Revolving racer – Alex Phillis | Columns | Gassit Garage
Alex Phillis: I’m really looking forward to the Island Classic’s four International Challenge races. It will be an enjoyable way to start what is shaping up as a big year of racing for me. Team New Zealand really do have the attitude of ‘let’s just have fun,’ so although there is a lot of intensity in the International Challenge races we will be the team with the smiles on our faces all weekend.
Over the past few years I’ve spent a fair bit of time in New Zealand and the team captain Duncan Coutts and I have become mates. When things went a bit flat in my career a couple of years back Kiwi Rod Price (Helicraft Racing Team owner) stepped up and put me on an MV Agusta. We raced the NZ championship and ended up doing two rounds of MotoAmerica.
So I’ve had a lot of support from the Kiwis and it’s great to have the chance to pay them back on an international level. I’m on the same bike (Suzuki XR69) that I won the last race of the 2017 International Challenge on. It’s owned by Roger Arnold of Arnold’s Fruit Market in Wodonga. After two full seasons on modern superbikes, it will be interesting to get back on the old girl!
A lot of people don’t know this but I’ve attended every Island Classic since 2006 and it was amazing to finally race at this event in 2017 and win.
I missed last year’s event because I was busy building two brand-new GSX-R1000 Suzukis for the ASBK season that started a few weeks later. Then I totally destroyed one at the Hayshed in the first test at Phillip Island. It had less than 200km on the clock. So I had to go out and source another one before the season had even started!
To be honest, last year in ASBK was a case of keep on keeping on. But Suzuki kept an eye on me and that’s how I’ve become the third rider in the ECSTAR Suzuki team this year. I had a lot of help from many people but not being in a big team I always felt one step behind on the technical side of things.
It was a pretty crazy year between working full-time and running a race team. To finish eighth overall wasn’t too bad when I remember things like that a couple of little issues had me leaving the Winton round with zero points in the bag.
This year I’ll be able to just rock up and ride. And how good is that going to be?! The ECSTAR Suzuki squad has an awesome approach to this season. It’s the only team with two riders definitely capable of winning the title. This means feedback from more than one championship-winning rider, which should really help the technicians with setup.
We’re all running under the technical direction of Phil Tainton. His record speaks for itself and it’s a huge opportunity for me to be involved at a factory-backed level now. In fact, I get the impression that the Suzuki factory is keeping a close eye on us as the Aussie team is really putting in.
Right now I’m concentrating on a big effort this weekend with a team that really knows how to make racing enjoyable.
When I first raced at the Island Classic in 2017 I came in with no expectations. I felt slow but qualified second. It’s surprising the lap times and speeds you can do on these old early-1980s bikes!
I was leading the first race when I was stopped by a flat tyre. Then we battled with carburetion issues that meant the engine cut in and out off the line and at some vital points during the race.
The pressure built up in all teams during the weekend and the last race was really intense. I just put my head down and went for it.
That’s going to be my attitude this weekend and throughout the ASBK season.
As appeared in AMCN Magazine Vol 68 No 14