News 27 Jan 2012

Ken Wootton International Perpetual Trophy for Island Classic

In 2011, Australian motorcycle journalism was dealt a cruel hand when it lost one of its greats, Ken Wootton, who passed away while on holidays in Europe.

This weekend at the 19th AMCN International Island Classic for historic bikes, the Phillip Island Grand Prix circuit will honour Ken, with the inauguration of the ‘Ken Wootton International Perpetual Trophy’ – awarded to the highest individual point-scorer in the Tahbilk International Challenge.

Put simply, Ken was a beacon of the industry, possessing a work ethic, knowledge and passion for motorcycling that had no bounds, which was clearly in evidence during his long tenure as editor of fortnightly bible, Australian Motorcycle News.

He loved motorcycle competition of all persuasions, but road racing was his real love – especially historics – and his legacy to the Island Classic is immeasurable.

It’s not stretching the truth to suggest that Ken practically owned the intellectual rights to the Island Classic, and he took great pride in seeing it become the third biggest road racing meeting in Australia behind MotoGP and World Superbikes.

And he loved the social aspect of the occasion – some of his antics at the event welcome dinners, where he stole the show with his sharp wit and self-deprecating nature, became the stuff of legend.

Two riders who will be vying for the Ken Wootton trophy are Australia’s Steve Martin and Northern Ireland’s Jeremy McWilliams, the defending champion.

Martin was clearly the fastest rider at Phillip Island in 2011 – he set a new lap record to underline his searing pace – and won three of the four races in style, but was a non-finisher in the other.

With the event’s tight point-scoring system that put him out of contention for individual honours, paving the way for the ultra-consistent McWilliams to claim the prize just ahead of Australia’s Cam Donald.

But Martin, a former Australian Superbike and world endurance champion, wasn’t too despondent.

“To be honest I was extremely happy with what we achieved – a new lap record and a win in every race that we finished,” said Martin. “And in the end Australia won (the teams’ component) and that’s what counts to me at the end of the day.

“The best thing Jeremy did was beat me to pole position, as that got me fired up for the races! The one thing I have learnt over 20-plus years of racing though is never underestimate a competitor, and McWilliams is certainly at the top of my hit list this year.”

Martin has a ‘new’ 1981 model Suzuki Katana for the 2012 International Challenge, which is lighter and more powerful than the bike he rode last year.

“In theory it should be faster,” said Martin. “We hope to give the bike a quick run before the event — it hasn’t turned a wheel yet — just to iron the bugs out. Pirelli has given me a new softer slick for the event so fingers crossed.”

But McWilliams, who coincidentally runs the same #99 as Martin, can never be underestimated around Phillip Island, a circuit where he has claimed pole position in three world championship grands prix.

“I love the Island circuit like many riders because it’s unique,” said McWilliams, who has one 250 GP victory to his name. “There’s nowhere else in the world that has such a fast combination of left and right-hand turns, and I tend to prefer high-speed circuits.”

“And there’s an atmosphere at the Island Classic, camaraderie among the teams and obviously the usual rivalry which is as competitive as any international in the world. Fans can walk into the pits, chat and banter and this is something pretty unique, that made it pretty special.”

Martin and McWilliams will join a capacity grid of riders from Australia, United Kingdom, New Zealand, France and America for the 2012 Tahbilk International Challenge.

While racing for individual points, the field will be further focussed on their team performance as the 13 member squads from Australia, the UK and the ‘World 13’ entry race for the Tahbilk crown.

For more information and bookings, visit or contact the circuit on (03) 5952 2710.