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British team retains Phillip Island Classic title

All UK riders finished within the top eight after a weekend of races

THE UNITED KINGDOM have been victorious once again at the Michelton Wines International Challenge at the 2016 Australian International Island Classic at Phillip Island today.

Jeremy McWilliams led the way for the UK team as they turned their 12-point deficit to Australia around to ease out a 99-point advantage and the win. Australia finished second with impressive newcomer Ireland third. America and New Zealand finished fourth and fifth respectively.

Seven of the UK riders finished inside the top 10 in this morning’s third race while disaster struck for Australia as only two of their team, Jed Metcher and Steve Martin, were able to gain solid points.

Metcher won race three — his first in the International Challenge — and continuing his dominance, finished the final six-lap race on equal points to McWilliams on the Yamaha Harris in the individual standings. The prestigious Ken Wootton Perptual Trophy, for only the second time in the past five years, was awarded to both riders. 

McWilliams, 51, said: ‘The team was pretty nervous across the board this weekend after a lack of track time on Friday. In the first race on Saturday we simply weren't up to speed, but race three was where we really turned it on.

‘Compared to the last few years, the Aussies have lost a bit of depth and that was particularly evident today.’

Roger Winfield, the man who supplies the machinery for the top UK riders, was delighted after what he described as a 'fraught weekend'.

‘There's just a really strong rapport between the riders and mechanics in this team. Everyone lends a hand and on the track we had quite a few riders that had similar speed which allowed us to keep on accumulating the points.

'Winning for the second time is special, but it's never quite like the first…’

Metcher finished with two thirds and two wins in the four International Challenge races, while McWilliams' second places saw them both finish equal on 156 points, clear of third-placed Steve Martin on 148 points.

UK riders then filled the remaining positions in the top eight, with Conor Cummins in fourth ahead of John McGuinness, last year's winner Ryan Farquhar, Glen Richards and James Hillier.

Australia's Beau Beaton finished ninth overall on 118 points, winning the opening two races on Saturday before retiring with a mechanical fault in race three while in third position.

Meanwhile, it was a disastrous weekend for three-time Aussie Superbike Champion Shawn Giles who failed to finish two races after engine problems, while compatriot Cameron Donald only made it through half of the program, also due to mechanical issues.

Beaton switched from his four to two-valve Black Lightning for the final International Challenge race and edged in front of McWilliams, which would have been enough for Metcher to win the Ken Wootton Perpetual Trophy by one point.

Metcher said: ‘I couldn't be happier with how it's all turned out. I managed the gap in that last race hoping that Beau would finish in second to allow me to take the individual honours outright, but it wasn’t to be. Still, I'm ecstatic.

‘I expected to go a little faster in that last race and we set-up the bike a little harder to accommodate that, but the laps times just weren't there and I was a little slower than race three.’

Metcher also set the fastest lap of the weekend in race three, 1:37.287

The Australian will be back at Phillip Island next month as he wildcards in the opening round of the 2016 World Superbike Championship.

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