Top dog McWilliams is dominant Down Under
Glengormley's Jeremy McWilliams led Team UK to their third consecutive victory in the International Challenge Trophy at the Phillip Island Classic in Australia over the weekend.
The former Grand Prix ace, who was in imperious form throughout, won three of the four races, taking a new lap record in the process, which afforded him his fourth Ken Wootten Perpetual Trophy as top individual performer.
A delighted McWilliams, who was riding a Harris Yamaha throughout, said afterwards: "No one on the grid leaves anything in the tank in terms of effort and that's what makes the International Challenge so special to compete in.
Having won three out of the four races at the picturesque south hemisphere venue, McWilliams  lifted the overall individual honours by 12 points from Aussie Jed Metcher  and Shawn Giles  joint second. Down under based Irishman Paul Byrne  was fourth and Manxman Conor Cummins  riding for Team UK was fifth.
In the overall team standings, McWilliams and Team UK, which included Peter Hickman, Conor Cummins, John McGuinness, Glen Richards and James Hiller, retained their trophy with a collective total of 651 points.
The Aussies were again the bridesmaids on 640 with the Irish team taking third on 539 points. America and New Zealand finished fifth and sixth respectively.
The Irish team were captained by non-riding team member Mike Meskell, who spoke highly of his team, which included Irish road racing champion Derek Shiels:
"We had some good performances and achieved our goal by getting closer to the top two teams in Team UK and Australia. We want to be regarded as serious competitors to the top two and will come back bigger and stronger in 2018.
Former Team UK member Ryan Farquhar, who is still convalescing after his life-threatening North West 200 crash last year, was at the Arenacross in Belfast's SSE Arena on Friday night as a guest of the organisers.
Speaking of his Team UK team-mates and friend McWilliams, he said: "Great job from the boys and McWilliams is getting faster as he gets older - not bad for a geriatric," he added, poking friendly fun at the soon to be 53-year-old former GP rider.
In other news, Eugene Laverty and his all-new Milwaukee Aprilia World Superbike team were on track at Portimao over the weekend, as testing continues prior to the opening round at the end of February.
After a disappointing start with the team at Jerez earlier in the week, which also included a crash, it was good to see Laverty hovering around the top of the timesheets in Portugal, where Glengormley's Glenn Irwin was also on track with his BeWiser PBM Ducati British Superbike team.