2020 Island Classic
By Trevor Hedge – Images by Rob Mott & TH
The overnight noise curfew expired at 0900 this morning and immediately the Phillip Island air exploded as a cacophony of engines fired in to life.
Air-cooled, water-cooled, two-stroke, four-stroke, singles, twins, triples and four-cylinder engines all singing their different notes as last-minute fettling took place up and down pit-lane.
The interesting mix of the machines continued into the public parking areas where many spectators had dusted off their prize jewels for the ride to Phillip Island. I have never seen so many six-cylinder motorcycles in the one place. There was as much fap fodder coming through the public entry gates as there was to be seen in the pit garages.
The eclectic range of machinery here helps to make the Island Classic something really special with motorcycles being raced in anger that date as far back as the 1939 350 Velocette of Philip Price in the Pre-War support category.
Once again today the weather was simply magnificent. Beautiful blue skies were revealed as dawn broke to signal we were in for another treat at what is arguably the world’s most beautiful racetrack.
“It’s amazing (Phillip Island) and I never want to go home! When you get to go around here, and if you look where we are, obviously the ocean is right there, it is so beautiful. The fans are amazing, and everyone is so friendly, in the paddock, and then they all just want to win on the track.”
The morning was indeed so gorgeous it made me wish I had camped at the track this weekend to really enjoy all of it to the full. A great day to be alive!
The sun had really started to warm things up before International Challenge competitors headed out of pit-lane for their third six-lap bout of the weekend just after noon. The ongoing battle to get these aging tuned-to-the-limit machines to the grid is almost non-stop. Spanners are spun on the motorcycles almost all the way to the start line.
Some of the mechanical and engineering skills present here this weekend are enough to make rocket scientists feel a bit inadequate. The collective breadth of knowledge within these pit garages is so large that it would be impossible to document. When a lot of these guys eventually pass on, so much of this knowledge will unfortunately die with them.
While that is indeed quite sad, we can at least celebrate their skills while they are here with us fettling and tuning these glorious beasts. As fine as the riding talent present here this weekend is, I think it is fair to say that the talent behind the bars is much more easily replaced and replenished as time marches on than the font of mechanical knowledge inside the minds of many of the mechanics here this weekend. So many of these guys are here not only giving up their time for free, most are more often than not actually spending thousands of their own dollars to be here working their arses off.
Well now we have given the spanner twirlers their moment of glory, it’s time for them to hand over the motorcycles to the riders and leave the rest of the job up to them!
International Challenge Race Three
While the morning had been quite warm, some cloud cover moved in just after midday and the temperature dropped quite markedly as a result. Due to the problems experienced by David Johnson over the weekend Team Australia had chosen to promote Shawn Giles to the head of the second row in Johnson’s place, demoting the South Australian back to the fourth row.
Jed Metcher led the field through the opening turns ahead of Steve Martin and Michael Gilbert but Larry Pegram and Josh Hayes wasted no time in moving past their countryman, relegating the youngster back to fifth as they approached turn four.
Across the stripe for the first time Metcher had a few bike lengths over his pursuers, the first of which was now Larry Pegram followed by Josh Hayes, Steve Martin, Alex Phillis and Michael Gilbert.
Hayes started to challenge Pegram for second place and that American duo started to pull away a little from Steve Martin.
Alex Phillis then started his charge forward, taking fourth place from Steve Martin, followed by third place from Pegram and then second place from Hayes after the young Victorian put in a 1m36.743 scorcher to storm through the field.
Josh Hayes tried valiantly to stick with Phillis but the youngster had his measure, a 1m36.552 the next benchmark set by Phillis on his way to reeling Jed Metcher in.
Alex Phillis moved through to the race lead with two laps to run then extended his buffer to half-a-second as they got the last lap board. Josh Hayes was coming along for the ride though, the fierce competitive streak in him coming to the fore as he hunted down the young competition.
That leading trio then all ran wide at turn four on the final lap and Metcher sneaked past Phillis as a few drops of rain started to fall around the back of the circuit…
Metcher led them around Siberia, Hayshed and Lukey Heights. Phillis shadowed his countryman through turn 12 before powering past on the line to steal a narrow victory over Metcher.
Hayes had to settle for third place but had three-seconds over fourth placed Steve Martin.
“It was a tough race, I was a bit of a slow starter this morning so that definitely hurt me and Jed got out there pretty far and Larry (Pegram) rode good for a few laps. It took me a little while with Steve (Martin), and Larry (Pegram) and Michael Gilbert, and a handful of guys there in the beginning. When I got to 2nd, I was just taking such little pieces out of Jed (Metcher) and then I couldn’t believe how fast Alex (Phillis) went by, I was like shit that guy must be doing 35’s as fast as he went by me! He just rode right up to him, and again they got together and brought me back a little bit, racing up with each other. When we got the mist on I was having this real internal battle, because I wanted to get in there and I wanted to win that race so bad, but I didn’t feel like with the cooler temperatures my bike was quite where I wanted it to be like it was yesterday, so you start thinking about the team aspect and a 3rd is a lot better than me screwing up. I was a little too cautious, and they did give me a chance to get back in it, but I just played my cards a little too cautious and ruined a good opportunity, hopefully the sun will come back out and we can work hard for it again.”
