Former MotoGP star Jeremy McWilliams believes the competition will be hotter than ever at this year’s Phillip Island Classic but believes Team Great Britain are in a position to thump the Australians for a third consecutive year.
McWilliams, who has racked up a total of 219 official laps around the 4.445km seaside circuit since his Island Classic debut in 2011 told Bikesportnews.com: “I guess it’s always the same feeling on the lead up to the Island. I’m excited to be racing again at such a great event but the pressure to stay competitive is always sobering when I look at how fast the opposition is.”
The 52-year-old star is not kidding when he says how fast the opposition is. Take race four at last year’s Island Classic for example. McWilliams and Australians Jed Metcher and Beau Beaton were all in the 1’37s, while Steve Martin, Shawn Giles and Conor Cummins were in the 1’38s. Not bad considering Tom Sykes’ pole lap in 2016 was a 1’30.020.
Each year seems to be getting tougher and tougher in terms of the competition as the pace just steps up a notch. So just how hard does McWilliams think this year will be to challenge for the individual honours and possibly claim a fourth Ken Wootton Perpetual Trophy (2014 & 2016 was joint winners with Giles & McWilliams).
“The Aussie team have always been very good,” explained McWilliams, who also claimed the individual glory in 2011 after beating Cameron Donald by two points.
“Any one of the Australian riders could win overall and they’ve all won legs in the past. Team UK are also super competitive, Glen Richards and Peter Hickman will be fighting for the top spot this year, so it’s anybody’s game really.”
McWilliams knows first-hand just how hard these bikes can be to get around the Island, so how will Hickman shape up against the front runners in two weeks’ time? The Lincolnshire man will be up there, as he learns tracks quite quickly. However, as most people would know, these bikes take a bit of time to get used to as they are “big old lumps” as McWilliams described them as.
“When Peter realises that some of us are old enough to be his dad, he’ll be more determined to impress,” joked McWilliams.
Last year of course was the second time in the events history that two riders have ended up on equal points for the prestigious Ken Wootton Perpetual Trophy. McWilliams and 26-year-old Metcher both tied with 156-points apiece.
McWilliams, who was Metcher’s World Supersport team manager at Rivamoto in 2012 when he made his season debut, explained last year’s Island Classic was one to remember as racing with Metcher was hard work, but really satisfying. “When we both scored identical points and shared the honours, there was a mutual respect because we’d both given it everything.”
In 2017, Team GB are gunning for title number three in the International Challenge and more than ready to give the Aussies another clip round the ear hole. Just what would it mean to McWilliams, personally and as a team to be able to beat the Australians, again in their own back yard?
“The Aussie team dominated for so long and it took us so long to get on terms and eventually win. There was a sense of relieve because Roger and Pat Winfield had put so much effort into providing all the bikes and putting a competitive team together.
“We needed a win and were delighted to win it again in 2016. Hopefully we can make it a treble this year,” concluded the Northern Irishman.