News 19 Jan 2012

Island Classic a truly international affair for next weekend's event

Attention will be focussed on the headline act, the Tahbilk International Challenge, at next weekend’s 19th AMCN International Island Classic at Phillip Island.

A four-race square off between teams from Australia, the UK and a ‘World 13’ entry, the field is packed with blue-chip talent, led by former 500GP and 250GP star, the UK’s Jeremy McWilliams and 2009 world endurance champion, Australia’s Steve Martin.

A quick glance over the entry list upholds the axiom that ‘once a racer always a racer,’ with illustrious names of the past such as Shawn Giles, Rob Phillis, Malcolm Campbell, Barry Ditchburn and John Pace all set to compete, alongside modern day flyers such as Cameron Donald and Irishman Ryan Farquhar

McWilliams, who started the 2000 and 2002 MotoGP races at Phillip Island from pole position, was the leading individual point-scorer in the 2011 International Challenge, just pipping Donald after four colossal scraps.

But the team’s crown was again Australia’s, with the locals victorious for the fourth successive year to maintain an unbeaten record against the United Kingdom and the World 13.

Martin enjoys the team element of the International Challenge, added to his very pure motive for competing: he just loves 1980s Superbikes.

“I guess the first bikes I ever saw racing were these 80 model Superbikes, and I still remember the first time I ever saw a Katana I pretty much wet myself,” said Martin.

“To be able to race these bikes is one reason but also to be able to be part of a team racing to battle against the Kiwis, Poms and the rest of the world, well it’s something to be proud of.

“As for beating my heroes: mixed emotions. As an example I remember ‘Wally’ racing, I remember Robbie back when they were the best and believe me they were world class. They have nothing to prove to anybody and I secretly hope if anybody can beat me it’s them.”

Joining Martin (Suzuki Katana) in the Australian team to be captained by Rex Wolfenden, for the International Challenge feature races are Campbell on the Honda CB1100R, former world Superbike No. 3 Phillis (Katana), Donald (Suzuki XR69), Beau Beaton (Irving Vincent), Giles (Katana) and multiple Castrol 6-Hour runner-up John Pace (Katana).

The international challengers are headed by McWilliams, Farquhar (both Harris F1) and Barry Ditchburn, who will all ride for the UK.

Riding captain of the UK team, Aussie-based expatriate Keith Higgs, believes his team is cherry ripe for a sizzling performance.

In 2011, the UK team produced its best ever International Challenge performance, finishing 347pts behind the Australians.

The final team, the World 13, is an amalgam of riders from Australia, New Zealand, France and America. The captain will be Kevin Grey, who says his job has the “potential to be a bit like herding cats”.

“However, we are all linked by that common thread that seems to run through all bike racers worldwide: we love to eat sleep, talk and think bikes,” continued Grey, who will ride his Suzuki McIntosh in the International Challenge.

Included in the World 13 squad are US riders of calibre Ed Haazer (Suzuki Katana) from California and Nevada’s James McKay (Suzuki GS1000S) and from France, previous Island Classic competitor, Paul Remaud aboard a Suzuki GSX 1100.

Visit for further information and ticketing details.