From the Blog

How classic will the Classic be?

It’s a little less than a month till the 26th Island Classic at Phillip Island. I seriously considered giving it a miss in January for a whole number of reasons but I’m going again. Regardless of all the other considerations, it’s the only chance that I get to see many, many friends in the racing game, including overseas visitors and my good friends at MotoPod have already organised my media accreditation for which I am always grateful.

Having said all that, though, I have been pondering a lot of late just what the meeting will be like without the presence of Roger Winfield’s Team GB. Rumours abound that at least Jeremy McWilliams will be coming but quite how he will be able to compete in the International challenge without a full team of riders around him is a bit of a mystery.

Definitely confirmed are the Australian team and a much-strengthened Team USA. Here are the riding rosters for both of these teams.

Team USA.

  • Wade Boyd – Moto Guzzi Le Mans – 1988
  • David Crussell – Yamaha TZ750 – 1978
  • Michael Gilbert – Yamaha FJ1100 – 1983
  • Jorge Guerrero – Suzuki XR69 – 1982
  • Joshua Hayes – Yamaha FJ – 1983
  • Bruce Lind – Yamaha TZ750 – 1975
  • Eric Lindauer – Kawasaki KZ – 1980
  • Barrett Long – Kawasaki Harris – 1982
  • Martin Morrison – Suzuki RGB500 MK7 – 1982
  • Larry Pegram – Yamaha FJ1100 – 1983
  • Joe Pethoud – Yamaha Harris F1 – 1984
  • Jason Pridmore – Yamaha FJ1200 – 1983
  • Dale Quarterley – Suzuki XR69 – 1984
  • Steve Rapp – Yamaha – CMR FJ 1100
  • Robert Ruwoldt – Harris Kawasaki – 1980
  • Rennie Scaysbrook – Suzuki GSX1100 XR69 – 1980

Now you don’t need to be an expert to figure that the Yanks are coming loaded for bear. 7 of the bikes will be provided by Mojo Yamaha, Dave Crussell’s outfit and they include 5 CMR Yamahas and 2 TZ750’s.

Technical support from Mr CMR himself  Dennis Curtis, and mechanical oversight by Joe Cook means that the team will no longer have to rely on the riders and a couple of mechanics to keep focussed. And the presence of several ex-AMA pro racing regulars from not that long ago means that the riding strength is also greatly augmented. Aussie Rennie Scaysbrook who now resides in the USA is a member of the team too (not sure how I feel about that). Some of the names are not familiar to me but that doesn’t mean anything really. I’m really looking forward to seeing how Jorge L Guerrero Jr goes. I met him at Cresson in 2015 and he’s a real hot-shot. He’ll be riding a bike that is a sentimental favourite for me. Owned by my good friend, Paul Schaeffer and prepared and fettled by Ottis Lance and David Hirsch, this all-Texas effort could spring a few surprises.

Missing from the team is perennial favourite Ralph Hudson (though Ralphie will probably be coming but just riding his TD2 in the P4 races) and, Colin Edwards who was probably asking for too much money 🙂 I don’t know if Carry Andrew will be there to race in the P5 events but I hope so. The Hypercycle boss who built Edwards’s 2018 bike is a cool guy.

Also present though not riding in the International Challenge events is my good friend, Wade Boyd. Wade will be just racing solo next year, his usual sidecar passenger, wife, Christine Blunck, has family duties in San Francisco and won’t be making the journey. I am looking forward to seeing Wade duelling with Aussie Moto Guzzi legend, Wayne Gow.

If ever the Americans had a chance of lifting the overall trophy, 2019 is it. And, regardless of the fact that they will not have to beat Team GB to do so, a win is a win and they will take it gladly if it comes along.

However, they have a massive hurdle to overcome, Team Australia. Still high on their epic victory over Team GB in 2019, the Aussies have strengthened their team even further and will be a formidable outfit. Here is the local riding roster.

  • Captain: Rex Wolfenden
  • David Johnson – Suzuki XR69 – 1982 – 1294cc
  • Shawn Giles – Suzuki Katana – 1982 – 1294cc
  • Steve Martin – Suzuki Katana – 1982 – 1294cc
  • Beau Beaton – Irving Vincent – 1982 – 1300cc
  • Cam Donald – Irving Vincent – 1982 – 1300cc
  • Jed Metcher – T-Rex Racing Honda Harris F1 – 1982 – 1150cc
  • Dean Oughtred – Suzuki GSX1100S Katana – 1982 – 1260cc
  • Aaron Morris – Suzuki Katana – 1982 – 1294cc
  • Paul Byrne – Suzuki XR69 – 1982 – 1294cc
  • Craig Ditchburn – TZ 750 Yamaha – 1982 – 750cc
  • Scott Webster – Suzuki XR69 – 1982 – 1200cc

On paper, that lot look unbeatable and, with the advantage of local support and engineering facilities on-tap in Melbourne, they seem to have it all going for them. Remember last year when the two Hondas of Rex Wolfenden gave trouble in practice? A quick trip back to Melbourne to collect the “spare” Yamaha bike and Troy Corser was able to lead the Aussie team to victory still. No Troy Corser for 2019 but it is still a spectacular team. Oh, and that Katana being ridden by Aaron Morris is the ex-Shaun Giles thing and it’s a weapon.

And, of course, we will also have Team NZ. I have made my feelings known already over PI Operations failure to invite Team Ireland back in 2018, evidently the many complaints about this omission have fallen on deaf ears. Team NZ are destined to fill the third step on the podium for one very significant reason. The Kiwis have stuck to the letter AND the spirit of the IC regulations and have consistently brought a team of bikes that conform to the P5 regulations, which is how the event was originally intended. I am sure that there are enough riders and teams who COULD build the one-event rocket ships that everyone else is running and they could probably afford it, too, but big props to the Kiwis for standing true to their principles.

But all of this begs the question, has the IC “jumped the shark”. In my opinion it has. The Americans have run some “IC specifications” races in their AHMRA events this year but the riders and the organisation are still far more heavily in the Team NZ camp than they are in the “win with bikes that are anything but legal P5 machines” camp.

In my opinion the interest in building bikes that can only be raced at a handful of events, at enormous cost, will now start to wane. The IC should start to return to its roots and allow and encourage the average P5 competitor back into the game. At the moment, the average rider faces enormous financial disincentives to run at PI and the dropping entry levels at the event (and rising entry numbers at the Sheene at Eastern Creek clearly illustrates this.

Don’t get me wrong, the IC is still a hoot and, for punters like me who go as much for the people and the bikes as they do for the actual racing, it’s still an essential event on the calendar. But will 2019 be a classic? Possibly, but, if it is, it will be the last one.

As usual, answers and comments on a postcard and I am happy for you to prove me wrong as always.

Oh, and a very sad Postscript.

A couple of weeks ago, Mike Murray, one of the Aussie guys who helped out with the wrenches for Team GB each IC meeting, was killed in an motorcycling accident. Mike was a quiet and modest man and had a smile for everyone. He owned an enviable collection of immaculate TZ Yamahas, including a TZ700 and also a Harris Suzuki that he bought from Roger Winfield.

Pictured here with a mutual good friend, Ian Hopkins, the IC meeting won’t quite be the same without Mike. RIP.