From the Blog

Island Classic Report Pt2

Team USA Captain, Dave Cru$$ell about to go out for Race 1. Head wrench, Mike Studinski (TZMike) looks on.

The first few races of the weekend had already been concluded on Friday afternoon in the cool and all was in readiness for IC Race 1on Saturday morning. Morris, as noted, was on pole and the top American rider, Jason Pridmore on Ralphie Hudson’s bike was starting from the 2nd row. Unfortunately, Jason jumped the start and was handed a 10 second penalty. Nevertheless, he raced on and was rushing back onto the tail of the leaders when it all went wrong in T11. Several reasons for the accident have been put forward including a patch of oil on the circuit. I am sure this is not the case as Jason was the only rider to fall. Watching from the top of the pit garage above the Team USA pit it seemed to me that Jason was pushing extra hard and just picked up the throttle a fraction early on the entrance to the second part of the corner.

In any event, the result was catastrophic. The bike lurched, high-sided Jason over the bars and flung him onto the track. That was bad enough but Beau Beaton on the Irving Vincent, travelling close behind Jason, was cramped for room and couldn’t help but run over either Jason or his bike, there is some dispute about this also. I think he hit the bike because the black #86 was launched high into the air and performed a sickening series of rolls before crashing back to the ground. Amazingly all the other riders avoided the carnage but both crashed riders lay, unmoving, in the gravel trap on the outside of the corner. Despite what was said over race commentary, I felt that the medical vehicle was very slow to react and then to reach the stricken riders, the red flag having been quickly shown at the S/F line and then at all marshall points.

Once the dust had settled and the riders had been brought back to the Medical Centre the damage was a broken tib/Fib and a possible broken shoulder for Pridmore and a probable spinal injury as well as other fractures for Beaton. Of most concern was that Beau had been solidly knocked unconscious and took several minutes to come to. In time both were stabilised and taken to hospital in Melbourne by ambulance and Race 1 was rerun.

Morris won the race easily making it a great Australia Day for him, his team and the fiercely partisan Aussie spectators. As well as losing Pridmore from the race (and the rest of the meeting), Team USA lost Steve Rapp with another crash due to throttle cable woes. It wasn’t looking good for the Americans. Thankfully, Hayes stepped up to the plate and just missed the podium. Morris backed up to win Race 2 ahead of a resurgent TBR team of Steve Martin and Shaun Giles, proving that there is still plenty of life left in the Katanas (“true” superbikes in the eyes of many) and that you didn’t have to have an illegal Yamaha engine to win.

Sunday’s two races proved that you have to keep pitching. Morris was having some gearbox issues in Race 2 but they became much worse in Race 3 when he lost 4th gear altogether. Despite this he led onto the straight for the last time only to be swamped by three better accelerating bikes in the run to the line. Martin took a popular win and Morris hung onto a slender lead in the Individual points tally. Hayes did well to nurse the #4 bike home after a plug lead came off mid-race to leave the bike running on 3. For Steve Rapp it was another miserable race, retiring with a serious oil leak from the top end.

It was all to play for in Race 4 but Morris’s gearbox lost 3rd gear as well leaving him vulnerable. He had to finish in front of Steve Martin to win the trophy but, as the race went on, he slipped further back to finish 9th. Down but not disgraced. On the Team USA side it was a vintage ride by Hayes who cruised to an easy victory, the first for an American since the inception of the International Challenge. Understandably, the likeable Yanks celebrated like they had won overall and who can blame them?

(l-r) Dave Crussell, Josh Hayes, Larry Cook.

Aussie team captain, Rex Wolfenden, was one of the first to congratulate Hayes

Morris’s 9th place meant that he lost the battle for the individual trophy by 2 points to Steve Martin who had his best IC meeting in years. A popular win. Australia won the team’s trophy from Team USA who had by far and away their best meeting in the 8 years that I have been attending the meetings. If Team GB had been there they probably would have been 3rd but much closer, but the Poms weren’t there and few can begrudge the Yanks their moment in the sun.

The Phil Irving Perpetual Trophy for the highest individual point score of the meeting was shared by three riders this year, all three of them getting a perfect score. Levi Day scored 8 wins from 8 starts and the awesome Team Angel pairing of Tom Bramich and Lachlan Hill also won all of their 8 races each. Astonishing.

So it was time to pack up and say farewell to a lot of friends who I wontt see now for another 12 months. Tomorrow some reflections on the meeting as a whole as well as the story of our trip home.