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Australia names star-studded Island Classic team

 lrNZs Roger Gunn Strip

Australia names star-studded Island Classic team

NZ, UK and USA squads announced

Local hard charger Steve Martin is confident that Australia will more than meet the threat of a strengthened United Kingdom outfit - and against a backdrop of visitor-friendly rule changes - when the International Challenge teams’ trophy is held at the 2014 Australian Motorcycle News International Island Classic in Phillip Island from January 24-26.

Squads were announced today for the marquee event of the Classic, the Tahbilk International Challenge, featuring teams from Australia, the UK, the USA and New Zealand.

Martin is one of 12 riders in the Australian squad at the now-iconic historic motorcycle meeting, alongside such luminaries as Shawn Giles, Rob Phillis, Cam Donald, Malcolm Campbell and Beau Beaton, who all competed at the 2013 event.

But it wasn’t only the top-tier practitioners who helped Australia continue its unbeaten run in the 2013 Challenge - its extraordinary depth also played a vital role, as it has since the trophy was inaugurated back in 2005.

That ‘loophole’ has now been closed in 2014, with the winning country to be determined according to points accumulated by the top five riders in each country across the four six-lap races.  Previously, points – or a lack thereof – were awarded to all 10 riders in the team.

The rule changes will give the visiting teams, the United Kingdom, the Dave Crussell led US team and New Zealand under the helm of Kevin Grey, a real chance of winning in 2014.  This is especially true for the UK outfit which has been fortified with the inclusion of Isle of Man legend John McGuinness to compete alongside Jeremy McWilliams, the individual winner in two of the last three years, and fellow blue-chip talent Gary Johnson, Mike Edwards and Steve Brogan. McGuinness is a 20-time winner at the Isle of Man, second only to the incomparable Joey Dunlop.

Martin senses a UK storm is brewing, but he still believes the Aussies have too much class.

“The Poms keep on changing the rules until they win, so they’ll have to win eventually,” he said, tongue firmly in cheek. “I’m all for it. Bring them over, they can have the strongest team they want.  We’ve still got a great depth of riders.

“It’s great news to hear that John McGuinness is coming out next year. They may have the big names, but they have still got to put down the lap times. One thing’s for sure: I am not gonna let McGuinness beat me!”

Melbourne’s Cam Donald will race a Suzuki XR69 in the International Challenge and is looking forward to taking on his Isle of Man sparring partner, the UK’s John McGuinness.

“I won’t underestimate John because he’s a great rider and has been doing lots of short circuit racing over the last few years in world endurance events, so racing at Phillip Island isn’t going to be such a surprise for him,” said Donald, who will race a Suzuki XR69 in the International Challenge.

“We’ve had some great battles, but it will be good to take on John in my own backyard for a change.

“John is definitely going to make it a lot harder for Australia to win. McWilliams is also brilliant and Brogan is an exceptional rider as well.”

McGuinness will be making his first appearance at Phillip Island, having been forced to sit out the Australian round of the world supersport title in 2002 with injury when he was a full-time campaigner. Since then his career has blossomed, particular on the heart-in-mouth Isle of Man circuit, where he has 20 TT victories to his name. In one of those – the Senior TT in 2008 – McGuinness was gifted victory after the blindingly fast Donald ran into mechanical problems.

Last year, Australia’s Shawn Giles won the individual component of the 2013 International Challenge, ahead of McWilliams, Donald and another Aussie, Michael Dibb. The icing on the cake for Giles was a new historic lap record of 1:36.920 - tearing strips off Martin’s former mark of 1:38.666, set in 2012.

The searing pace in 2013 was aided and abetted by the recently resurfaced Phillip Island layout, with the historics the first major class to get a taste of the new bump-free 4.45km layout.

The 12-rider Australian squad for the 2014 Tahbilk International Challenge will eventually be trimmed to 10 for the races by Aussie captain Rex Wolfenden. The same number of pilots will also compete for the UK, New Zealand and American teams.