Aaron Morris scored a fifth place finish ahead of Larry Pegram and Michael Gilbert. Eighth went to Beau Beaton ahead of Taylor Knapp and Jordan Szoke.
Five Australians and five Americans in the top ten but with Shawn Giles, Cameron Donald and Craig Ditchburn filling places 11-12-13 that contributed to Australia extending their three-point lead over Team America out to 12-points. 530 plays 518 with one race remaining.
International Challenge Race Three Results
|1||Alex PHILLIS||AUS||1980 Suzuki XR69 1100||9:52.346|
|2||Jed METCHER||AUS||1984 Yamaha FJ 1200||+0.077|
|3||Joshua HAYES||USA||1983 Yamaha CMR FJ 1250||+0.704|
|4||Steven MARTIN||AUS||1982 Sukuki Katana 1294||+3.739|
|5||Aaron MORRIS||AUS||1980 Suzuki Katana 1300||+4.176|
|6||Larry PEGRAM||USA||1983 Yamaha CMR FJ 1250||+4.906|
|7||Michael GILBERT||USA||1983 Yamaha CMR FJ 1250||+4.981|
|8||Beau BEATON||AUS||1982 Irving Vincent 1300||+11.105|
|9||Taylor KNAPP||USA||1983 Yamaha CMR FJ 1250||+11.192|
|10||Jordan SZOKE||USA||1983 Yamaha CMR FJ 1250||+16.287|
|11||Shawn GILES||AUS||1982 Suzuki Katana 1294||+17.410|
|12||Cameron DONALD||AUS||1982 Irving Vincent 1300||+29.817|
|13||Craig DITCHBURN||AUS||1978 Yamaha TZ 750||+41.011|
|14||Brendan WILSON||UK||1980 Suzuki Harris 1170||+42.717|
|15||Scott WEBSTER||AUS||1982 Suzuki Harris 1200||+50.465|
|16||Alexander SINCLAIR||UK||1982 Suzuki XR69 1080||+1m00.239|
|17||Joe PETHOUD||USA||1984 Yamaha Harris 1250||+1m02.122|
|18||Damien KAVNEY||UK||1982 Suzuki XR69 1260||+1m14.392|
|19||David CRUSSELL||USA||1978 Yamaha TZ 748||+1m14.874|
|20||Brian FILO||USA||1978 Kawasaki Z1 1260||+1m14.941|
|21||Tony HART||UK||1982 Suzuki Harris 1085||+1m16.073|
|22||Robert RUWOLDT||USA||1980 Kawasaki Harris 1200||+1m17.886|
|23||Roger GUNN||UK||1982 Harris F1 1170||+1m18.863|
|24||Richard LLEWELLIN||UK||1982 Ducati TTF1 750||+1:30.470|
|25||James AGOMBAR||UK||1978 Yamaha TZ 750||+1m30.917|
|26||Hasse GUSTAFSON||UK||1972 Ducati 750||+1m31.289|
|DNF||Jorge GUERRERO||USA||1982 Suzuki XR69 1200||2 Laps|
|DNF||David JOHNSON||AUS||1982 Suzuki Katana 1100||2 Laps|
|DNF||Melissa PARIS||USA||1978 Yamaha TZ 748||3 Laps|
International Challenge Race Four
The crowd had been quite good throughout the weekend but many spectactors headed home before the final International Challenge bout. This event is a lot more than just about the racing for many, plenty instead come to simply oogle the machinery in the pits, to drink in the sights, sounds and smells, then head for home once those senses have been suitably satiated.
Alex Phillis, Jed Metcher and Josh Hayes have consistently displayed superior speed all weekend and been the men to beat but would a wildcard find some extra pace in this final bout…?
Hayes had taken the opening victory on Saturday, while Phillis took top honours both yesterday afternoon and this morning, sneaking past Metcher on the line to deny his team-mate victory.
Metcher has been chasing front end set-up all weekend while Phillis had a few gear selection problems this morning. Riders do have to somewhat nurse these fickle machines throughout the six-lap races, riding a fine line between all-out attack and mechanical sympathy.
Josh Hayes, Larry Pegram and Jordan Szoke all got away well as the final six-lap bout commenced but not quite well enough to beat Jed Metcher to turn one as the Rex Wolfenden prepared Yamaha got wound up.
