Jeremy McWilliams shines but Australia reclaim International Trophy at Phillip Island

Jeremy McWilliams leads David Johnson at the Phillip Island Classic meeting in race four. Picture: Russell Colvin.
Jeremy McWilliams leads David Johnson at the Phillip Island Classic meeting in race four. Picture: Russell Colvin.

Jeremy McWilliams won two races at Phillip Island in Australia over the weekend but it wasn’t enough to prevent the Aussies claiming the International Challenge trophy at the Island Classic meeting.

It was the first time the host nation won the event overall since 2014, ending Team UK’s recent domination of the famous race over recent years.

David Johnson secured the Ken Wootton perpetual trophy as the top individual points scorer from McWilliams, who was only a single point behind his Australian rival.

The Northern Ireland rider and former Grand Prix star won the opening race from Johnson and Glen Richards (Team UK), although Johnson opened a gap as he won the next two races, with McWilliams finishing third and second respectively.

In the final race, McWilliams lived up to his end of the bargain as he signed off with a victory, but with Richards crashing out, it wasn’t enough to prevent Australia winning back the trophy as Johnson clinched second place ahead of Peter Hickman (Team UK), Dan Linfoot (team UK) and World Superbike great Troy Corser (Team Australia).

In the final standings, Australia had 685 points with Team UK on 654 and the USA in third on 465.

McWilliams said: “Losing Glen (Richards) in that last race was disappointing, as he was one of our main point scorers.

“I knew what I had to do — get out the front and fight with Johnson — and the others knew what they needed to do. However, a fair share of mechanical issues has really hurt us.

“Once the Aussies got the jump it was very hard to claw them back. And the Aussies were always going to win back the International Challenge one day — but we’ve been doing our best to stop them.”

Veteran racer McWilliams has a remarkable record at the event, where he has successfully completed every one of the 28 International Challenge races he has competed in.

Johnson, who has joined SMR to ride the Gulf Oil BMW machines at the North West 200 and Isle of Man TT in 2018, said: “I’m really happy to win overall, but more importantly to help Australia retain the International Challenge.

“My tyre wasn’t enjoying the heat in that last race, so when McWilliams passed me he gapped me straight away. But that doesn’t matter: To be a part of a winning team is what it’s all about.”

Double World Superbike champion Corser, who was making his debut at the event, finished sixth in the first two races, eighth in race three and fifth in the final race.

Corser was forced to start from pit lane in race three after failing to line up on the grid on time and then incurred a two-row penalty for the final race during a frustrating Sunday for the Australian motorbike legend.

“I got away from the line pretty well, but unfortunately after that, I couldn’t go any further,” said Corser, who finished third in the Ken Wootton trophy reckoning behind Johnson and McWilliams.

“Linfoot was faster down the straight but I was just going as fast as I could into turn one to stay in front of him. He eventually got ahead of me and I just couldn’t get him back.

“Overall, it’s been a brilliant weekend and I’ll be back next year for sure.”