Proposed Australian team

Team Captain

Rex Wolfenden

Riders

Bike

Year

Capacity

Shawn Giles

Suzuki Katana

1982

1294

Steve Martin

Suzuki Katana

1982

1294

Robbie Phillis

Suzuki XR69

1982

1230

Malcolm Campbell

Honda RS

1980

1220

Beau Beaton

Irving Vincent Black Lightning

1978

1300

Cameron Donald

Suzuki XR69

1981

1260

Michael Dibb

Honda Harris F1

1982

1150

Brendan Roberts 

Suzuki Katana

1982

1260

Stuart Loly

Suzuki GSX

1980

1170

Laurie Fyffe

Suzuki GSX1100

1980

1100

Scott Webster

Moto-Martin Kawasaki

1980

1200

Peter Mizzi

Honda CB1100R

1980

1100

The Tahbilk International Challenge competitors are on track all three days of competition with two races scheduled for Saturday and two races for Sunday.

Tickets are family priced, with children 15 and under, accompanied by an adult FREE.   Adult three-day GA is $70, Adult Sunday only GA is $45.  On circuit camping, purchased in advance is from $55 per adult, with kids 15 and under, accompanied by a paying adult FREE.

Tickets are available by downloading a ticket form at www.islandclassic.com.au; by calling the circuit on 03 5952 2710; or at the gate at the 2014 AMCN International Island Classic from January 24-26.  For more information visit www.islandclassic.com.au

UK, USA and NZ SQUAD LISTING FOR THE TAHBILK INTERNATIONAL CHALLENGE FOLLOW…

Proposed UK Team

Team Captain

Keith Higgs / Roger Winfield

Riders

Bike

Year

Capacity

Jeremy McWilliams

Suzuki Harris F1

1982

1230

John McGuinness

Honda Harris F1

1982

1150

Gary Johnson

Suzuki Harris F1 XR69

1982

1230

Steve Brogan

Suzuki Harris F1 XR69

1982

1230

Mike Edwards

Harris F1

1982

1230

Mick Godfrey

Suzuki Harris F1

1982

1170

Barry Ditchburn

Yamaha TZ750

1977

750

Craig Ditchburn

Yamaha TZ750D

1977

750

Jim Agombar

Yamaha TZ

1980

750

Clive Warner

Yamaha TZ

1978

750

Rick Kwok

P&M Kawasaki TTF1

1978

1230

Derek Brown

Harris Magnum

1977

1260

Keith Higgs

P&M Kawasaki TTF1

1978

1260

Phil Davenport

Yamaha TZF

1979

350

Proposed New Zealand team

Team Captain

Kevin Grey

Riders

Bike

Year

Capacity

Kevin Grey

Suzuki McIntoch

1982

1135

Roger Gunn

Suzuki Katana

1982

1300

Russell Keen

Suzuki GSX

1981

1100

Trevor Taylor

Yamaha TZF

1979

368

John Reid

Yamaha XJ550

1981

570

Glen Hindle

Suzuki GSX1100

1980

1170

Glen Crutchley

P & M Kawasaki

1979

1200

Rob Ruwoldt

Harris Kawasaki

1980

1200

Albert Tehennepe

Kawasaki Z1000J

1980

1260

Trevor Manley

Honda CBX

1981

1170

Mark McVeight

Kawasaki 1000J

1980

1166

John Pace

Suzuki GSX1100S

1982

1260

Alistair Maxwell

Trident GSX1100

1981

1110

Proposed USA Team

Team Captain

Dave Crussell

Riders

Bike

Year

Capacity

Dave Crussell

Kawasaki TZ750

1980

748

Brian Filo

Kawasaki P & M

1978

1200

Ottis Lance

Suzuki GS1000S2

1987

1260

James McKay

Kawasaki Z1R

1978

1050

Joe Weir

Suzuki GS (Kat)

1982

1261

Deano Swims

Suzuki Katani

1981

750

Shawn Reilly

Yamanah TZ750

Rob Mesa

Yamaha TZ

1978

750

Joe Pethoud

Honda CB900F

1982

985

Mike Studzinski

Yamaha TZ250

1978

749