The machinery on show unbelievable, the rider pedigree impeccable, and the event is such a spectacle thanks to an incredible culmination of countless hours in workshops across the world preparing these fast but fickle machines.
Then the massive logistical exercise getting all the machines, spares, tools, riders and technicians to Phillip Island for the spectacle that is the 23rd Island Classic.
Behind the scenes of course there is also the massive organisational and scheduling nightmare of making the event successfully run.
Then, there is always the infamous Phillip Island weather to contend with. And teams were met with a very wet track this morning and intermittent rain falling from above as they prepared for Sunday’s two final International Challenge races that will decide which country takes home International Challenge honours.
Most of the Team UK front runners are on Roger Winfield’s ambrosial eight-strong brace of Harris F1 machines fitted with Yamaha FJ1200, Honda CB1100 orSuzuki GSX engines in various levels of specification.
Team Winfield had brought no wet weather tyres with them so earlier in the weekend Craig White, an independent Bridgestone distributor, had kindly offered to swap dry tyres for wets, saving Team Winfield the frightening costs of trying to equip there team with a full outfit of wets.
However, with no spare rims the Team UK pit bay was a hive of activity all morning with tyre swaps taking place almost non stop throughout the morning. For Roger Winfield to equip all his bikes with spare rims he is up for around $25,000, an impost on top of the myriad of other costs to wear and one that he is not up for. As much as the outfit looks to be a money-no-object unlimited budget affair, Roger makes it clear to me that is far from the case and he has to contain costs, “Trevor, I still have a mortgage to do this stuff”, was a quip offered when the pressure was telling on the affable enthusiast that has essentially become the backbone of the Team UK effort at the Island Classic since he first came Down Under with Lee Gourlay in 2010.
Throwing a further spanner in the works, and creating yet more work for all teams was the fact that in the last stages of the lead up to the first International Challenge race of the day the track was rapidly drying. Tyre choice was still somewhat of a gamble, right up to around half hour out from the race, but with the short race distance it is safe to say that wets were probably still the logical choice at that point in time, that is if cost is not brought into the equation. But then there are the crash costs to consider if you are wobbling around on slicks… A gamble, for sure…
But then as the race start approached the choice became clear, the track was ready for slicks. Pit lane again went into a frenzied bustle of activity; tyre warmers off, rims out, tyres off, new tyres on, rims rebalanced then slotted back into the bikes, tyre warmers back on, then breathe….
In contrast, things were instead a fairly cool and calm affair in the Horner brothers pit as they put the final touches on their exquisite Irving Vincent Black Lightning. Beaton won both races on Saturday, and the handling prowess and corner-exit grunt of the bespoke machine had caused plenty of controversy, Team UK adamant that the machine should not be eligible for the category as, in their words, ‘it bares no resemblance to any production machine ever made’.
As for the International Challenge points heading into the penultimate five-lap journey of the weekend things were tight at the top, Australia leading by a slender three-points, 349 to Team UK’s 346. The pressure was on, and while this is a historic motorcycle event, these guys want to win just as bad as Rossi wants to beat Marquez when the lights go out.
When those lights did got out just after 1130 this morning it was again Jeremy McWilliams, Jed Metcher and Beau Beaton the chief protagonists.
McWilliams led Metcher by a nose at the end of the opening lap while Beaton trailed by a few bike lengths.
Over the course of the next two laps McWilliams and Metcher traded position numerous times around the 4.445km Phillip Island layout.
Metcher had his nose in front as the race approached half-race distance and once clear the 25-year-old put his head down to lower the fastest lap benchmark down to 1m37.2 on a Rex Wolfenden T-Rex Honda.
This morning Beaton had no answer for Metcher or McWilliams, the 29-year-old lost more ground on the front two on every lap but then with two laps to go the Coffs Harbour resident returned to pitlane, problems striking the Irving Vincent.Beaton’s retirement promoted Steve Martin into a podium position but the 47-year-old had Conor Cummins right on his tail to challenge for that final step on the rostrum.
As the last lap got underway McWilliams had closed right back up on Metcher but Jed turned the wick up a little further and stretched his gap out another couple of bike lengths to cement his position at the front of the field and Metcher eventually took victory by six-tenths of a second at the flag.
Confusion then reigned however as the red flag had come out due to oil on the circuit, around the same time as the leaders greeted the chequered flag, and there was talk the final race results could be taken back a lap…
A note by the Computime staff on the first official results sheet then declared the following;
“Red flag due to oil on circuit as 7 riders had completed race (lap 6). Results for those riders on lap 6 count. Other riders counted at lap 5. Results shown at lap 5 as no different to lap 6. No. 75 (G. Richards) removed from results as cause of oil. ***”
However officials called the number of the alleged bike wrongly, and that Glen Richards wasn’t in fact the rider that dropped oil, so his eighth position was then reinstated. Instead Scott Webster was deemed to be the cause of the oil spill and thus lost his top ten result.
With only three members of Team Australia in the top ten, and with the reinstatement of Richards, a massive seven Team UK riders in the top ten, the UK contingent have pulled out a significant lead in the International Challenge points race, the gap has now blown out to 97-points in the UK’s favour. Team Ireland hold down third place, 85-points behind Australia. Team USA is currently fourth with a 70-point buffer over Team NZ.
In the individual points Metcher now trails McWilliams by a single point, 117 to 116 in the Northern Irishman’s favour. Steve Martin an impressive third place on 111 points with a six-point buffer over Conor Cummins.
Island Classic 2016 – International Challenge Race Three Results
Jeremy McWilliams +0.309
Steve Martin +7.54
Conor Cummins +7.99
Paul Byrne +12.06
John McGuinness +13.04
Ryan Farquhar +16.20
Glen Richards +20.91
James Hillier +21.80
Craig Ditchburn +32.93
Marty Craggill +33.14
Laurie Fyffe +44.88
Hilton Hicks +45.45
Pete Byers +46.72
Ben Rea +52.73
Nick Ienatsch +52.74
Dave Crussell +54.27
Peter Mizzi +55.85
Mike Meskell +56.87
Danial ‘Joe’Weir +61.05
Damian Mackie +62.73
Roger Baker +64.78
David Moss +65.31
Eirik Nielsen +66.64
Island Classic 2016 – International Challenge Team Standings after Race Three
Team UK 524
Team Australia 427
Team Ireland 342
Team USA 269
Team NZ 199
Island Classic 2016 – Individual Points after International Challenge Race Three
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