Cape Town - The cast had all the ingredients for a thriller - international stars, local drama and a couple of kids making their debut in the big time - and the two Mike Hopkins Regional Superbike races in Saturday’s Super Series meeting at Cape Town’s Killarney circuit didn’t disappoint.
Multiple former SA champion Sheridan Morias put his Kawasaki ZX-10R on pole, with the three similar machines of Malcolm Rapson, reigning Regional champion Ronald Slamet and Aran van Niekerk filling out the front row.
Behind them were 2013 SA Supersport champion Cam Petersen on the first of the brand new Emtek R6’s, Trevor Westman on the seven-year-old Sizzlers R1, Gerrit Visser’s Evo-spec ZX-10R and Van Niekerk’s younger brother, local teenager Nicholas van der Walt, out on a litre-class machine for the first time in his debut on the Emtek R1 which he will be racing in the new SuperGP series.
It had not been an easy transition, he admitted; the extra power was like a kick in the pants, forcing a radical change in riding style, while the new Evo-spec R1 needed considerable chassis development - which was a big ask for a kid trying to find his feet in the national arena.
Indeed, when the red lights went out he found himself dicing with his old 600 Challenge rival, 14-year-old Hayden Jonas, whose new Kawasaki ZX-6R was such a disappointment in its debut at the first Regional meeting.
A lot of work had gone into the little green meanie since then; not only was it now firing on all four cylinders all the time, they were kicking out an impressive 92kW.
But up at the sharp end, Morais was showing the cheering fans exactly what ‘world class’ means, backing the rear wheel, perfectly balanced, into slow corners, easily holding Slamet at bay and setting the fastest lap of the day – a sizzling 1m11.415 - on lap three.
Meanwhile Van Niekerk and Rapson debated third and Visser, recovering from a slow start, got past the two Emtek R6’s of Petersen and Dean Vos and was challenging Westman for fourth.
MORAIS IN TROUBLE
But on lap four Morais missed a gear going into Turn 5, suddenly losing momentum and running very wide. Slamet didn’t win the 2013 Mike Hopkins Regional title without learning to recognise a pass when it’s handed to him on a plate; with scarcely a heartbeat’s hesitation he swept by Morais and suddenly it was ‘game on’ for the lead.
The next lap was hot enough to render even the cynical Killarney commentators almost incoherent, until Morais slid past Slamet under braking for Turn 5, back wheel visibly stepped out – and got a box full of neutrals.
Morais went straight off into the boondocks; he kept the Kawasaki upright and got back on to the circuit, but promptly retired rather than risk a big crash.
That left Slamet to cruise home for a well-earned victory, six seconds clear of a battle for second that went right down to the line, with Van Niekerk nine tenths of a second ahead when it mattered.
The gap between Westman and Visser for fourth was even closer - 0.291 seconds to be precise, in Westman’s favour, while Jonas got the better of Van der Walt, to come home eighth overall, while admitting that he was unable to stay with the screaming R6’s of Petersen and Vos.
A number of the four-wheeled Super Series competitors dropped oil on the circuit as the day went on, keeping the marshals very busy and forcing the postponement of Race 2 until late in the afternoon. The Gauteng brigade decided that they had learned all they were going to learn, so they sat the second race out.
That left Slamet to face off against old rivals Rapson, Van Niekerk and Westman, who came up off the second row to mix it with the leaders for a couple of laps before Slamet put in the fastest lap of the race on lap four and broke away.
He was the only rider in Race 2 to go under 1m13, which shows how much the surface had deteriorated.
Van Niekerk held his ground in the face of challenges from first Westman and then Rapson - who outbraked him on the penultimate tour, only to be neatly re-taken into Turn 1 at the start of the final lap. The battle for second went all the way to the line with Van Niekerk, Rapson, Westman and Visser finishing in that order within 1.4 seconds after the dice of the day.
Van der Walt got the better of Jonas in their second encounter by a nail-biting 0.393sec after a thrilling late charge, but Jonas was the first Class B rider - and the first 600 Challenge competitor - home to scoop two first-place trophies for the day.
Mark van der Berg (Honda CBR1000 RR) was second in Class B, with Brandon Haupt (MX Clean GSX-R600), working hard to find form after a long layoff due to injury, third in Class B and second in the 600 Challenge.
BMW S1000 RR rider Jacques Brits, meanwhile, took the Class C honours for the day, ahead of David Enticott, punching way above his weight aboard a well-sorted Triumph Daytona 675, and the Yamaha R1 of Brent Walters.