Around the back of the circuit on the opening lap it was Metcher from Hayes, Phillis, Martin, Pegram, Gilbert and Beaton.
Hayes took the lead at the end of the opening lap after slipping past Metcher before turn one. Phillis was in third as again it was this trio proving quickest. Steve Martin was the best of the rest at this stage of the race ahead of Pegram.
Next time around Alex Phillis took his turn at the front after putting in a 1m36.655s. Hayes was back through to the lead by turn four and Metcher then pushed Phillis back to third place once again. Hayes pulled away over the second half of that lap and by the stripe had stretched half-a-second over Phillis and Metcher.
Phillis ran wide on the next lap and lost second place to Metcher, he then lost yet more time through the next few turns, grip perhaps now going away from him.
At the last lap board Josh Hayes had a buffer of seven-tenths over Metcher who had a similar advantage over Phillis. Michael Gilbert had moved up to fourth place, Jordan Szoke was in fifth and Aaron Morris sixth in what was a tightly packed group.
Josh Hayes the victor from Metcher with Phillis coming home third in the fourth and final International Challenge bout of the weekend.
“I knew with the sun coming out it played a little bit of an advantage for tyres with us in the Dunlop’s, and finally I got a pretty decent run off line and didn’t let Jed just go. I wasn’t trying to play catch-up for the whole race, being able to get up close to him right off the bat, I thought if I could push and pressure the pace for race distance, every lap works in my favour a little bit. I made a few mistakes late in the race and they got back a little close to me, but I was just trying to be steady and just hit my marks and fortunately we had a clean race. We had four great races and I really enjoyed riding in them, with the boys (Alex & Jed) all of us together, all weekend, every race, it was so much fun! It’s good to leave on a high note!”
Michael Gilbert won the battle over fourth place ahead of Szoke and Morris.
Third place was good enough to see Phillis take the overall individual honours for the weekend by two-points over Metcher.
Team Australia won the International Challenge by a slender 13-points over the USA.
International Challenge Race Four Results
|1||Joshua HAYES||USA||1983 Yamaha CMR FJ 1250||9m47.879|
|2||Jed METCHER||AUS||1984 Yamaha FJ 1200||+1.414|
|3||Alex PHILLIS||AUS||1980 Suzuki XR69 1100||+3.292|
|4||Michael GILBERT||USA||1983 Yamaha CMR FJ 1250||+6.538|
|5||Jordan SZOKE||USA||1983 Yamaha CMR FJ 1250||+7.019|
|6||Aaron MORRIS||AUS||1980 Suzuki Katana 1300||+7.125|
|7||Steven MARTIN||AUS||1982 Sukuki Katana 1294||+7.788|
|8||Taylor KNAPP||USA||1983 Yamaha CMR FJ 1250||+11.296|
|9||Beau BEATON||AUS||1982 Irving Vincent 1300||+14.011|
|10||Shawn GILES||AUS||1982 Suzuki Katana 1294||+19.237|
|11||Cameron DONALD||AUS||1982 Irving Vincent 1300||+24.861|
|12||Brendan WILSON||UK||1980 Suzuki Harris 1170||+38.600|
|13||Craig DITCHBURN||AUS||1978 Yamaha TZ 750||+40.509|
|14||Larry PEGRAM||USA||1983 Yamaha CMR FJ 1250||+41.419|
|15||Scott WEBSTER||AUS||1982 Suzuki Harris 1200||+43.315|
|16||Damien KAVNEY||UK||1982 Suzuki XR69 1260||+1:06.063|
|17||Joe PETHOUD||USA||1984 Yamaha Harris 1250||+1:06.469|
|18||Roger GUNN||UK||1982 Harris F1 1170||+1:08.030|
|19||Brian FILO||USA||1978 Kawasaki Z1 1260||+1:11.464|
|20||Robert RUWOLDT||USA||1980 Kawasaki Harris 1200||+1:14.018|
|21||Hasse GUSTAFSON||UK||1972 Ducati 750||+1:34.608|
|22||James AGOMBAR||UK||1978 Yamaha TZ 750||+1:35.352|
|23||Richard LLEWELLIN||UK||1982 Ducati TTF1 750||+1:40.880|
|DNF||David CRUSSELL||USA||1978 Yamaha TZ 748||2 Laps|
|DNF||Jorge GUERRERO||USA||1982 Suzuki XR69 1200||3 Laps|
|DNF||Tony HART||UK||1982 Suzuki Harris 1085||4 Laps|
|DNF||Alexander SINCLAIR||UK||1982 Suzuki XR69 1080||5 Laps|
2020 Island Classic
International Challenge Team Points
|2||UNITED STATES OF AMERICA||691|
2020 Island Classic Race
Ken Wootton Perpetual Trophy