Troy Corser and Colin Ed­wards were the head­line act at the 25th an­niver­sary of the In­ter­na­tional Is­land Clas­sic, but Aussie Davo Johnso on stole cen­tre stage and the party’s sil­verw ware. He e tore the heart out of Team UK with four gi­ant-killing rides to put Aus­tralia back on to op after three years in the wilder­ness. Th en he prised Jeremy Mcwilliams’ grip off th he Ken Woot­ton tro­phy he has made his ow wn in re­cent years to top the in­di­vid­ual rider’s s tally by a point. Aus stralia’s 31-point vic­tory was wellde­serv ved after a gut-wrench­ing 11-point loss last yea ar. Even Team UK chief Roger Win­field de­scrib bed the re­sult as: “Good for the event. “Dav vo was magic,” said Win­field: “He rode a blinde er.” MCW Wil­liams, Team UK’S rock of sta­bil­ity, gave a bru­tally hon­est as­sess­ment of John­son’s per­for­mance: “He made us look silly in Race Three.” John­son’s four-sec­ond run­away win was the big­gest mar­gin in an In­ter­na­tional Chal­lenge race for sev­eral years. And this was on a lower-spec race bike than any of Team UK’S fron­trun­ners. John­son’s bike was a seven-year-old XR69 Suzuki while Mcwilliams’ Yamaha Fj1200-pow­ered ver­sion was one of Team UK’S most re­cent ma­chines. Back­ing up John­son’s dom­i­nance was some heroic rides from for­mer World Su­per­bike cham­pion Corser. De­spite qual­i­fy­ing down the grid Corser stormed through in all four races to end up equal third with fel­low team rider Paul Byrne in the in­di­vid­ual rid­ers points tally. Mean­while Amer­i­can World Su­per­bike cham­pion and for­mer Mo­togp racer Ed­wards over­came mi­nor ma­chine is­sues to fin­ish strongly in all four races and bag eighth in the points.

His ef­fort cat­a­pulted Team USA to 465 points and into third place ahead of Team New Zealand. The Amer­i­cans fin­ished 189 points be­hind Team UK but this doesn’t tell the true story. If not for two ma­jor en­gine blow-ups from star rid­ers Ja­son Prid­more and Zake Zemke, they would have been right up there in the fi­nal show­down. With just four six-lap races and min­i­mum prac­tice and qual­i­fy­ing ses­sions, the In­ter­na­tional Chal­lenge is mo­tor­cy­cling’s equiv­a­lent of cricket’s T20 com­pe­ti­tion. Suc­cess re­lies on tal­ent, a fear­less be­lief that you can win and a lit­tle bit of luck. Davo John­son, the ‘gun for hire’ who helped turned Nor­ton’s un­der-per­form­ing Isle of Man TT ef­fort into a gen­uine 131mph con­tender, brought his com­plete set of skills to Phillip Is­land. Here’s how the week­end un­folded.


The two stars of the show ar­rived at this poker game with not a lot of cards up their sleeves. “The first time I’d even heard this bike run­ning was yes­ter­day,” said Corser as he pre­pared for Fri­day’s two short qual­i­fy­ing ses­sions on Rex Wolfenden’s Honda-pow­ered Har­ris F1. “My only test­ing was two laps at Wil­low Springs,” said Ed­wards of the aborted at­tempt to get ac­quainted with his Hy­per-cy­cle-built, Yamaha Fj1200-pow­ered XR69 replica. He’d flown from Texas to Cal­i­for­nia for noth­ing when the bike failed. Nei­ther was com­fort­able on their ma­chines and suf­fered the same is­sues: a stiff throt­tle ac­tion and dif­fi­culty with a notchy gear change link­age on bulky, un­fa­mil­iar ma­chines built for hobby rac­ing. Wel­come to clas­sic rac­ing. While Corser and Ed­wards strug­gled, Team UK cir­cu­lated in groups, drag­ging their new star mem­bers Dan Lin­foot, Michael Rut­ter and Lee John­ston up to pace. None of this trio had ever seen Phillip Is­land be­fore. Mean­while Davo John­son clev­erly left them alone and found an empty space on the track, qui­etly build­ing up speed un­til a last lap lunge pushed Jeremy Mcwilliams off his ac­cus­tomed pole po­si­tion. Af­ter­wards Corser was of­fered a Plan B by Wolfenden, who man­aged to get ri­val teams to al­low his star to up­date to a later Pe­riod 6 FJ1200 Yamaha. They agreed be­cause it had no more power than their For­got­ten Era ma­chines, which run sim­i­lar en­gines. Ed­wards had no such op­tion avail­able but sol­diered on with his typ­i­cal sense of op­ti­mism. “It is what it is,” he drawled. The stage was set.

