2017 PI Classic: McWilliams blitzes opening two races

Picture: Aussie Russell Colvin

British rider Jeremy McWilliams has produced yet another peerless display at Phillip Island by winning today’s opening two races in the International Challenge at the 24th annual AMCN Island Classic historic race meeting.

The veteran was brilliant on his Harris Yamaha in both six-lap races, with Aussie rookie Alex Phillis (Suzuki XR69) only sneaking his nose in front for precious seconds on the opening laps before McWilliams got down to the serious business of leaving the field in his wake.

McWilliams, who has been the individual winner in the International Challenge a record three times, won today’s opener ahead of Aussie Shawn Giles (Suzuki Katana) and fellow UK rider Peter Hickman (Harris Yamaha), while in race two Hickman and Melbourne’s Jed Metcher (Harris Honda) completed the top three.

In the battle for the prestigious International Challenge teams’ trophy, the two-time defending champion UK heads into day two on 180pts ahead of Australia (167), Ireland (127), America (102) and New Zealand (95).

Australia’s day got off to a bad start when Cameron Donald (Irving Vincent) was a scratching because of mechanical problems, while his teammate Beau Beaton – a two-time race winner in the 2016 International Challenge – fared little better when he only lasted a few laps in race one and then didn’t start the second

In fact, Australia only had six finishers in race two after the aforementioned Irving Vincents didn’t make the grid and the retirement of John Allen (Yamaha TZ750).

Besides McWilliams and Hickman, other UK riders to finish today’s races in the top 10 were Glen Richards (Harris Suzuki), Isle of Man hero John McGuinness (Harris Honda) and Conor Cummins (Harris Yamaha); Paul Byrne (McIntosh Suzuki) and Derek Sheils (XR69) held up the Irish cause; while for Australia Chas Hern (Harris Honda), Phillis and Steve Martin (Katana) also scored solid points.

Phillis was running in a solid second in race one before he got a flat tyre, and then held the same position until the final circuit in race two before being swallowed up by 2016 British superbike winner Hickman and Metcher.

In the individual standings, McWilliams sits on a perfect 80 pts ahead of Hickman (77), Giles (75), Metcher (74) and Cummins (71).

International Challenge – Day one – AMCN International Island Classic
Race one 1. Jeremy McWilliams (UK) 2. Shawn Giles (AUS) 3. Peter Hickman (UK)
Race two 1. Jeremy McWilliams (UK) 2. Peter Hickman (UK) 3. Jed Metcher (AUS)

National points at end of day one:
1 UK 352 points
2 AUS 328 points
3 Ireland 244 points
4 NZ 179 points
5 US 170 points

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