His prediction comes with some caveats, but Jeremy McWilliams finally believes his UK team has got the speed and experience to wrest the coveted International Challenge from Australia when the 2015 Australian Motorcycle News Island Classic historic motorcycle festival is held at Phillip Island this Australia Day long weekend (January 23-25).
McWilliams, the UK’s standout campaigner will run a 1984 Yamaha Harris F1 1297 in 2015, and has already claimed individual honours three times in the Tahbilk Winery-backed International Challenge.
Now the last frontier is winning the coveted teams’ trophy which has been the exclusive domain of Australia since its inception in 2005. New Zealand and the USA also field teams in the International Challenge.
“The Aussies never give us an inch and we don’t expect it to be any different this year. But I think 2015 is our best chance to take the team win if all the bikes stick it out — they take a hammering over the weekend. Roger Winfield (who supplies machinery to most of the top riders) deserves a team win for the time, expense and effort him and his team put in to this event.”
Said McWilliams on the eve of flying out to Australia.
McWilliams says the addition of silky duo Glen Richards and Conor Cummins will put even more pressure on the Australians, while he expects John McGuinness to be far better placed after his first International Challenge gallop in 2014. However, there’s a sub plot to part of this: Richards is an expatriate Aussie who has been based in the UK for nearly 20 years, and won the British supersport title in 2008.
“There’ll be a bit of moaning that Glen’s with us but he is an adopted Brit, no doubt he’ll be quick but these ’90s era bikes do take a bit of getting used to!
“As for John, he admitted he was riding his plums off last year — he didn’t think the pace would just be as fast as it is. Now he knows what to expect he is up for it and looking forward to swapping paintwork!
“I’ve heard that the Aussies have been testing flat out but it doesn’t worry us: it’s the race that counts.”
Ryan Farquhar is the other real fighter in the current UK squad of 13 riders, which will be trimmed to 10 – the maximum number — by the time the first of four International Challenge races are held on Saturday afternoon. All four races will be held over six laps.
Meanwhile, Australia’s team will feature the talents of Steve Martin, lap record holder Shawn Giles, Rob Phillis, Cameron Donald, Brendan Roberts and Jed Metcher, while the American outfit is headed by Rob Mesa, James McKay and David Crussell. New Zealand can count on Damien Kavney, Glenn Hindle, Roger Gunn and Terry Morris doing most of its scoring.
“I’m just happy beating any of the opposition as there are some very rapid riders, I’ve never had a win at the International Challenge without having to fight for it.
“I’ve been lucky to be in the right place on the last lap, but race four in 2014 was really tough and I gave it everything. Rarely does anyone get a gap or lead from start to finish.
“I always loved the Island circuit; it was my favourite track during my GP career and still is but the Island Classic event is really competitive — it’s like racing at the top of a national championship.”
McWilliams tied with Giles in the 2014 individual standings, and both were awarded the Ken Wootton Perpetual Trophy for their front-running deeds.
In the International Challenge, the top five point scorers from each team will go towards the final tally. The rules allow for machines manufactured between 1973 and 1984 to compete, and for capacities ranging from 350-1300cc. All engines must be air-cooled.
The 2015 AMCN-backed Island Classic will begin with qualifying Friday; with racing from 9:00am to 5:00pm on both Saturday and Sunday. The field is the largest ever seen at the iconic historic motorcycle racing festival, with over 525 bikes to hit the grand prix circuit over the three days across 56 races.
Tickets are on sale with a discounted pre-purchase price at $70* for a three-day ticket or $45* for Sunday only. Children 15 and under are free. Pit roof, fully-catered suite hospitality passes are also available from $135.
Long weekend, last minute accommodation is sorted. The circuit is opening their on-track campground for an affordable long weekend option – just $70* for up to four nights; or $55 for Saturday/Sunday sleeping trackside. Bring your tent!
For tickets and camping, go to www.islandclassic.com.au for booking forms or call the circuit on 03 5952 2710 on weekdays.
*All prices quoted are purchased in advance, offering savings on gate prices