Hayes and Phillis split race wins on day one of racing.
Only three points separate Australia and Team America after day one of racing in the three-nation International Challenge at the Island Classic, with California’s multi-AMA champ Josh Hayes scoring victory in race one and Melbourne’s Alex Phillis winning race two.
Aboard his 1980 Suzuki 1260, 26-year-old Phillis was the player of the day, taking second in race one and winning race two to lead the Ken Wootton Memorial Trophy battle on 79 points – with Melbourne’s Jed Metcher (Yamaha) clocking 3-2 finishes to finish second overall on 77 points.
American gun Hayes just a point behind with his race one victory and a fifth place in race two aboard the Mojo Yamaha. Other solid performances came from America’s Larry Pegram (4-3), Michael Gilbert(7-6), Taylor Knapp (8-9) and Jordan Szoke (11-8) to bolster the US tally.
Team Australia also saw good point hauls for 2019 winner, Steve Martin (5-4) and Beau Beaton(9-11). 2018 winner and Australian hope, Adelaide’s David Johnson, struggled with brake problems to return a sixth in race one but retired to the pits in race two.
The UK team saw Brendan Wilson lead the British charge. He sits in 12th position overall with compatriot Roger Gunn, the second best performer, in 15th with the team amassing 213 points overall.
International Challenge action did not start so well when a lap one crash at Southern Loop saw UK riders Michael Neeves and Brendan Wilson and Australia’s Scott Webster, John Allen and Craig Ditchburn go down, with Ditchburn’s 1978 Yamaha on fire.
The race was red-flagged, and only Wilson managed to make the restart while the others retreated to the pits for hasty repairs to machinery in an effort to make race two.
At the restart it was Phillis who led the field with locals Metcher and Martin, but Hayes showed his class from the word go. Despite starting from position seven after engine issues in qualifying, he was sitting fifth by the end of lap one and bearing down on the front-runners.
By lap two he was in second and then it became a battle between the young Phillis and the experienced Hayes, with the Californian taking the lead on lap four to the flag to pip the Aussie at the post. Behind was Metcher in third, Pegram in fourth, Martin in fifth and Johnson in sixth.
In race two, Phillis took charge at the start, but the battle intensified mid-race with Metcher and Hayes both taking the lead before the American pulled a false neutral going into turn four and then ran off the track. Phillis took the race two flag in front of Metcher, with Martin third, Pegram fourth and Hayes fifth.
The International Challenge continues tomorrow with two six-lap races to determine the crown for best nation and individual competitors. Now in its 16th year, Australia has won the Challenge on 12 occasions and is the defending champion.