If you love bikes, there’s nothing closer to pure heaven than immersing yourself in a world of motorcycles, mechanics and memorabilia at the iconic historic event, the International Island Classic at Australia’s Phillip Island Grand Prix circuit.
Now in its 26th year, the Classic presented by Visit Phillip Island, hits the island this Australia Day long weekend from Friday to Sunday January 25-27, with 56 races on the agenda and tickets available at www.islandclassic.com.au or at the gate from Friday.
Celebrating a century of motorbikes, the Island Classic has over 450 bikes racing and on display from old Indians, Nortons and Vincents through to vintage Triumphs, Harleys and Ducatis. There’s six historic categories from pre-WW1 bikes through Vintage (1920-1945), Classic and Post Classic (from 1946 to 1972) and the more recent Forgotten Era and New Era classes fighting for class honours and the Phil Irving Perpetual Trophy.
INTERNATIONAL CHALLENGE – AUS VS TEAM USA VS NZ
They all race hard, but when it comes to the dog-eat-dog competition the focus is on the International Challenge. Now in its 15th year, the Challenge will see defending champion Australia take on the USA and New Zealand on bikes manufactured between 1973 and 1985, piloted by riders boasting loads of experience and exceptional talent.
Each team will feature the top 13 riders from their nominated squads based on qualifying times, contesting four, six-lap races over Saturday and Sunday and running MA approved fules, Roo 99 and Elf LMS, after federal legislation banning the use of AVGAS in Australian racing from 2019.
Australia has a top-notch team led by Adelaide’s David Johnson – the star of the 2018 campaign that saw the Aussies win back the International Challenge trophy from the UK after a three-year drought.
Also on the roster is Isle of Man winner Cameron Donald; world endurance champion, Melbourne’s Steve Martin; three-time Australian superbike champion and Island Classic champion Shawn Giles; and Coffs Harbour’s Beau Beaton who last year won the Phil Irving Trophy.
But the locals will need riders of this calibre, along with plenty of purpose, pace and guile, as the Americans and New Zealanders are returning in better shape than ever.
America – which alongside Australia was a pioneer of big-bore superbike racing in the late 1970s and early 1980s – has pulled in some extra big guns to assist Jason Pridmore in 2019: four-time AMA superbike champion Josh Hayes as well as Steve Rapp, Mark Miller, Larry Pegram and Dale Quarterley.
A late entry is the versatile Mark Miller, who is an old team mate of Australia’s Johnson, and has raced everything from Isle of Man to Macau Street Race to Pikes Peak. Aussie expatriate journalist Rennie Scaysbrook is also a part of the American team, which predominantly has a mix of oversized Yamaha FJ1100 four-strokes and TZ750 two-strokes at its disposal.
The Kiwis have capitalised on their long-term relationship with gun racer, Alex Phillis, and the Taupo-based Carl Cox Motorsport – the motorsport arm of international DJ Carl Cox – to strengthen their ranks. Cox brings with him three-time British superbike champion John Reynolds, ‘modern’ and classic racer Jay Lawrence, and Michael Neeves, the senior road tester at iconic UK publication MCN.
The Kiwis have also sought dispensation for two 1985 Suzuki GSX-Rs for the Carl Cox camp to run. One year outside the Island Classic eligibility, the two Suzukis will be subject to agreed performance restrictions- comprising of a reduction in RPM limit, an overall weight increase and a reduced rear tyre width to eliminate any possible traction advantage.
To be campaigned by Reynolds and Neeves, the duo’s performance will be counted in International Challenge points, but not in the tally for the Ken Wootton Perpetual Trophy that’s awarded to the rider with the highest individual points.
In a first for the International Challenge, the 2019 event will be filmed and post-produced into a two-hour television program set to be broadcast around the globe. Screen agreements have been reached with networks in Europe, UK, America, Asia, New Zealand and Australia. Locally, the event will be screened on Fox Sports and SBS, later in February.
The 26th International Island Classic, presented by Visit Phillip Island, is the perfect Australia Day getaway without breaking the bank. A three-day adult ticket for the January 25-27 event, is just $82 purchased in advance, and free for children 15 and under (accompanied by a full-paying adult). You can camp at the circuit for four nights for just over $20 per night (with kids once again free) which is a bargain in anyone’s language.
Add it up and you can have a four-day weekend away, with four nights of on-circuit camping, and three days entry to one of the world’s great historic bike meets for the grand total of just $164* per adult and you can bring your kids for free!
Tickets for the largest historic bike meet in the Southern Hemisphere, the 26th International Island Classic, presented by Visit Phillip Island, are available on islandclassic.com.au or at the gate.
*All prices quoted are advance tickets which end midday Wednesday, January 23, 2019. Buy advance and save. Gate ticket prices are additional.