AUSTRALIA WINS INTERNATIONAL CHALLENGE
Australia has successfully defended the International Challenge winning the three-nation battle for historic bikes at Phillip Island’s Grand Prix circuit today at the Island Classic, with the locals’ 704 point haul securing victory over rivals America (691 points) and the UK third with 423 points.
Albury’s Alex Phillis was the star performer – claiming two wins, a second and a third across the four six lap races – to lead the Australian effort and be awarded the best individual performer on the grid aboard his Suzuki 1260. He won the Ken Wootton trophy with his 157 point haul (2-1-1-3), an early birthday present for the racer who turns 26 tomorrow.
Just behind was Melbourne polesitter Jed Metcher who produced four podium places (3-2-2-2) on his Yamaha FJ to amass 155 points, racing at the front of the pack throughout the meet to make a major contribution to the Australian victory.
But it was far from an easy Australia Day victory, with the Americans taking it to the Aussies in every race. Their major nemesis was Californian ace Josh Hayes – a multi AMA champ – who at 43, still possesses the speed and competitive grit that has seen him amass 83 career wins across many classes over a brilliant motorcycling career.
Hayes had his work cut out from him for the literal start – thanks to engine issues in qualifying relegating him to grid position 7 for each race and a testing third row start.
It was only his second visit to Phillip Island, but he came out fighting early to win the first race and capped off the weekend with victory in the fourth battle. In race two and three, he campaigned at the front and returned a 5th and a 3rd to be the top performing American and finish with an individual tally of 154 points.
Phillis, son of multiple Australian champ, Robbie Phillis was thrilled with his Individual Ken Wootton win, as well as the national victory for the Rex Wolfenden led team.
“It’s a huge privilege to win it. I remember Ken at the track from when I was running around as a 4 year old, he would always be there. It’s crazy to come away with something like this!,” said Phillis.
“I’ve been to this event every single year since 2006 since dad was riding, I’ve only ridden three times and every year we’ve had a chance at the overall, and last year we came close with 3rd, but honestly I wanted it really bad and it showed in my riding. It’s awesome to come here and win such a prize.”
While the Australians took the win at their home circuit, congratulations also went to the Dave Crussell captained Americans. Some had never experienced the demanding Australian track and were learning its high speed demands and fast-flowing corners as the weekend went on.
Backing Hayes aboard the Mojo Yamahas were the impressive efforts of Californian road tester Michael Gilbert (7-6-7-4), Ohio racer Larry Pegram (4-3-6-14), Canadian champion Jordan Szoke (11-8-10-5) and Alabama’s Taylor Knapp (8-9-9-8). They consistently raced in the top ten and filled positions fifth to eight in the Ken Wootton tally.
On either side sat Australians, 2019 winner Steve Martin on his Katana who took fourth overall (5-4-4-7), and rounding out the top ten Vincent Irving rider Beau Beaton and veteran Shawn Giles on the Suzuki Katana.
Australian David Johnson, the 2018 winner, had a weekend he would prefer to forget and only completed the first race with a 6th, before mechanical problems produced DNF’s in race two and three and no start in race four.
The best performer for the Tony Hart captained UK squad was Brendan Wilson (Suzuki Harris) who finished the weekend in 12th overall, with Damien Kavney 15th and Roger Gunn in 16th both on Suzukis.
Saturday’s front-runners continued to dominate with Australia’s Alex Phillis winning race three on his Suzuki ahead of Jed Metcher, with America’s Josh Hayes in third.
Polesitter Metcher won the start and while struggling somewhat with the front end of his Yamaha, led for the first four laps, while the melee settled behind him.
Phillis on the other hand, had a lousy start off the front-row and was pushed back to sixth by the end of the first lap.
In front of him lay Metcher, former enduro champ Steve Martin and the formidable American trio of Larry Pegram, Josh Hayes and Michael Gilbert on their Mojo Yamahas.
Despite gearbox problems and some light rain mid-race Phillis slowly ticked them off, and by the end of lap three it was a Metcher/Phillis battle at the front with Hayes in pursuit. Phillis took the lead going into turn three, with Metcher biting back to once again take control. Phillis though had the top speed advantage, and took the lead on Gardner Straight to head the final laps to the flag and cross .077 in front of Metcher and seize 40 points for the Australians .
“We got a false neutral off the start and our gearbox isn’t too bad but every half the race I was jumping out of gear out of turn four and we struggled a bit,” said Phillis.
“But to have the guys in front…. it sort of put a target on their back and gave me the edge I needed to find the pace fast and early in the race.
“So we came from far back. If you want to win, you got to have the motivation to get there,” said Phillis.
