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Round five of the Mike Hopkins Regional Motorcycle series was run in typical Killarney winter weather - streaming wet in the morning, dry in the afternoon, with showers in between, which made tyre choice something of a lottery.
David 'McFlash' McFadden, fresh from a successful World Supersport outing at Motorland Aragon, where he qualified 11th and finished eighth, put the Race Prep ZX-10R on pole with a deceptively smooth 1min26.486 on a streaming wet circuit, two seconds faster than Ronald Slamet's I-S S1000 RR and nearly four seconds faster than the Honda CBR1000 RR's of Class B rider Shane Nell and Quintin Ebden.
Ebden and Nicholas van der Walt (Race Prep CBR600) went down in the atrocious conditions but, while the damage to Ebden's brand new 'Blade was purely cosmetic, race Prep's McFadden had to borrow chassis components to get Van der Walt's bike back on the track - and even then it would only run on three cylinders.
Ten minutes before the race was due to start, when McFadden should have been quietly preparing for a difficult ride, he was frantically reassembling the 600, telling Van der Walt to get into his leathers, because “the bike will be ready!” - and it was.
McFadden played it cool as Slamet pulled an enormous wheelie at the start, but by the end of lap one normal service had been resumed, as Trevor Westman on the Walker Brothers S1000 RR and Aran van Niekerk's Yamaha R1 disputed second with Van der Walt's rejuvenated Honda and Slamet's BMW.
Slamet, however, battling with dreadful conditions and a recalcitrant clutch, gradually lost touch with the leaders as 600 Challenge star Gerrit Visser (Competition Bikes CBR600) came up to join the battle for second. He passed Van der Walt on lap five and closed to within half a second of Van Niekerk but ran out of laps before he could get close enough to challenge for third - although by the end he was lapping half a second quicker than the R1.
McFlash cruised home almost 20 seconds ahead of the pack, but Westman, Van Niekerk, Visser, Van der Walt and Nell fought it out all the way to the line, finishing in that order in less than a second. Ebden, meanwhile, picked up the pace in the closing stages as he regained his confidence and closed up on the battle for second.
By the afternoon the circuit was bone dry, although still bitterly cold, and everybody was expecting fireworks. Westman, Slamet and Van Niekerk got the best of an explosive start, only to have McFadden get better drive out of the double-apex Turn 4 and power past all three into the lead going down to Turn 5.
After that it was Game On as McFadden twice broke into the twelves, but was unable to pull away from an epic dice between the class leaders as defending Regional champion Malcolm Rapson, on the Donford S1000 RR, moved up to join the bunfight.
Slamet's clutch problem resurface in the closing stages - he completed the final two laps in top gear - and he dropped back to finish a lonely fifth while Rapson finally got past Van Niekerk on lap seven and held on to take second despite last-lap kamikaze attempts from both Van Niekerk and Westman as the three finished in that order in 0.147sec, five seconds adrift of McFadden.
Visser and Van der Walt battled it out all the way to the flag for 600 Challenge honours, finishing less than two seconds apart, while arch-rival Brandon Haupt (Suzuki GSX-R600) stalled on the start line, got away stone last and passed 14 riders in the ride of the day to finish 10th overall, and third in the 600 Challenge.
Nell, Marco Smith and Terry Smith (each on a Honda Fireblade) led Class B while Vossie Vosloo (Competition Bikes R1) wrapped up Class C.
There were only seven starters as Race 1 of the Classics/Powersport/Twins series got underway in pouring rain, but they provided more than enough drama as Warren 'Starfish' Guantario on the Fibreprod SV650 battled it out with Hayden Jonas, out for the first time on a similar Suzuki SV650, and Carl Liebenberg on the Calberg F800, who has dominated this class of racing throughout 2012. Liebenberg, however, was content to play a waiting game until Jonas got an enormous highside coming out of Turn 5 on lap three and went down hard, right in front of him.
“I was sure I was going to run over Hayden,” Liebenberg said after the race.
“Luckily the bike slid one way and Hayden went the other, and I went between them!”
He and Leroy Malan, also F800-mounted, picked up the pace as the rain stopped in the closing stages, but Guantario was battling with a jammed clutch and had to give best as first Liebenberg and then Malan powered past.
Behind them, however, Frans Maritz on his brother Danie's 1985 Suzuki GSX-R750 and J-P Friedrich on a Honda VFR400 put up a superb David-and-Goliath tussle for fourth, with Maritz powering the big Suzuki past on the straights and Friedrich going inside, outside and seemingly sometimes over the top on every corner, the two swopping places more than a dozen times in eight laps.
Friedrich was in front coming out of Turn 5 for the last time, and held the line coming through the kink, but Maritz outdragged the little Honda to the line to take the place by 0.059sec - that's less than half a wheel.
Guantario's team rallied round between races - they had to strip the Suzuki's clutch twice before they isolated the problem, but they got the bike running in time for Race 2.
He went out there and gave it all he had, challenging Liebenberg on almost every lap until the Calberg rider put in two superb laps right at the end to win by 3.4 seconds. Maritz was third, 30 seconds adrift, and Malan fourth while Liebenberg's son Andrew (Calberg RVF400) and Friedrich put up a superb dice for Powersport honours that ended with Liebenberg in front when it mattered, by less than a second.
Tony Sparg's Suzuki GSX1100 was the first vintage superbike home, ahead of Buddy Ekron's Kawasaki Z1000.