Team USA’s Josh Hayes went to bed last night convinced he could get an International Challenge win, but after finishing 15th in the morning’s race three his dream looked dashed.
But the American did not give up, and this afternoon he showed why he is a four-time AMA superbike champion with a resounding win in the fourth and final six-lapper at the Phillip Island Grand Prix circuit.
The outstanding Hayes on his first visit to the Australian high-speed circuit, led race four from the get-go and finished more than four seconds in front of Australia’s Steve Martin in secnd , ahead of New Zealand’s Alex Phillis – with the final International Challenge podium representing all three nations competing.
With three race wins to the Australians over the four six lap battles, the defending champions walk away with the title once again finishing on 676 points, ahead of America on 634 points and NZ on 460 points.
In individual standings, it was experience over youth in the end, when Melbourne‘s Steve Martin – a former world endurance champion back in 2008 – took out the Ken Wootton Perpetual Trophy.
The race three winner took the title on 152 points, just two ahead of 26-year-old Novocastrian Aaron Morris who had his day on Saturday with a perfect score from two wins. Today was difficult for Morris with gear box problems pushing him back to 3rd in race three, and then for the final race, he rode with just three gears and only managed a 9th place.
“It is unbelievable, I’ve won this (Ken Wootton Perpetual Trophy) before, but that’s a long long time ago now, so to win it today with guys like Josh Hayes, Jason Pridmore and all of the young chargers that we have got from Australia, it means a lot to me,” said Martin.
“This game is all about a bit of luck, and I’ve had my bad luck in years gone by. Aaron was definitely very very fast all weekend. He should have won it if his bike had of stayed together, he had a little problem and it allowed me to sneak through.”
Hayes came in equal third with Australia’s Shawn Giles on 141 points; the USA’s Larry Pegram next on 130 points; followed by Michael Gilbert (USA) and the top finishing New Zealander, former BSB champ John Reynolds on 128 points.
Hayes was elated after his race four win, but his excitement was tempered with concern for his team-mate Jason Pridmore, who had invited him to join the US squad - but spent the last 36 hours in Melbourne’s Alfred Hospital with a broken leg after a nasty high-side in race one.
“I don’t necessarily feel like the first, I feel like Jason (Pridmore) was going to beat me to it, but with him being gone I am glad we were able to pull that off,” said Hayes of his race four win.
“I’m glad he (Jason) invited me and I hope he’s proud of what we were able to accomplish. We had our snafu’s in the second two races and stole some hearts and actually that’s the first time the right bike had run proper all weekend.
“We’re a lot more pleased with where the bikes at and it gives us a lot of hope that we can make this thing a bit better in the future and that was just our first shot at it.
“Everyone has been real nice to me, I’m hoping I’ve done enough that Dave and the boys ask me to come back,” said a modest Hayes of his achievements in the Dave Crussell captained Team USA.
Carl Cox spoke for Team NZ, with the international DJ bringing his Taupo based team to the Kiwi outfit and with a star roster of riders.
“Unbelievable! We got to see some really good battles, Phillip Island is always so emotional by the end of the day; the wins and losses, and things that do break down. It’s been an historic day with the Americans winning for the first time which is amazing, they’ve flown all the way over here and with all their efforts and passion to get to the top, they finally did it!” said Cox post race.
“We’ll have to step up, the Americans are here now, their laying their flag down, it’s happening.”