Phillip Island will once again play host to the Island Classic next year on January 25-27. A celebration of classic and vintage race machines, it’s Australia’s third biggest motorcycle event, behind MotoGP and WSB.
As always the highlight will be the International Challenge match races, where some of the world’s top former and current stars will lock horns on tuned, early 80s superbikes, representing six-man teams from Australia, New Zealand, the US and until now the UK.
But after years of success and fielding the likes Jeremy McWilliams, John McGuinness, Peter Hickman, Dan Linfoot, Lee Johnston and Michael Rutter, Team UK, run by Roger Winfield, may not be making it’s annual visit down under.
Island Classic organisers say this is down to the Australian federation's new regulations banning avgas, as the circuit’s Managing Director, Fergus Cameron explains: “We’ve loved having Roger and his team at the Island Classic for well over ten years but with the ban on aviation gas, we understand their reticence to compete.
“We have UK riders that want to attend, and we are looking at our bike options so let’s just say the UK team is currently a work in progress.
“We’re well underway planning another great long-weekend of racing, with plenty of bikes, plenty of bike chatter and plenty of two-wheel heroics to enjoy so it’s time to plan a summer getaway to the island.”
But Winfield, who provides and runs Team UK's classic superbikes for the event, says: “to clarify the situation, in response to our non appearance at the Phillip Island International Challenge in 2019, we would like to set the record straight.
“As required by Phillip Island in their new regulations ‘Team UK’ registered their interest to once again take part in 2019. The response received from Phillip Island was that the usual financial arrangement had been terminated and the only offer received by the team was for the rights to the proposed televising of the event, which we could then sell to a TV company as an alternative source of income.
“Before responding to Phillip Island we thoroughly researched the income possibilities from this via various contacts in the industry, who made it quite clear that income from this source would be virtually non existent.
“At the time of lodging our interest to take part in the event, we expressed our concern regarding the new fuel regulations and the difficulties this would create to teams coming from other countries. This, however, was not at any point stated as a deciding factor by us that would result in our non-appearance at the event.
“Team Winfield, as part of Team UK, has worked very closely with Phillip Island management over the years to help promote the ‘International Challenge’ and has made substantial investments to achieve a situation to bring top riders on professionally prepared bikes to the event.
“We are at a loss to understand the stance that has been taken by the organisers and sad not to be a part of an event that has, with our help, now reached International recognition as a world class event.”