Jeremy McWilliams eager for more Island Classic success

Jeremy McWilliams in actin at the 2015 Island Classic International Challenge
Jeremy McWilliams in actin at the 2015 Island Classic International Challenge

It’s the burning question ahead of the 2016 AMCN International Island Classic on January 22-24: can the United Kingdom make it two wins on the trot in the blue-chip International Challenge?

Earlier this year, the UK pulled of a stunning upset at Phillip Island to defeat the 10-time defending champion Australia in the International Challenge, and the team’s spiritual leader Jeremy McWilliams wants that feeling of adulation to continue.

“We just loved beating the Aussies!” said McWilliams. “To be honest I thought we were never going to beat Australia on home soil, as their riders always seemed to have that little bit extra over us: circuit knowledge, the ability to test when we couldn’t, a very tough line up and great machinery.

“When we eventually won it was a sweet victory; the whole team and our sponsors Rog and Pat Winfield were all over the moon.”

Team UK celebrate winning the 2015 Island Classic International Challenge
Team UK celebrate winning the 2015 Island Classic International Challenge

Sport always throws up its challenges however, and retaining silverware is often a much sterner test than winning in the first place. McWilliams, who will ride alongside riders like Isle of Man hero John McGuinness, Ryan Farquhar, Conor Cummins and Glen Richards in 2016, is fully aware of the challenge.

“We all love the competition and atmosphere at the Island, as well as camaraderie — but we’re not under any illusions that it’s going to be easy to defend the title. Saying that, this is our strongest team yet, which gives us a lot of confidence,” said McWilliams.

“There’s always a fair bit of banter between all the teams, but when the flag drops the shit stops. The Aussies take this event very seriously; Shawn (Giles) is always consistently fast as is Brendan (Roberts), Beau (Beaton) and Cameron (Donald), so everything has to be right to beat them.

“And Jed Metcher turned up to help the Aussie team last year. He’s at the top of his game it was nice to show him the way home in one of the races… I see he’s been out testing already so I guess he means business and like all of us he wants to win the individual honours.”

Farquhar won the individual honours in 2015 to claim the Ken Wootton Perpetual Trophy, while McWilliams was the victor in 2012 and 2014 — the latter by sharing honours with Giles.

2015 Team UK - Ran Farquhar, Jeremy McWilliams, Conor Cummins
2015 Team UK – Ran Farquhar, Jeremy McWilliams, Conor Cummins

“I am determined to lift the individual honours again in 2016,” continued McWilliams. “I haven’t been riding as much as in previous years — I won a race at the NW200 in May and again at the Goodwood Revival in September — but I’ve got a new bike to set-up during the pre-event test and I am hoping things will all come together for me.”

In 2016, the International Challenge will include a team from Ireland for the first time, joining Australia, the UK, New Zealand and America. Each team will have a squad of nine riders but only eight will be able to take to the grid in the four International Challenge races — two on Saturday and the balance on Sunday.

The other riders in the UK team are James Hillier, Keith Higgs and Michael Russell, while the other four teams will be announced over coming weeks.

The packed Island Classic schedule also includes races for motorcycles and sidecars* from 1919 to 1990, across a range of capacities. *Sidecars are subject to sufficient entries

For tickets and camping for the 23rd AMCN International Island Classic, visit www.islandclassic.com.au or call the circuit on (03) 5952 2710 on weekdays.

2016 Island Classic – Team United Kingdom
  • Jeremy McWilliams – Harris F1 Yamaha 1300
  • John McGuinness – Harris F1 Honda 1150
  • James Hillier – Harris F1 Yamaha 1300
  • Ryan Farquhar – Harris F1 Yamaha 1300
  • Glen Richards – Harris F1 Suzuki
  • Conor Cummins – Harris F1 Honda 1150
  • Keith Higgs – Harris Magnum Kawasaki
  • Michael Russell – P&M Kawasaki 1300
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