Bikesportnews.com’s regular guest Aussie Russell Colvin caught up with Australian’s Jed Metcher this afternoon to find out how things were panning out head of this year’s Phillip Island Classic and this is what the Victoria rider had to say.
BSN: Thanks for your time this afternoon Jed. First of all how has your preparations been leading into next week’s International Island Classic? What I mean by that, have you been doing a lot of riding/testing? On top of that, are you feeling confident heading into the Island Classic?
JM: I haven’t really done much riding last year and of course this year. Last year I had most of the year off – competitively. In saying that, I have done a fair bit of motard/motorcross training and a bit of bike testing aboard Race Center customer bikes. However it hasn’t been a lot of bike time. But look I have full confidence in Rex [Wolfenden] and Darren [Sciberras] from Race Center that the bike will be amazing and the rest will be up to me to ride it fast!
BSN: In regards to Rex’s beautiful Honda Harris you will be riding this year, which is an ‘updated’ bike compare to the bike you rode last year. Can you explain the differences between the bike from last year, which Chas [Hern] will ride, and the bike you will ride this year.
JM: So basically Rex compiled all the feedback from last years riders to produce the bike which has more of a modern riding style position, the older bikes riding position in traditional Harris style meant the riders arms were quite extended, as the tank was very long. Rex has made some slight modifications to how the engine is mounted in the chassis. Also the moulding of the tank has made hanging off the bike much more comfortable. Now I am a lot further forward on the bike, which makes riding the position better for confidence for the front end. The swing arm is a little bit longer, but that is mainly for adjustability and something we will look to test on the Thursday.
BSN: Looking towards the Island Classic now. In the International Challenge, I don’t think there has been a year where both the Australian and UK team has looked so competitive. Throw in the Irish team as well with the likes of Derek Sheils, Dave Johnson, Levi Day, even Paul Byrne who can’t be counted out either. Obviously you have the teams challenge to think about, but there is also the individual honour to win the Ken Wootton perpetual trophy. Just how hard are you predicting this year to be to win the individual honour against a raft of top fast name riders?
JM: Well, I have Rex and Darren behind me, so I don’t think it’s going to be that hard of a job to be fast. However, to take the individual honours, there are just so many other elements involved such as the weather, the fragile engines, the fact that you only get a short amount of time to qualify. There are just way to many elements to be super confident. It’s about turning up on the day and making the best out of the situation you’re in on the day. The Island Classic is a really tough event. I don’t think people know just how tough it is on the bikes, teams and riders. There are like fifty entries for the P5 class, the track is often really full. Everything really has to come together to be able to get a good qualifying lap, and that’s of course if you don’t run into anybody who is having a major breakdown, due to the engines being really highly strung.
BSN: Are you looking forward to racing against Peter Hickman, in your own backyard? Obviously you raced against him when you raced in the BSB series. How do you think he will shape up riding on these ‘older’ type of bikes?
JM: I think he will go awesome. Honestly I hope he struggles a bit to adapt to the classic bike, initially, and the way the format works. He doesn’t have a lot of time to get it sorted. At his best, he is going to be at the front, 100%. It just depends how long it takes for him to get to his best. It’s a bit of crystal balling at the moment, but we’ll see how he goes when he gets out on track.
BSN: Do a bit more crystal balling. Providing the races have good track temperatures, no issues and so on. What sort of lap times do you think the front runners will do this year under race conditions? Jeremy McWilliams, Beau Beaton and yourself were the only three riders in 2016 to lap the circuit in the 37’s bracket (Both Metcher and McWilliams posted their fastest lap times in race three – Metcher 1’37.287, McWilliams 1’37.615, while Beaton posted his fastest time in race four with a 1min37.600). Do you think the pace will quicker this year?
JM: From what Rex has done on the bike, in terms of the modifications and the progression that Race Center has made over the last year with their suspension development, we are estimating about .6-.7 faster. So we are talking about mid to low 36’s, if everything comes together. We may not see that till late qualifying or racing because the engines are so precious. The top riders will be looking after their engines the whole way through Thursday, Friday, and early Saturday, I think a mid-36 is the target to aim for. With a 155HP motorcycle that weighs 165 kilograms, it is like a World Supersport bike which is 30 years old. It will be interesting to see if we can get into the mid-36’s that’s for sure.
BSN: You have of course have been in all types of different paddocks from the Australian Superbike series, World Supersport/Superbike, IDM Superbike series and the BSB. Tell us, from your point of view, what makes the International Island Classic so unique?
JM: It’s the environment around the pits. It’s so laid back! The passion involved with the motorcycles themselves. The owners of the motorcycles pour their heart and souls into them. There is a lot of money which going into these bikes which you see around the pits. The passion and the love for the sport can be felt when you talk to the owners of the bikes. You get spectators coming up and asking questions to the people who own the bikes rather than the riders, say for example at a World Superbike or MotoGP round. So the environment is relaxed and I think from a riders prospective you’re not getting ‘hammered’ by anybody because the love for the whole sport gets everybody involved. The event really is amazing I take my hat off to Rex, the other team captains and to the Phillip Island circuit for running the event the way they do.
BSN: Anything you would like to add?
JM: I really just have my fingers crossed that we get reliability this year in the Australian team, as it has been an issue since I started doing the Island Classic in 2015. I just really want it all to come together for the Aussie team to win the International Challenge back for Australia. We have the depth and the reliability to get it done this year. While last year was good to be the joint winner of the Ken Wootton perpetual trophy with Jeremy, it has been quite sad to not be able to win the teams challenge as a team, to give back to all those who get the bikes on the grid. Also when the Poms win it, they really do rub it in, so since it has been two years in the running the banter after we win it back will have to be served up double time.