With no sign of rain, race four was an epic final battle in the sun. Metcher won the start and led at the end of lap one. Rather than Phillis who was struggling with gearbox issues, it was Metcher and Hayes that set the pace. Hayes took the lead on lap two, and despite the badgering of Metcher and Phillis, added the race four victory to his race one win and to finish the weekend with two victories, a third and a fifth.
“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,” said Hayes after the final win.
“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!”
Historic Racing Across All Eras
Honouring a century of motorcycling in three action-packed days, the 27th International Island Classic, is one of the world’s great historic bike meets.
In addition to the three-nation International Challenge battle over four races, the Island Classic featured 50 races with nearly 400 solo machines racing across the six historic categories: Veteran (up to 1919), Vintage (1920-1945), Classic (1946-1962), Post Classic (1963-1972), Forgotten Era (1973-1982) and New Era (1983-1990). Each class will compete in five races.
The winner of the Phil Irving Trophy was NSW racer, Keo Watson who returned a perfect score card 250 points – five wins in the 500 Forgotten Era class on his 1981 Yamaha and 500 wins in the 250cc New Era Production class via his 1990 Honda.
For all times go to www.computime.com.au
For information on the 27th International Island Classic at Phillip Island, held Jan 24-26 2020, go to www.islandclassic.com.au
International Challenge – National points
Australia, 704 points
America, 691 points
United Kingdom, 423 points
Individual – Ken Wootton Memorial Trophy For Highest Individual Point Scorer
1. Alex Phillis – 1980 Suzuki 1260 XR69, Australia, 157 points
2. Jed Metcher – 1984 Yamaha FJ1200, Australia, 155 points
3. Joshua Hayes – 1983 Mojo Yamaha CMRF5, America, 154 points
4. Steve Martin – 1982 Suzuki Katana, Australia, 144 points
5. Michael Gilbert – 1983 Yamaha CMRFJ, America, 140 points
6. Larry Pegram – 1983 Yamaha CMRFJ1250, America, 137 points
7. Jordan Szoke – 1983 Mojo Yamaha CMR FJ, America, 130 points
8. Taylor Knapp – 1983 Mojo Yamaha CMR FJ, America, 130 points
9. Beau Beaton – 1982 Irving Vincent P5, Australia, 127 points
10. Shawn Giles – 1982 Suzuki Katana, Australia, 121 points
Race Four Results
1. #4 Joshua HAYES (America) 1983 Yamaha CMR FJ 1250, Race Time, 9:47.879
2. #22 Jed METCHER (AUS) 1984 Yamaha FJ1200, 9:49.293, -1.414 seconds
3. #20 Alexander PHILLIS (AUS) 1980 Suzuki XR691100, 9:51.171, -3.292
4. #55 Michael GILBERT (America) 1983 Yamaha CMR FJ 1250, 9:54.417, -6.538
5. #101 Jordan SZOKE (America) 1983 Yamaha CMR FJ 1250, 9:54.898, -7.019
6. #64 Aaron MORRIS (AUS) 1980 Suzuki Katana 1300, 9:55.004, -7.125
Race Three Results
1. #20 Alexander PHILLIS (AUS) 1980 Suzuki XR691100, Race Time, 9:52.346
2. #22 Jed METCHER (AUS) 1984 Yamaha FJ1200, 9:52.423, -0.077-second
3. #4 Joshua HAYES (America) 1983 Yamaha CMR FJ 1250, 9:53.050, -0.704
4. #99 Steven MARTIN (AUS)1982 Suzuki Katana 1294, 9:56.085, -3.739
5. #64 Aaron MORRIS (AUS) 1980 Suzuki Katana 1300, 9:56.522, -4.176
6. #72 Larry PEGRAM (America) 1983 Yamaha CMRFJ 1250, 9:57.252, -4.906
Race Two Results
1. #20 Alexander PHILLIS (AUS) 1980 Suzuki XR691100, Race Time, 9:50.712
2. #22 Jed METCHER (AUS) 1984 Yamaha FJ1200, 9:51.099, -0.387-second
3. #72 Larry PEGRAM (America) 1983 Yamaha CMRFJ 1250, 9:55.651, -4.939
4. #99 Steven MARTIN (AUS)1982 Suzuki Katana1294, 9:55.832, -5.120
5. #4 Joshua HAYES (America) 1983 Yamaha CMR FJ 1250, 9:58.012, -7.300
6. #55 Michael GILBERT (America) 1983 Yamaha CMR FJ 1250, 9:59.204, -8.492
Race One Results
1. #4 Joshua HAYES (America) 1983 Yamaha CMR FJ 1250, Race Time 9:52.749
2. #20 Alex PHILLIS (AUS) 1980 Suzuki XR69 1100, 9:52.914, -0.165-second
3. #22 Jed METCHER (AUS) 1984 Yamaha FJ 1200, 9:52.964, -0.215
4. #72 Larry PEGRAM (America) 1983 Yamaha CMR FJ 1250, 9:56.488, -3.739
5. #99 Steven MARTIN (AUS) 1982 Sukuki Katana 1294, 9:57.154, -4.405
6. #3 David JOHNSON (AUS) 1982 Suzuki Katana 1100, 10:01.207, -8.458
International Island Classic: Rider Quotes After Sunday’s Races
American Josh Hayes After Race 3
“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 ‘S— that guy must be doing 35s 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 in too, I was having this real internal battle, because I wanted to get in there and I wanted to win that race (Race 3) 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.
