Northern Irishman Jeremy McWilliams has been a mainstay of the International Island Classic at Phillip Island over the last seven years, and the tireless 53-year-old has confirmed he’ll be returning for another campaign in 2018.
The former 250cc and MotoGP rider will again lead the United Kingdom in the four-race International Challenge, which will also feature teams from Australia, New Zealand and America.
The UK has won the last three International Challenges, with the irrepressible McWilliams the backbone of the ‘operation’ with his incredible speed and consistency. And the numbers support that.
Since 2011, McWilliams has competed in 28 International Challenge races, finishing on the podium an amazing 24 times for eight wins, 13 second places and three thirds. Remarkably, he has yet to DNF an International Challenge race.
McWilliams has also won the Ken Wootton Perpetual Trophy, awarded to the highest individual point-scorer in the International Challenge, four times: twice stand alone, and the same number alongside Aussies Shawn Giles and Jed Metcher.
The four International Challenge teams will be announced in coming weeks, although Australia and America have already declared that WorldSBK legends Troy Corser and Colin Edwards will be making their debuts in the event. Both have won WorldSBK races around the 4.45km circuit – seven in the case of Corser, with the Aussie also a long-time lap record holder.
The greatest road racer of all time, Giacomo Agostini, will also return to the Island Classic for the first time in five years, and he’ll be joined by a quartet of world championship-winning four-stroke MV Agustas, including two that he piloted: a three-cylinder 500 and four-cylinder 350.
The International Challenge stars is for bikes manufactured between 1973 and 1984. But there’s so much more to the Island Classic, with a field of over 500 classic bikes and 300 riders racing in what will be the event’s 25th commemorative year.
The three-day Australia Day long weekend extravaganza features 56 races from Friday to Sunday. All races are between four and six laps and feature bikes from pre-WW1 bikes through to Vintage (1920-1945), Classic and Post Classic (from 1946 to 1972), and the more recent Forgotten Era and New Era classes. Sidecars will also join solos on the program.
As well as the Japanese Big Four, other manufacturers on the Island Classic grid include BSA, Triumph, Harley-Davidson, Ducati, Matchless, Norton, Vincent, Ariel and Indian, as well as a bevy of chassis specialists.
Photo credit Russell Colvin