Race by race

You could feel the adrenalin from the pit wall as Satur­day’s first race grid formed. The front row of John­son, Mcwilliams and Davo’s Tom Der­mody Mo­tor­sport team-mate Paul Byrne hun­kered down be­hind their fair­ings. Be­hind them were Team UK’S Glen Richards, last year’s sen­sa­tion Pe­ter Hick­man, and Colin Ed­wards. The third row was Team USA’S Prid­more and Team UK’S Lin­foot and Rut­ter. The fourth row was Irv­ing Vin­cent racer Beau Beaton, Team USA’S Zemke and Corser. In a per­fect start Davo ap­peared to clear off but Mcwilliams did his usual around-the­out­side move at Turn One. But he hadn’t reck­oned on Corser, who shot through the grid into sec­ond. “Troy came through like a bal­lis­tic mis­sile,” he said later. “I thought he’d go straight through and we’d meet up again on the other side of Turn Two.” It took two laps for Mcwilliams to slip­stream Corser down the main straight at 171.5mph, who was then over­taken by Hick­man. Sadly for Team UK, Hick­man struck gearchange is­sues that at one stage had him rid­ing through the Turn Four hair­pin in fourth gear. He was lucky to fin­ish the race in ninth, bring­ing home valu­able points. Prid­more was also a man on a mis­sion, slic­ing his way up through to the front trio, set­ting the fastest lap in the process. As Corser slipped back to fifth, Mcwilliams tried to re­peat his main-straight mug­ging act on John­son, but the South Aus­tralian held him off. It wasn’t un­til Lukey Heights that Mcwilliams could get the ad­van­tage and he held the lead to the che­quered flag. Later John­son re­vealed that tyre pres­sure is­sues had slowed him at the vi­tal time, a prob­lem that also blighted Corser, who came home in sixth place. Third was Glen Richards, who had sur­vived a scary loss of brakes to limp home. Fourth was Prid­more, shap­ing as a real threat to the fron­trun­ners, and Byrne was fifth. Ed­wards fin­ished back in 13th after show­ing early speed. So it was Team UK and Aus­tralia tied on points with Team USA sud­denly look­ing ca­pa­ble of bring­ing the fight to both. Race Two soon turned into the Davo and Jezza show, a game of bluff, block passes and balls-out slip­stream­ing. Be­hind them came one of those good old Nineties Su­per­bike freight trains, with Corser run­ning in third and Ed­wards in sixth look­ing for a way through. Five bikes to­gether sud­denly be­came seven, while up front Mcwilliams very nearly ended his per­fect his­tory of race fin­ishes on the exit from Turn Four on the fi­nal lap. Slowed by his po­ten­tial high­side and an en­gine that sud­denly lost power at Siberia but chimed back into life at the Hayshed, Mcwilliams was even­tu­ally over­taken for sec­ond by Richards. When the smoke cleared from the freight train the fin­ish­ing or­der was Prid­more, Ed­wards and Corser, with Beaton far­ther back fol­lowed by Zemke, Steve Martin and Lin­foot. Aus­tralia were only six points ahead of Team UK with Team USA just 47 points adrift. There would be no plain sail­ing for the three top teams in Race Three. An­other day, an­other set of chal­lenges dawned on Sun­day. Rel­a­tively mild weather was quickly turn­ing to fur­nace-like heat for the fi­nal day’s rac­ing. As the track tem­per­a­tures soared, the teams formed for Race Three. Corser’s tem­per­a­ture hit the red­line as he was forced to start from pit­lane, de­spite ar­riv­ing at the exit as the rest of the grid was still in sight around the South­ern Loop. When the race started he swept through the cones onto the main straight, risk­ing ma­jor ret­ri­bu­tion from the of­fi­cials. “It was way too dan­ger­ous and bumpy to go full noise down the full length of pit exit so I did what I thought was right for the cir­cum­stances,” he said later. Corser fine-tuned his anger into con­trolled race ag­gres­sion, carv­ing his way up to thir­teenth within two laps and even­tu­ally fin­ished an amaz­ing eighth place and record­ing the sec­ond fastest lap of the race.