“It’s hard to say (about the Aussie competition) because I think based on last year there are some other guys; that this could be a 5-way battle, if Aaron Morris had just as a steady week, if Davo Johnson, it would be even more guys up there. There’s nothing wrong with the level of the competition on either side. I still feel like our guys are learning and if we brought back that same crew, we’re going to be another step up. If feel like if this were a precursor for next year, it’s going to be a barn burner of a lot of bikes going really fast lap times.”
Josh Hayes After Race 4 Win
“I knew with the sun coming out it played a little bit of an advantage for tires with us on the Dunlops, and finally I got a pretty decent run off the line and didn’t let Jed (Metcher just go) and 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 favor a little bit. I made a few mistakes late in the race and they got back a little closer 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!”
Australian Alex Phillis After Race 3 Win
“I felt good…we got a false neutral off the start and our gearbox isn’t too bad but every half the race I was jumping out of gear out of Turn 4 and we struggled a bit, but to have the guys in front it sort of put a target on their back and gave me the edge I needed to find the pace fast and early in the race. So we came from far back and up to the front and there was no exceptions. If you want to win, you got to have the motivation to get there. I’m happy and we still have one more to go, it’s not over yet, but it’s nice to get one out of the way.”
Alex Phillis, Ken Wootton Memorial Trophy Winner After Taking 3rd In Race 4
“We dropped off a little bit, I think we ruined the gearbox a bit in the previous race, so we got away. Jed and Josh were certainly setting the pace, I didn’t find it as easy as the last ones. Mid-race we sort of got ourselves in a good position, but the gearbox was well and truly let go…a few mishaps. I thought better off to let the other guys try run with it when it got to the end, we worked ourselves into a good gap and I was pretty confident I would still get the overall, really happy and so much fun and a great weekend!
“It’s a huge privilege to win the overall; I remember Ken at the track from when I was running around as a 4-5 year old, he would always be there. It’s crazy to come away with something like this! I’ve been to this event every single year since 2006 since Dad (Robbie Phillis) was riding. I’ve only ridden three times and every year we’ve had a chance at the overall, and last year we came close with 3rd, but honestly I wanted it really bad and it showed in my riding. It’s awesome to come here and win such a prize like the Ken Wootton Perpetual.”
Australian Jed Metcher After Race 3
“We’re still struggling with the bike, still struggling with the front end. I didn’t really start that strong, I think the other boys might have been battling or something, so I got a few laps out of there on my own. We’ve still got a bit of work to do to get really confident on it, but I felt a lot more consistent then (in Race 3) with the apexes and so on. It was interesting when Al (Alex Phillis) came past, it started raining, so we had to back off a little bit. The last lap was quite slow and I tried to hold him up to beat him to the line, but he is doing a really good job and he is riding well. Had a good race, had good fun and hopefully in the next one I can get a win.”
Jed Metcher After Finishing 2nd In Race 4 & 2nd Overall
“Just struggled with the front confidence and we’re down only probably 10 horsepower to the other guys which was pretty clear there as it got on. Very happy with the weekend, had an absolute ball, dicing with guys like Al Phillis and Josh Hayes is pretty humbling. Very happy that the Aussies won, it’s two years in a row that I have now been involved, since I’ve been in the classic, we haven’t won it all that much. Rex, Buck, Dad and Pauly did an awesome job and all the sponsors did a fantastic job. Hopefully we can come back stronger next year and win the whole lot, that’s the plan!”
Canadian Jordan Szoke (Riding With American Team) After Race 3
“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. I’m making steps, the last race there (Race 3) I made a few little mistakes battling with Taylor (Knapp), and then it started to rain, and I have never ridden around here in the rain on slicks, and I don’t know what it’s like so I thought I’d roll out of it a little and I wasn’t going for the win so I was like be smart. But I really had a lot of fun yesterday when it was beautiful and sunny, Race 2 was really really enjoyable for me and I hope I get to come back.”
Rex Wolfenden (Team Australia Captain)
“I feel terrific! Feel really relieved! It was very close, and the Americans have got a good team, and they were a bit closer than I would have thought. We lost a few guys, and we were really nervous right up to the last race and we fortunately have got home!”