Team America adds firepower for 2020 International Challenge assault
Hayes returns; Szoke, Knapp and Paris join the American crew
An incredibly talented Team America has laid down the gauntlet to defending champion Australia ahead of the 2020 International Island Classic at the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit on the Australia Day long weekend (January 24-26).
America’s 12-rider squad for the International Challenge teams’ event not only boasts three riders who finished in the top six of the individual standings in 2019 – Josh Hayes, Larry Pegram and Michael Gilbert – but it’s now also added 13-time Canadian superbike champion Jordan Szoke and former AMA front-runner Taylor Knapp to its ever-strengthening roster.
Team America also boasts the first woman to take part in the International Challenge – Melissa Paris, who made her professional debut in the 2009 and has world supersport, world endurance, AMA and Spanish CEV experience on her vast CV.
Melissa is the wife of Josh Hayes and said on her inclusion in the US squad “After hearing what a great time Josh had last January I’m so pumped to go this year!”
Her husband, Hayes is expected to be a powerhouse for Team America, and the four-time AMA superbike champion – and second on the all-time race winner’s list behind Aussie Mat Mladin – will have fond memories of winning the fourth and final International Challenge race in 2019 on his Yamaha FJ1250.
“In the first race of 2019 I was quite taken back by the level of competition on these classic era bikes. Even got my feelings hurt a few times!” said Hayes of his 2019 Island Classic debut.
“But when I was able to win the 4th and final Challenge race, and returned to our pit to find the captains of all the other teams there to celebrate alongside us, I knew this was a special event, more about 2 wheel passion than business, and something that I wanted to continue to be a part of.
“In 2019 I was able to test the Mojo Yamaha a handful of times. Also, I rode in MotoAmerica’s Supersport races at 7 events; racing for my wife’s MP13 Racing Yamaha, with her also as my crew chief.
“The 2020 Island Classic is going to be a family event for me this year with my wife, Melissa, and my two-year-old son, Hawk, joining me. Even better is that Melissa will be riding a Mojo Yamaha TZ750 in the International Classic races.
“With her experience of riding all types of motorcycles, and all over the world, I think she will be a strong asset for the American team. For her and Hawk to get to experience Australia again with me also, is just icing on the cake,” enthused Hayes.
The final race victory of 2019 catapulted Hayes to third in the individual standings on a countback ahead of Aussie Shawn Giles, while Pegram and Gilbert were fifth and sixth.
Dave Crussell will once again captain the American squad, and also on his roster are Jorge Gurero, Joe Pethoud, Brian Filo, Bruce Lind and Robert Ruwoldt.
The bike of choice for the majority of the team will again be the Yamaha based CMR FJ 1250, while the Americans also have three potent Yamaha TZ750 at their disposal.
America finished second in the 2019 International Challenge behind Australia and ahead of New Zealand, but the addition of Szoke, Knapp and Paris could cause some real headaches for Australia which is shooting for its 13th win in 16 starts.
The Australian team for the International Challenge features David Johnson, Shawn Giles, Jed Metcher, Craig Ditchburn, Aaron Morris, Scott Webster, Cameron Donald, Steve Martin, Beau Beaton, John Allen and Alex Phillis.
Meanwhile, the United Kingdom returns to the International Challenge arena in 2020 with a new-look team, which will be announced next week.
Historic racing for everyone
The Island Classic, is now in its 27th year, is the largest historic motorcycle racing event in the Southern Hemisphere. The weekend honours a century of motorcycling in three action-packed days, with the International Challenge just one element of an event that celebrates the splendour of historic racing across all levels.
As well the International Challenge, the Island Classic includes 52 other races for machines across the six historic racing categories: Veteran (up to 1919), Vintage (1920-1945), Classic (1946-1962), Post Classic (1963-1972), Forgotten Era (1973-1982) and New Era (1983-1990).
Over 400 solo bikes will take to the 4.445km Phillip Island Circuit, where each class will be decided after one qualifying session and four races.
Individual accolades will also include the Phil Irving Perpetual Trophy, awarded to the rider who accrues the most points outside the International Challenge races. for the highest scorer in the non-International Challenge events.
Tickets now on sale
The International Island Classic is an affordable Australian Day long-weekend away with your mates and family, so plan now for your island escape with tickets and on-circuit camping on-sale from today at islandclassic.com.au
Pre-purchase and save on general admission and camping tickets, with children under 15 free.
The ever-popular Club Classic Hospitality is a perfect way to relax and unwind as you take in all the on-track action from the climate-controlled glass fronted suite overlooking Pit Lane, the Start/Finish Line and Gardner Straight.
Qualifying will begin on Friday for all classes, followed by a full program of racing on Saturday and Sunday. For more information and tickets, visit www.islandclassic.com.au