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Local racers Jeremy and Ryan can be the wizards of Oz

By Paul Lindsay

Published 21/01/2016

Pair of aces: Jeremy McWilliams and Ryan Farquhar will again bid for International Challenge Trophy success
Pair of aces: Jeremy McWilliams and Ryan Farquhar will again bid for International Challenge Trophy success

Local racing aces Jeremy McWilliams and Ryan Farquhar have left the cold British winter behind, as they look to retain the International Challenge Trophy at Phillip Island in Australia this weekend.

Former MotoGP star McWilliams and road racing record breaker Farquhar are part of a strong British team that includes 23-time Isle of Man TT winner John McGuinness, Manx road racer Conor Cummins, former British Superstock and Supersport champion Glen Richards and TT star in the making James Hillier.

Despite McWilliams and Farquhar both topping the individual honours on four occasions over the past five seasons, it was only last year that the British team were able to overhaul the strong Aussie line-up for the all-important International Challenge team victory.

A mixture of circuit knowledge and pre-event testing always gives the Australian team a slight upper hand coming into the hugely popular classic event. But double North West 200 winner McWilliams is certain the British team can retain the title they won for the first time just 12 months ago.

"The banter is always great between the two teams in the build-up to the event, but once we pull the leathers on and the visors go down, we all want to win - it's a simple as that," explained the Glengormley ace, whose preparation for the event included a family holiday in Western Australia.

Despite his 51 years, McWilliams is very much the British team's ace card, and having been on pole position back in his MotoGP days at Phillip Island, he's also a big draw for the Aussie promoters.

Having already done the maths required to work out what it will take to win the individual and team honours, McWilliams explained: "With the strength of competition expected at this year's Island Classic, I would envisage having to finish top three in all four races to win the overall. That will take some doing."

McWilliams, who will again ride a 1984 1297cc Harris Yamaha F1 machine supplied by Roger Winfield, added: "The boys will all have to perform and even John McGuinness, who made his debut in 2014, got to see how hard you need to ride.

"It's certainly no holiday race when the lights go out," he said.

In fact the entire British team will ride machinery supplied by Roger Winfield. The Sussex enthusiast has shipped eight bikes and a plethora of spares to Phillip Island for the event, which includes Suzuki GSX, Honda CBR1100 and Yamaha FJ1200 engines all placed in Harris F1 chassis.

As many biking fans will have witnessed during Tuesday night's BBC documentary on Ryan Farquhar 'Back on the Road', the Dungannon man and McWilliams have forged a formidable friendship.

But the competitive element will always be there between the hugely successful road racer and the friend he monikers a 'car park racer'.

"I love the craic and I know Jeremy loves the craic. I suppose in a way we are a strange partnership, but it works," Farquhar said of the ex GP ace, who was anti-road racing for most of his professional career before going on to win two NW200 races for Farquhar's KMR Kawasaki team.

This weekend they are united once again at Phillip Island, but one wonders who will have the last word.

Two races on Saturday and a further two races on Sunday will determine the overall winners of the 2016 Mitchelton Wines International Challenge.

Belfast Telegraph

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