In addition to Round 7 of the Mike Hopkins Regional Motorcycle series, this weekend’s Extreme Supercar Festival at Cape Town’s Killarney circuit will host a round of the one-make National ZX-10R Masters Cup, where everybody rides an near-stock litre-class Kawasaki superbike on identical Bridgestone tyres and the only variables are the skill, determination and race-craft of the riders, all of whom are older than 35 - it’s a condition of entry.
So far this season the man to watch has been former South African Superbike champion Stewart Macleod, with former ZX-10R champion Gavin Lightfoot, Graeme van Breda and Pieter de Vos working hard to keep him honest.
However, Killarney is not one of the Mac Attack’s favourite circuits and in particular Lightfoot could spring a surprise here.
If his superb performances in the recent SA Superbike races at what he considers his home circuit - are anything to go by, Ronald Slamet and the Mike Hopkins ZX-10R are going to be the combination to beat in Saturday’s Mike Hopkins Regional Superbike races.
Two third places against the cream of the country’s litre-class superbike racers and a career-best 1min12.595 lap time suggest that the young Namibian has raised his game that one crucial notch that could nail down the Regional title this weekend.
But in motorsport, as in all human contests, it’s not over till it’s over. Slamet will have to see off determined challenges from former Region title-holder Malcolm Rapson (Kawasaki ZX-10R) and this season’s surprise star performer, Gerrit Visser on the Competition Bikes CBR1000RR.
There’s also a question mark hanging over Slamet’s closest rival for Regional honours, Stunt SA/DMR ZX-10R rider Aran van Niekerk, who seemed to hold a tenuous advantage at the previous Regional meeting, but caused the first Super Series Superbike race on 5 October to be red-flagged when he suffered the biggest crash of the day and was taken to hospital with a suspected broken collar-bone.
His name is on the entry list for this weekend’s Regional meeting but whether he will be able to match Slamet’s new-found pace - indeed, whether he will be able to ride at all, just 14 days after such a monumental tumble - remains to be seen. But don’t write the immensely determined Van Niekerk off; he has surprised us in the past and could do so again.
Van Niekerk’s younger brother Nicholas van der Walt (DMR CBR600RR) has been the most consistent of the 600 Challenge riders this season, despite spirited challenges from the fast but crash-prone Sharl Wasserfall (Berlux ZX-60R) and Brandon Haupt, whose temperamental MX Clean GSX-R600 has finally found competitive pace after a trip to Gauteng yielded valuable tuning know-how.
All three, however, will face a new threat in the form of Hayden Jonas - just 15, full of confidence and out for the first time on a new Suzuki GSX-R600. The reigning Powersport champion has race-craft out of all proportion to his age and, if he can make the transition from a class where race-winners lap at around 1min19 to one where the pace is close to five seconds faster, he will be a force to be reckoned with.
Class B, by contrast, will provide more adult entertainment as Leroy Malan and Shaun de Jager (each on a Honda CBR1000RR) fight it out with veteran Mike Wilhelmi, who is having the season of his life on the Fast Fence ZX-10R, with ‘Shrek’ Smith and ‘Donkey’ - the veteran Entity CBR1000RR - always ready to take advantage of any mistake by the class leaders.
Jonas is entered in the Powersport Class as well, on his fast but fragile Suzuki SV650, but the form men in the 650cc division are Graeme Green on the SOS Oil SV650 and Warren ‘Starfish’ Guantario, on the Calberg ER6, who provided the dice of the day at the previous Regional meeting and may well do so again.
The Clubman class will see Wessel Kruger (Honda CBR600 F3) face off against arch-rival Jannie Stander on the Galvatech ZX-10R, but the biggest cheers will be reserved for Mandy ‘Steel Bender’ Peake, back after an off-track excursion at the previous meeting resulted in a spectacular crash and a seriously second-hand Honda VTR, hence her new nickname.