Mean­while up front John­son was equally im­pres­sive. He turned a dream start into dom­i­nance of the en­tire race after set­ting the fastest lap on his sec­ond cir­cuit. Mcwilliams was nav­i­gat­ing un­char­tered wa­ters. First he had to shake off Ed­wards, who had a flier of a start. Then he was faced with the dilemma of try­ing to catch and over­take John­son or set­tle for sec­ond and bag valu­able team points. “Davo put the ham­mer down,” he said later. “Then Colin came past rid­ing the wheels off that thing. I’m not ly­ing when I say I had to use ev­ery­thing I knew about this cir­cuit to get past him. “Then I had to weigh up the dif­fer­ences with Davo. I re­ally needed it to be a 12-lap race to give me op­tions.” It was a spooky ride for John­son. “I kept hear­ing noise be­hind me and was think­ing Jeremy was catch­ing me,” he said. “I looked over my shoul­der and could see he was way back but I could still hear that noise.” As John­son blasted home over four sec­onds ahead of Mcwilliams all hell broke loose be­hind them. Prid­more was run­ning in third when his en­gine blew on the fi­nal lap. He cov­ered the fol­low­ing rid­ers in oil, in­clud­ing Ed­wards, who had now com­pleted his bap­tism of vin­tage rac­ing. Byrne fin­ished third, ahead of Richards, Lin­foot and a hard-charg­ing Beaton. Aus­tralia were lead­ing Team UK by seven points but Team USA had dropped right out of con­tention with Zemke also re­tir­ing with a bro­ken en­gine. Race Four was held in a caul­dron with track

tem­per­a­tures over 60C, as hot as it gets on the is­land. Of­fi­cials pushed Corser back an­other two rows on the grid as pun­ish­ment for his track short­cut in the pre­vi­ous race. This only in­spired him to greater heights, carv­ing his way up to fourth on lap three, then third. Even­tu­ally he fin­ished fifth. “If I feel com­fort­able on a mo­tor­cy­cle I can go okay,” he said later with a wry smile and sweat pour­ing off him. Up front it be­came an­other John­son-jezza duel. Davo led for the first three laps be­fore Mcwilliams caught him. But get­ting past was an­other mat­ter. Un­able to pres­sure him into a mis­take at Siberia or Lukey Heights, Mcwilliams blasted past down the main straight in yet an­other slip­stream ef­fort on a bike with a 6mph speed ad­van­tage. Hick­man was a lonely third with Lin­foot dis­patch­ing Corser for third. Aussies Byrnes and Shawn Giles fol­lowed ahead of Rut­ter. Had the Aussies done enough to win the Chal­lenge back? An anx­ious wait while of­fi­cials did their sums re­sulted in the news that the Aussies were back on top.

Fire in the eyes as Davo John­son clears off in Race Three to win by over four sec­onds.

The Team UK brains trust of Jeremy Mcwilliams and Roger Win­field in con­sul­ta­tion with Dan Lin­foot. Some teams burnt the mid­night oil on en­gine re­builds. Paul Byrne re­flects on a solid week­end where he helped Aus­tralia to vic­tory by ty­ing on points with Troy Corser.

Ross Gra aham (wear­ing cap) has boug­ght Kiwi leg­end Trevor Di­is­combe’s TZ350 to give it an­nother lease on life in clas­sic c rac­ing.

Aus­tralia Day tyre bar­be­cue by Troy Corser (No 11), Davo John­son and Paul Byrne (No 52). Be­low: No 99 Jeremy Mcwilliams on a charge. No 60 Pe­ter Hick­man rode this hard all week­end.

Davo John­son (No 3) leads a freight train of rid­ers in­clud­ing Mcwilliams (No 99), Glen Richards (No 75) and Beau Beaton (No 186). Colin Ed­wards (No 5) had a bru­tal bap­tism in clas­sic rac­ing. Ro­mano Colombo demon­strates the John Sur­tees win­ning MV 500/4 (No 5/42).

Side­car No 88 Amer­i­cans Wade Boyd and Christine Blunck raced a rare Nor­ton Ro­tary.

It’s a demo, not a race, but Ago gets in­volved in an MV duel.

Fans also flocked to the is­land to see the most suc­cess­ful GP mo­tor­cy­cle racer of all time, Gi­a­como Agos­tini, who trav­elled from Italy with four fa­mous MV Agus­tas. The 75-year-old leg­end pa­raded his favourite MV, the orig­i­nal four-cylin­der 350cc ma­chine of his 1972 and 73 ti­tles. “I like peo­ple to hear the mu­sic of the en­gine,” he said. No 16 Hasse Gustafson gave Brook Henry’s new Ri­torno its track de­but; No 16 in pit­lane with Brook Henry and Gustafson; Ago en­joyed the meet­ing; Side­car No 4 Bruce Collins and Pe­ter Dean­ge­lis on their LCR Honda; No 186 Beau Beaton took the awe­some Irv­ing Vin­cent to 7th in the points; No 43 Ja­son Prid­more was sim­ply stun­ning; No 5 Texas Tor­nado Colin Ed­wards; No 99 Mcwilliams; No 24 Mick John­ston 1987 Du­cati TTF1 984cc.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.