Newcastle’s Aaron Morris backed up his dominance in qualifying on Friday to go from pole position today to take victory in the two International Challenge races at the Visit Phillip Island International Island Classic.
While Morris was unstoppable, Team USA flexed their muscle with Josh Hayes breathing down the back of the Aussie front runners and being backed by reliable performances from his team mates.
Race one started with drama and a red-flag two laps in when Team USA scalp Jason Pridmore high-sided at turn 11, falling heavily and taking other riders out in the crash.
Australia’s Beau Beaton came unstuck, and both he and Pridmore were taken to the medical centre with injuries. Conscious, both were transported to the hospital for observation and will not return to the grid this weekend. For the race one re-start, polesitter Aaron Morris improved his start and stuck with the front runners, but it was Jed Metcher on the Honda Harris, and Suzuki riders David Johnson and Alex Phillis who headed the field by Southern Loop.
While the Australians Metcher and Johnson led early, team-mate Morris overhauled them aboard his Katana by lap three and held the lead through to the chequered flag. It was a solid victory, 1.2 seconds in front of Metcher. Team USA’s hot shot Josh Hayes came in third, impressive for his first visit to the circuit and his third day on the bike.
David Johnson, last year’s Ken Wootton Trophy winner for best individual performance, took fourth, with Australia’s Shawn Giles in 5th – and Suzuki rider Alex Phillis crossing the line for the New Zealanders in sixth, the best performer from the Kiwi squad.
For the second International Challenge race mid-afternoon, it was American Hayes – the four times AMA Superbike champion – who took the early lead after an impressive start. He was fiercely pursued though by a host of riders including race one winner Aaron Morris, Melbourne’s Jed Metcher and for the USA Larry Pegram.
Morris broke away early in lap two on the Katana and with him was Metcher on the Harris, leaving Hayes and Pegram in their wake. Metcher though tumbled at Lukey Heights with a front end issue, and Morris was away with clear track, building a four-second lead to take his second chequered flag in dominant fashion to complete a perfect day.
Completing the race two podium was former world endurance champion, Australia’s Steve Martin, in second, with Paul Byrne third for the locals – while Josh Hayes was fourth for the US on the Yamaha FJ.
Hayes is the dark horse and should not be underestimated. As he learns the track, he’s starting to play hard ball and is likely to terrorise the leading riders even further tomorrow. With today’s two wins, Australia’s Morris leads the individual leader board with a perfect scorecard on 80 points, but Hayes just trails him, with 75 points to his name.
At the end of day one, Australia leads the table on 326 points, with Team USA trailing by only 15 points on 311 points, with New Zealand on 253 points. Phillis was the best performer for the Kiwis today, sitting fourth on the Ken Wootton table for individual glory – while three times British superbike champion, John Reynolds, is finding his pace and took a 10th and 8th spot today and is in 6th place overall.
Defending Ken Wootton trophy holder, Adelaide’s Dave Johnson had gear box problems in race one, and did not compete in race two due to electrical problems. He plans to be back on track in the morning, after his mechanics work some magic overnight.