Rising star Ronald Slamet walked away from the first round of the 2013 Mike Hopkins Regional motorcycle series with the big silverware – and a word of praise for his crew - but earlier in the day it didn’t look as if things were going the young Namibian’s way.
Everybody was looking to the three top contenders - each out for the first time on a Kawasaki ZX-10R - to set the pace, but it was 2011 champion Malcolm Rapson on the Donford machine who laid down his marker with a 1min12.708 qualifying lap, two-tenths quicker than Slamet’s Mike Hopkins-backed ZX-10R, while Aran van Niekerk was just nine thousandths of a second further off the pace on the new Stunt SA ZX-10R.
A surprise appearance on the front row was that of 2012 600 Challenge winner Gerrit Visser, now riding the ex-Quintin Ebden Honda CBR1000RR, more than a second quicker than the bike’s previous owner, now on a BMW S1000RR.
But it was Slamet who got the hole shot when the lights went out for the first time in 2013, ahead of Rapson, Van Niekerk, Ebden and Trevor Westman on the Holmes/Walker Brothers S1000RR.
By the end of lap two, however, Van Niekerk was up to second and chasing Slamet for all he was worth. Rapson stayed with them for another two laps, then began to drop back as the leaders lapped consistently in the mid-twelves, significantly quicker than their qualifying times.
Visser and Westman soon relegated Ebden to sixth, where he got mixed up in a thrilling five-way battle with the Simon brothers - Zane on a Kawasaki ZX-10R and Tyran on a Yamaha R1 - and top 600 Challenger runners Brandon Haupt (MX Clean GSX-R600) and Nicholas van der Walt (Honda CBR600RR).
Haupt, however, lost the front wheel at the second apex of the fast Malmesbury sweep on lap six and slid out of the race, while Tyran Simon fell back towards the end, but Van der Walt gave Ebden a torrid time of it despite a 400cc deficit, passing him several times under braking only to lose out on the straights.
By the final lap Van Niekerk was all over Slamet. The two dived into Turn 5 side by side, but Slamet was slowed by a back marker while Van Niekerk got a clean line and a perfect exit, holding on to win by just 0.184sec. Rapson was a lonely third while Visser beat Westman for fourth by 1.4sec - only to be penalised 30 seconds for jumping the start and wind up ninth.
Nine seconds further back Ebden, Van der Walt and Zane Simon finished in that order in less than 0.15sec. Van der Walt, who is Van Niekerk’s younger brother, was also the first 600cc rider home, making it the first time in living memory that two classes in the same race had been won by two brothers.
Slamet, who was less than impressed by the outcome of the first race after leading every lap except the one that counted, made no took off like a man on a mission when the lights went out for Race 2, taking an immediate lead he was to hold to the end, gradually stretching the gap to an emphatic 4.7 seconds and posting the fastest lap of the day at 1min12.261 along the way.
Van Niekerk, Rapson,Vosser and Westman did their best to keep him honest, while Van der Walt was again the first 600 rider home.
At the top of Class B, Kashief Mohamed got the best of a race-long battle with Tyran Simon, Etienne Nelson (Yamaha R1), Shaun de Jager (Honda CBR1000RR) and Mike van Rensburg (Bikernetics R6), all of whom finished within 2.5 seconds.
Kurt Fortune (Kawasaki ZX-6R) took Class C from Andries Coetzee (Yamaha R6) and Ian Willis (Triumph 675).
In mid-2012 Powersport racing at Killarney took on a whole new look - and sound! – when the class was opened to 650cc four-stroke twins as well as 400cc fours. With no less than four Suzuki SV650’s and three Kawasaki ER-6’s on the line the stage was set for superb racing.
And so it proved as Hayden Jonas and Warren Guantario – each on an SV650 – delivered two of the closest-fought races seen at Killarney in many years, chased hard by Carl Liebenberg (Calberg ER-6), Graeme Greene (Suzuki SV650), Trevor Westman (Holmes ER-6) and Liebenberg’s son Andrew on the second Calberg ER-6.
The two leaders swopped placed at least once on every lap, never more ant a bike-length apart; until Jonas was balked by a back marker on the last lap; he gave it everything he had in his efforts to get back on terms with Guantario but failed by just 0.79sec.
Carl Liebenberg, Greene, Westaman and Andrew Liebenberg finished in that order in just over 10 seconds, John Kosterman’s Suzuki GSX-R750 was the first Vintage superbike home and rookie Bronte Heinrich was the Clubman rider across the line on a Ducati 996.
Mandy Peake (Fast by Fran VTR1000), got her best start yet but clipped the rear wheel of Kevin Spratley’s Yamaha RZ350 coming out of Turn 1. She and the big Honda went farming - all the way across the oval-track pits and back into the dirt! – before rejoining in last place just before Turn 2. Well and truly wound up, Peake then put in the best laps of her life to make up five places and finish fifth in the Clubman Class.
The second Powersport race was a classic, as Jonas and Guantario swopped places 14 times in eight laps in the dice of day to finish less than a tenth of a second apart – with Jonas in front when it mattered.
Graeme Greene got the best of a battle for third with Westman and Carl Liebenberg that was nearly as close, Kosterman wrapped up the Classics, and Peake put in a textbook ride to finish third in the Clubman class (and fourth overall for the day) behind Heinrich and Wessel Kruger’s Honda CBR600 F3, setting a new personal best of 1min25.329 in the process.