Island Classic 2016

Mitchelton Wines International Challenge Race Two Report

By Trevor Hedge

Beau Beaton took first blood in the opening International Challenge Race One at the 2016 Island Classic, after earlier taking pole position in a shortened qualifying session.

Jed Metcher started from pole position thanks to recording the fastest lap of the race in the opening race, but it was race one victor Beau Beaton that was again the early race leader when the lights went out to start race two. Metcher suffering from a bit of clutch bite as he got off the line.

Island Classic 2016 - International Challenge Race Two Start
Island Classic 2016 – International Challenge Race Two Start

One rider that never made it out of pit-lane was Shawn Giles, the fire going out in the big Katana and the three-time Australian Superbike Champion left to push his silent machine back up pit-lane. Giles suffered in race one with the Katana pumping oil out of a breather pipe all over the pegs and his boots, and the machine was again pumping oil out before he exited the end of pit-lane so he took the decision to shut it down in the interests of safety.

While the fire was out on the Katana, Team UK benefactor and bike constructor Roger Winfield was plenty fired up after officials forced James Hillier to start the race from pit-lane.  Hillier had been judged not to have made it out of pit-lane in time for him to make the grid for the start, thus was given the penalty of having to start from pit-lane after the rest of the field had left the line.

So before the starting lights had even gone out a significant blow had been delivered to both Team Australia and Team UK.

After the flag dropped there was yet more controversy with Ryan Farquhar handed a jump-start penalty, as was Roger Baker. There are going to be some toys thrown out of the pram in this post race wash up…

On the circuit it was a three-way tussle for the lead with Beaton, Metcher and McWilliams taking no prisoners over the main prize.

McWilliams was nearly spat out of the seat exiting turn four a couple of laps before the end, leaving onlookers with no doubts as to how much he wanted to win this five-lap race.

At the chequered flag though it was once again Beau Beaton on the Irving Vincent that took top honours. Second place went to Jeremy McWilliams with Metcher a fighting third.

McWilliams the fastest lap of the day with a 1m37.644, Beaton the only other rider to dip into the 37s with a 37.94, despite the Vincent being 15km/h down on the 1300cc Yamaha powered Harris ridden by the Northern Irishman.

Where the Vincent shines is in the handling and power-down of it’s bespoke chassis. The other front running riders are agog at how easily Beaton can run rings around them in the corners.

Team UK are adamant that the machine is not in the spirit of the competition, and if the four-valve Vincent is indeed continued to be deemed legal in this category, they are of the opinion that it is a ludicrous position as it bares no resemblance to a production machine.

As for Hillier being forced to start from pit-lane, Team UK management and riders thought the decision laughable as other riders had not even joined the track out of the end of the exit lane. As this is an international level event, and not a club day, they believe Hillier should have been allowed to exit and join the grid as he would have easily caught the tail riders before the grid started to form.

In regards to the jump-start penalty for Farquhar, the penalty was applied for him starting from the wrong grid position. A starting official actually told Farquhar which position on the grid to take up as he was questioning it himself, the confusion stemming from both Giles and Hillier missing from the grid. Thus another bad taste left in the mouth of Team UK. To say there are distinctly unhappy about how things have unfolded here this weekend would be a significant understatement of the sentiment being bandied about in the Team UK pit garage.

It was more than an hour before the race results were actually issued, suggesting that some further discussion and decision making had been happening amongst officials in the control tower.  After results were finally issued Farquhar’s ten-second penalty had been removed, thus the Londonderry rider kept his eighth place finish. That will go one small way to reducing the level of ill-feeling in the Team UK camp but in regards to the eligibility of the Vincent and some other issues, the discord still hangs heavy in the air.

The same could be said to some degree about the feeling in the Horner’s pit bay. They are somewhat bemused, and to a fair degree annoyed about the controversy. Their feeling is they were told they could come and race, and that is what they are doing. They also state that the other machines still have a significant power advantage and that if the Team UK bikes can’t keep up they should make them handle better.

There is also some doubt about whether Beau raced the two-valve or four-valve machine today. And Ken Horner does not want to go on the record as to which actual bike they raced and want to keep everyone guessing. I presume that the machine log books hold the answer to that question, but I certainly don’t have the right to demand them. And only if one of the machines is for some reason later ruled ineligible, which is unlikely as they have been told they can race either machine, then the officials could ask to see the log books, but they would have to have a reason to ask for those records. And as to whether they would release that to me, is another matter again…

It is fair to say that both camps are far from happy, and that the controversy is currently putting a sour taste in everyone’s mouth. And that is not doing anybody any favours, as it is simply adding a sour note to an otherwise fantastic event.

Island Classic 2016 – International Challenge Race Two Results
  1. Beau Beaton
  2. Jeremy McWilliams 0.50
  3. Jed Metcher 0.61
  4. Steve Martin 9.84
  5. Glen Richards 10.11
  6. Conor Cummins 10.79
  7. Paul Byrne 11.43
  8. Ryan Farquhar 11.48
  9. Cam Donald 12.36
  10. John McGuinness 13.10
  11. Scott Webster 24.48
  12. John Allen 25.07
  13. Craig Ditchburn 32.66
  14. James Hillier 33.25
  15. Pat Mooney 33.40
Island Classic 2016 – International Challenge Team Standings after Race Two
  1. Australia 349
  2. UK 346
  3. Ireland 221
  4. USA 186
  5. NZ 150