Multiple British superbike race winner Peter Hickman has been drafted into an already formidable United Kingdom team to contest the 2017 AMCN International Island Classic at Phillip Island on the Australia Day weekend (January 27-29).
Hickman, 27, is one of three new faces in the nine-rider UK International Challenge squad, which is attempting to win the prestigious teams’ event for the third successive year.
Alex Sinclair and Michael Neeves are the other new riders, while some of the other names in the UK roster are well known to Island Classic devotees: three-time individual winner and team kingpin Jeremy McWilliams, Conor Cummins, John McGuinness, Glen Richards and James Hillier. Keith Higgs is the riding captain.
Hickman is currently in the best form of his career, having won two races in the 2016 British superbike title en route to seventh in the championship. He’s also a dab hand at ‘pure’ road racing as well, outlasting Michael Rutter in a cliff-hanger finish at the recent Macau GP. He was also fourth in the Superbike TT at this year’s Isle of Man.
The rider from Burton upon Trent will be standing-in for Ryan Farquhar who was injured in this year’s North West 200 road race in Northern Ireland. And he has big shoes to fill, as Farquhar took the individual honours at the 2015 Island Classic.
“It was John McGuinness who put me forward for the ride, as he thought I would be a good fit for the team, I’ve never been to Australia before, let alone Phillip Island, so I’m really looking forward to it.
It’s not going to be easy – I won’t see my Harris Yamaha for the first time until I get there! However, I pick things up pretty quickly so I don’t think it’ll be too much of a problem. And 2016’s been my strongest year to date, both on short circuits and roads, so I’m definitely feeling confident in myself and my riding.”
The Island Classic will only be Hickman’s second ride at a classic meeting, and he’s really looking forward to the team element.
“The UK team does have some big names, but I know all the guys already so that helps. And it’s the first time I am racing with Jeremy (McWilliams) so I am looking forward to that – and beating the Aussies as well!”
Like the majority of his UK teammates, Hickman will be relying on the benevolence of Sussex classic enthusiast Roger Winfield at the Island Classic. Every year Winfield ships bikes and spares over to Australia, and then a massive crew arrives in town to fettle the machines.
McWilliams, Hillier and Cummins will all also be riding Harris Yamahas, McGuinness will be aboard a Harris Honda, Neeves will be taking the 1981 Suzuki GSX1000 route, while Higgs and Sinclair are yet to announce their hardware.
Only eight riders from each country can compete in the International Challenge races, reserved for machines built between 1973 and 1984, with the UK and Australia to be joined by teams from Ireland, America and New Zealand.
After breaking Australia’s domination of the International Challenge with a tight victory in 2015, in 2016 the UK was the master at all levels, with the hard-as-nails McWilliams not only sharing the individual spoils with Australia’s Jed Metcher, but seven of his teammates also joined him in the top 10. The UK won by a mile over Australia, followed by Ireland, America and New Zealand.
Australia’s team for the 2017 International Challenge is Jed Metcher, Steve Martin, Shawn Giles, Cameron Donald, Beau Beaton, John Allen, Scott Webster, Alex Phillis and Chas Hern.
Ireland, America and New Zealand will announce their squads over the next few weeks.
Outside of the four International Challenge races, there will be 52 other battles across the Australia Day weekend, starting with pre-WWI machines and then taking in different eras and capacities. Sidecars will also join solos on the program.
Tickets are on sale at www.islandclassic.com.au with an advance three-day adult pass for $80* and children 15 and under free. Add on-circuit camping for four nights for just $75* per person, purchased in advance.
VIP options are available in the Club Classic Hospitality suite above pit lane. Club Classic offers the flexibility of a single day starting from $150* or weekend package from $235*.
Gates open at 8am each day with qualifying and racing from 9am.
*All ticket prices quoted are in advance. Book in advance and save!