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7th February 2005

When dinosaurs ruled the earth... the splendid title used by the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit for the 12th Annual Island Classic for Historic Motorcycles. Melbourne Metisse was there...

There were 10 classes racing over the weekend, ranging from the combined Pre-War / 125 Classic and Post Classic classes through to the mighty '70's and 80's unfaired Superbikes - from the Forgotten Era over 500cc class - that featured on the "dinosaur" poster. Each class had qualifying and 4 races, comprising at least 4 laps of the iconic 4.5km (2.8 mile) Phillip Island circuit that is surely one of the most beautiful and best liked (by riders and spectators alike) circuits in the world. Unfortunately the Victorian weather lived up to its unpredictable reputation and Friday and Saturday had some showers that meant qualifying took place on a damp track. The sun shone brightly on Sunday however and a good size crowd was treated to some great racing.

There was a wonderful turnout of over 300 bikes with an incredible variety of makes, shapes and sizes on view in the paddock and loads more gems in the car parks. Just to add a little more spice, the generous circuit owner, Andrew Fox, kindly donated a perpetual trophy for the inaugural Forgotten Era International Challenge that was a 3-way contest between Australia, New Zealand and the UK. Yes I did say UK! 10 plucky souls crated their bikes and container freighted them to Phillip Island (as did the 46 NZ competitors, of course).

Jeff Britton's Honda CB750

Home advantage proved to be just too strong with the Aussie team coming in convincing winners with 435 points to NZ's 245 and the UK's 203. The Aussies put their local knowledge to good use in the early races but the Kiwi's won the most points in race 4 and the Brits were much closer in race 2 so it bodes well for a closer Challenge in 2006.

The work of a Metal Guru?From an individual viewpoint the FEIC podium places were a terrific scrap between Stuart Loly (1980 Suzuki GSX1170) and the splendidly named Rudee Skank (1976 Kawasaki Z9 1200) of Australia, Richard Scott (1982 Suzuki GSX1135) of NZ (who has recently returned to racing after a 15 year lay-off) and UK team captain James Clark's 1981 Team Glam P&M Kawasaki 1297. It finished with 2 wins and a 2nd for Loly, with one win, a 2nd and 2 x 3rd's for Scott, one win and a 3rd for Clark and a 2nd and 3rd for Skank. Great stuff!

Other highlights included an appearance by 69 year-old Hughie Anderson. The 4 times world champion showed he has lost none of his style and panache by qualifying his 1936 BSA Empire Star 500 in 3rd place and then followed it up with race results of 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 2nd in the combined Pre-War / 125 Classes. The 3rd place came as a result of a 10 second penalty for a jump-start so no diminishing of enthusiasm either! Hughie's main competition came from Clive Harrop's 1938 Ariel Red Hunter.

Another celebrity clearly enjoying himself was Kiwi Ginger Malloy who had a 250 and 350 Bultaco for the 250/350 Classic and Post Classic classes and a 370 Bultaco for the 500 Post Classic, managing to score a hat-trick of 3rd places in the latter.

There were two 4-time winners - 1959 Matchless G50-mounted David Cole in the blue riband 500 Classic class and Craig Ditchburn riding a Suzuki T500 in the 500 Post Classic class. Both broke lap records in the process, Cole breaking Barry Sheene's final remaining record from 2002 and Ditchburn breaking Steve Dent's mark from 2001.

In the Unlimited Post Classic class another track record fell to David Johnson's CB1000 Honda. Nigel Bish (NZ) won race 4 and came 3rd in race 2 on his Triumph Trident 750 Works Replica and spoilt what had otherwise been a Honda CB1000 benefit for Johnson, Corpe and Wallace.

In the 250/350 Classic class honours were shared between Phil Paton's 1962 Bultaco TSS 265 and Kel Carrick's 1952 350 Jap Special. The variety in the 250/350 Classic class was a joy to behold with no fewer than 10 makes represented!

CB750 Stuff on

 Marc Bondini's 1956 Benelli 250 4T Sport

There were 4 different winners in the 250/350 Post Classic but all were mounted on Yamaha TR3 350's. Indeed Yamaha dominated the entry in the 250/350 Post Classic class with only a handful of Honda, Suzuki and Bultaco's to add to the odd Maico, Ducati and Aermacchi.

Warren Barry's 1938 350 AJS 7R

The Forgotten Era up to 500cc class had another double winner with Craig Morris using his brace of '79/80 TZ350 Yams to good effect and race 3 winner Stuart Garner made his long trip from the Northern Territories worthwhile with a win in the 250/350 Post Classic too. This class was almost exclusively 350 two-stroke Yamaha twins with only 3 Yam SR500 four strokes and a lone Honda, Ducati Pantah and Kawasaki Z500 in the field of 35.

The over 501cc Forgotten Era class encourages much more diversity with some interesting ex-endurance racing Japanese fours competing with booming Ducati v-twins and some TZ750 Yams. There was even a Laverda SF750 and a rare Moto Martin framed Kawasaki. Stuart Loly added 2 class wins here to go with his brace of wins and a 2nd in the FEIC to match the 5 podiums of Clive Harrop mentioned elsewhere. Shane and Ricky Zakelj from South Australia used their Dukes to good effect too and picked up 4 podiums including a memorable 1-2 in race 2.

Irving Vincent Kneeler.

Finally the Unlimited Classic class produced some tremendous dicing - where else can you see Triumphs, Tritons, Nortons (Atlas and Manx), Norvins, Vincents, BSA's and Harleys got at it hammer and tongs?! Martin Hone (1959 H-D 1299 Special) had a great series ending on the podium in all 4 races, eventually getting his win in the final race. Clive Harrop picked up a 1st and 3rd with his 1947 Vincent to add to his 2 wins and a 3rd on his 1938 Ariel Red Hunter in the Pre-War / 125 Class.

National racing in the Pre war, Classic, Post Classic and Forgotten Era classes is centred on the battle to win the Phil Irving Trophy. The trophy is awarded to the competitor who accumulates the most points from races across a number of classes and capacities. This year's winner was Russell Fairbairn who competed in 3 classes, managing 4 podiums over the weekend and pipped Ginger Malloy and Stuart Garner.

Car park 650SS

Meanwhile the car parks glittered with modern Harleys rubbing shoulders with classic Nortons and even a CZ! Hinckley and Meriden were equally well represented and there were the occasional flashes of Italian flair from MV, Ducati and Laverda.

But my favourite was (not surprisingly!) a MkIII Rickman Métisse with a 998 Yamaha twin based on the XS650. It was owned by Walter Preisig who had brought it all the way from Switzerland!

Walter Preisig's 998 Yam Metisse

Forgotten Era?


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