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The carefully laid plans of the top competitors for Round 9 of the Mike Hopkins Regional Motorcycle series at Killarney on Saturday were rendered moot by the unexpected late entry of local superstar David 'McFlash' McFadden, fresh from a successful stint in World Superstocks and an emphatic race win in the previous weekend's WesBank Super Series meeting at Kyalami.
McFlash put the Race Prep ZX-10R on pole with a 1min12.280 qualifying lap and dominated Race 1 from lights to flag, while Ronald Slamet, who'd been expected to set the pace on the I-S Freight Services S1000RR, had to raise his game to try to stay with the Kawasaki.
Slamet put in a career best of 1min12.098 on lap three but it wasn't enough as McFadden dipped into the 11's in the closing stages to pull away and win by almost five seconds.
Only after delivering a master class in machine control did McFadden reveal that he had ridden the race with the ZX-10R's traction control system switched off.
His conclusion? Traction control is a lifesaver under less-than-optimum conditions but if the tyres are right and the track temperature is high enough, he can go faster without it.
Twelve seconds further back Trevor Westman and Malcolm Rapson on identical BMW's fought it out for third, never more than a couple of length apart, with Westman ahead by just 0.166sec when it mattered.
Behind them it was outright warfare as top 600 Challenge riders Gerrit Visser (Competition Bikes CBR600RR), Brandon Haupt (MX-Clean GSX-R600) and Nicholas Van der Walt (Race Prep CBR600RR) mixed it with veterans Jan Lucas de Vos (Kawasaki ZX-10R) and Quintin Ebden (Danie Maritz Racing CBR1000RR).
Visser put up a superb performance, holding Ebden at bay for almost the entire race - especially after Ebden got it all wrong and ran very wide in Turn 5 on lap four - only to have the CBR1000RR power past on the last lap to take fifth by less than a second.
Van der Walt dropped back a little in the closing stages but De Vos, Ebden, Visser and Haupt finished in that order in less than 1.4 seconds.
The top eight Class B riders qualified within less than half a second, setting up an epic confrontation, but in the end it was Mark van der Berg (HondaCBR100) who took the class honours from Tyran Simon (Kawasaki ZX-10R) and Terry Smith (Eclipse CBR1000) - although mention must be made of Roland Wingeier (Kawasaki ZX-10R), Shakir 'Shrek' Smith and Mike van Rensburg on the Bikernetics R6, who diced all the way for 21st place overall as if it was the lead and finished in that order in less than half a second.
There were only three finishers in Class C after the retirements of Vossie Vosloo (DEA R1) and Robyn de Goede (Honda CBR600); line honours went to class stalwart Wayne Arendse (Honda CBR600RR) after a lively battle with Kurt Fortune's Kawasaki ZX-6R.
Slamet signalled his intentions with a superb hole shot at the start of the second race but, by the end of lap one normal service had been resumed and the Green Meanie was back in charge. Nothing daunted, the young Namibian put in another career best lap of 1min12.009, but McFadden was consistently in the 11's and came home with an emphatic 4.4-second advantage.
Behind them, Westman and Rapson were even closer than in the earlier race, swopping places a number of times in a frenetic eight-lap duel. Rapson held a tenuous advantage going into the last lap, only to be outbraked into Turn 5 and lose out on third by 0.056sec.
Visser disposed of Ebden on lap four and put the hex on De Vos three laps later, pulling a small but crucial gap to come home fifth, at the top of the 600 Challenge.
Haupt and Van der Walt were not so lucky, battling all the way against Ebden's superior straightline speed. Haupt put in a superb lap seven to get the better of the bigger machine and actually held the advantage down the back straight, only for Ebden to outdrag him to the line by less than half a second.
Class B honours again went to and on-form Van der Berg, by less than 0.2sec from Simon, while at the back of the class Wingeier, Jacques Britz and 'Shrek' Smith battled it out again for 22nd place overall, finishing in that order in 0.734sec.
Class C went to De Goede, with Fortune less than a second in arrears.
WATCH RACE 2 FROM DE VOS’ BIKE
After flattering to deceive on a number of outings, the Suzuki SV650s of Warren 'Starfish' Guantario and Hayden Jonas gave race leader Carl Liebenberg (Calberg F800) a serious wake-up call, chasing him - and each other! - all the way home, with the three finishing in less than two seconds.
Jonas dropped back, suffering from arm pump, in Race 2 - after briefly taking the lead on lap two - to come home third, 4.5sec in arrears, but Guantario put in the ride of the day to outbrake, outride and outplay the veteran BMW rider, leading him out of the final kink by two lengths, only for Liebenberg to slingshot him across the line to win by a heartbreaking 0.037sec.
Leroy Malan, on another F800, scored two satisfying, if lonely, fourths, with Franz Maritz on his brother Danie's 1985 WP championship-winning Suzuki GSX-R750 losing out to HondaCBR600RR rider Dewald Muller in Race 1 by less than a second but getting the better of him in their second outing.
Muller was however, the fastest of the Class D riders by a huge margin, earning him a promotion to Class C in the superbike races next time out.