paton 500cc GP bikes owned by Ron Angel.
The 2016 co-winner of the Phil Irving Trophy was keen to defend his crown aboard the Classic and FE Patons and appeared to be well on track after the first leg on Friday afternoon. He won the race from Clive Warner (Yamaha Zeegers 500) by over 11 seconds with Mitchell Mulligan (Ducati Pantah) third.
Bramich’s threat evaporated the next morning with the failure of a typical 20-cent part forcing him out after the first lap, while holding a three-second lead.
Milligan won leg two from Kiwi Alistair Wilton (Yam TZ 347) and late entrant, Pirelli tyre technician, Dave Fuller (Ducati TT2 500) who was offered a ride only the week before was third.
Bramich came back to win the final two legs in devastating fashion with Fuller second to the flying Paton. The pair finished on equal points, the top step of the podium going to Bramich for his win in the last leg with Wilton claiming third.
Phil Paton grabbed another class victory in the 350cc Classics with three wins and a second on his Montesa.
UK visitor Andy Molnar was second, riding one of his own Molnar frames in this class. Molnar wasn’t the only one sporting one his coveted Molnar frames, with a handful of his excellence spread throughout the Classic and Post Classic fields.
500cc Forgotten Era
Tom Bramich (Vic) – 75
Dave Fuller (Qld) – 75
Alistair Wilton (NZ) – 70
Phil Paton (NSW) – 95
Andy Molnar (UK) – 81
Greg Watkins (Vic) – 76
Unlimited Forgotten Era – Premier
The Period 5 Unlimited Forgotten Era category is the most popular of any of the classes, so much so, that the class had to be split into two groups to ensure everyone gets a run. Keep in mind that’s on top of the 40 riders that compete in the International Challenge.
It’s unfortunate that the two groups are split into ‘Premier’ and ‘Minor’ races as they are all damn quick on dated machinery so maybe a Part One and Two is a better title for the split category.
Beau Beaton was one of the few that cross-entered from the Challenge to the FE Premier and won the first race by a fair margin. He took no further part in the event however, due to ongoing fuel problems with the Irving Vincent machines.
Multiple Aussie Superbike Champion Marty Craggill has been into the classic racing for a couple of years, riding a Yamaha TZ750 but had been battling reliability until now as the weekend all came together for him.
After finishing second to Beaton in the opening leg he took out the next two races in dominant style. The often recalcitrant Yamaha did not miss a beat all weekend, no doubt helped by two of Australia’s best techs in the form of Gary House and Geoff Winzer.
In the last leg the evergreen Scott Webster had a bigger smile than usual when he took his immaculate Moto Martin Suzuki to the top of the sheets. Webster edged out Craggill by just 0.444 seconds, with Damien Mackie on another rapid Yamaha TZ750 finishing third to claim third overall.
It no doubt made up for, in some small way, the disappointment of missing out on the final two 500cc New Era races and a chance of a win in that class.
Unlimited Forgotten Era – Premier
Marty Craggill – 90
Scott Webster – 80
Damien Mackie – 69
Unlimited Forgotten Era Minor
In part two of the Unlimited FE class, visiting American Barrett Long on his first trip to the Island was a revelation on his Yamaha TZ750. In fact, if it wasn’t for a mechanical gremlin in the opening leg, he may well have completed a clean sweep.
Clive Warner was another competitor riding the wonderful Yamaha TZ750, and took out the first leg. No doubt rekindling his enthusiasm after uttering a few months previously, at the Oz Historics, that he was over riding the big two-stroke.
Although he was to DNF in two races, his victory and competitiveness when mobile has definitely reinvigorated his affection for the old ‘tractors’.
Dave Fuller crossed-entered on the Ducati Pantah and with his consistent 2-4-2-2 places took out the class by two-points from Long, with likeable Sydney-sider Roger Quinlan finishing third overall on his Kawasaki Z1.
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