Australia has retained the International Trophy for the teams event at the 2014 Australian Motorcycle News International Island Classic at Phillip Island over the Australia Day weekend.
But the victory wasn’t without a fight, with Australia having to work up a sweat against great rival UK to keep its unblemished record in the International Challenge intact. Australia eventually finished the event on 692 points, ahead of the United Kingdom (617), New Zealand (367) and America (341).
The Tahbilk International Challenge wrapped up in the most stunning circumstances when South Australian Brendan Roberts (Suzuki Katana) pipped UK star Jeremy McWilliams (Harris F1) by 0.004 seconds in a photo finish to claim second spot behind multiple Australian superbike champion Shawn Giles (Katana) in race four.
The result meant that both Giles and McWilliams finished the four, six-lap International Challenge races on 155 points apiece, and were subsequently declared joint winners – the first time it’s happened since the International Challenge began in 2005.
“I had to put everything on the line in that last race,” said Giles. “It was just a fantastic race, and I had my bike wobbling all over the place because I was trying so hard.
“At one stage, I was concerned that the bike was going to start jumping out of gear like it did in race three – it did it once at turn four – but it then settled and I just had to concentrate on putting my head down and climbing back through the pack.
“It’s all a bit of a blur really, but I was just trying so hard to keep Jeremy and Brendan behind me. What a sensational race meeting!”
It was a stirring performance by Giles, who was only third in the individual standings after race three behind Melbourne’s Cameron Donald (Suzuki XR69) and McWilliams. Donald’s bike then expired on lap two of race four – “it vibrated and then went pop” — leaving only Giles and McWilliams in a two-way hunt for top honours.
Giles and McWilliams now ‘share’ the Ken Wootton Trophy as the highest individual point scorers in the International Challenge, with the former winning it for the second time and McWilliams the third.
McWilliams said: “In my whole career, I don’t think I’ve ridden harder than I did in that last race. I was trying to get away, but when I saw Gilesy beating his chest on the grid I knew it was going to be game on. I put everything on the line, and to be honest, I wasn’t expecting the ferocity of racing out there.
“I’d like to thank the organisers for letting me share the spoils with Shawn — it’s nice to be given something in return for all the effort we put in.
“I’d like to thank the British team for another massive effort. It was another great weekend, producing some of the best racing imaginable. I love the place and I love the circuit.”
Giles went 3-3-2-1 across the four races, with McWilliams producing a 1-1-4-3 scorecard. Roberts (6-4-3-2) was third overall in his first International Challenge ahead of Beau Beaton (Irving Vincent, 4-6-7-4), Isle of Man star John McGuinness (Harris F1, 7-8-8-7) and another UK rider, Mike Edwards (Harris F1, 8-9-9-6).
Despite his final race DNF, Donald still finished in eighth place overall by virtue of his impressive 2-2-1 results in the opening three races. Roberts set the fastest lap of the weekend – 1:37.104 in race two.
The laconic McGuinness was making his first appearance in the International Challenge, and was suitably impressed.
“I underestimated how fast the racing is around here, doing 37s on bikes that are 30 years old,” he said. “I was crunching my plums in that last race trying to keep up, and it was mega enjoyable.
“I have been welcomed by everyone, the atmosphere has been superb, and it just has been an amazing experience all round. I certainly hope to return in 2015.”
The highest placed overall finisher for the New Zealand team was Damien Kavney (XR69) in 15th overall, and for America it was Rob Mesa (Yamaha TZ750) in 16th.
Australia’s depth was again its trump card in the International Challenge, although its defence got off to a shaky start in race one when three of its top liners struck trouble: ‘Mr Superbike’ Rob Phillis (XR69) crashed at the hayshed (turn seven); Malcolm Campbell (Honda RS) laboured into 28th with a slipping clutch; and 2011 top point-scorer Steve Martin (Katana) retired at mid-point with ignition problems.
Phillis’ crash was terminal, with his machine too badly damaged to be wheeled back into the pits – let alone repaired. Martin and Campbell regrouped to complete the final three races, as Australia’s depth eventually told the story.
The Island Classic was again a massively popular event, with the vast pit complex bursting at the seams as 340 riders took the reins of 490 motorcycles around the classic grand prix circuit, in classes ranging from pre-war to period 6 (up to 1990).
The winner of the Phil Irving Perpetual Trophy, awarded to the rider who accumulates the highest amount of points outside of the International Challenge, was Murray Seabrook, who clean swept the 250cc Classic and 250cc Post Classic classes. It is Seabrook’s first Phil Irving Trophy, joining illustrious names such as Wayne Gardner and Donald.
All class winners:
250 Classic – Murray Seabrook, Honda
350 Classic – Rod Tingate, Norton Manx
500 Classic – Jack Wright, Norton Manx
Unlimited Classic – David Woolsey, Triton
Sidecar Classic — Bruce Marston/Graham Marston, Harley-Davidson
125 Post Classic – Graeme Lawrence, Yamaha
250 Post Classic – Murray Seabrook, Yamaha
350 Post Classic – Glenn Hindle, Maxton
500 Post Classic – David Johnson, Paton
Unlimited Post Classic – Dean Oughtred, Honda
Sidecar Post Classic – John Clancy/Chrissie Clancy, Honda
125 Forgotten Era – Stephen Kairl, Honda
250 Forgotten Era – Grant Boxhall, Yam aha
350 Forgotten Era – Glenn Hindle, Yamaha
500 Forgotten Era – Mitchell Mulligan
Unlimited Forgotten Era Premier Class – Scott Webster
Unlimited Forgotten Era Minor Class – Bernie Leen
Sidecar Forgotten Era – Bruce Collins/Peter DeAngelis, Yamaha
125 New Era – Robert Day, Honda
250 New Era – Simon Dickson, Honda
Sidecar New Era – Wade Boyd/Christine Blunck, Suzuki
Period 6 Formula 750 – Scott Campbell, Honda
Period 6 Formula 1300 – Ryan Taylor, Kawasaki
Tahbilk International Challenge- final points
1 Australia 692
2 United Kingdom 617
3 New Zealand 367
4 America 341
Tahbilk International Challenge – individual results
=1 Shawn Giles, Australia, 155
=1 Jeremy McWilliams, UK155
3 Brendan Roberts, Australia, 149
4 Beau Beaton, Australia, 143
5 John McGuinness, UK, 134
6 Mike Edwards, UK, 132
7 Michael Dibb, Australia, 137
8 Cameron Donald, Australia, 118
9 Gary Johnson, UK, 108
10 Steve Martin, Australia, 105