Saturday’s Extreme Supercar Festival at the Killarney circuit, north of Cape Town, delivered enough Superbike action to satisfy the most jaded of spectators, with six hard-fought races, each in doubt all the way to flagfall, and some heart-wrenching human drama to remind us that the protagonists are not digital Playstation creations but real people and when they crash, it hurts.
Headlining the meeting were the two dozen identically bog-standard Kawasakis of the national ZX-10 Masters Cup, each ridden by a rider more than 35 years old. Some are Gentleman Riders (the term applies to their background, rather than their riding style, you understand) but most of the top riders are seasoned professionals with more than a few SA Superbike titles between them.
The smoothest and most stylish of these is former SA title-holder Stewart Macleod, who was the only Masters Cup rider under 1min14 in qualifying. Pieter de Vos, multiple ZX-10 champion Gavin Lightfoot and former SA Superbike star Graeme van Breda made up the rest of the front row.
Killarney was never one of Macleod’s favourite circuits; Lightfoot led the way for the first few rough-and-tumble laps before Macleod unleashed a signature Mac Attack on lap three and slowly but surely increased his advantage to nearly three seconds at the flag.
Van Breda slotted in behind Lightfoot on lap one and held an increasingly lonely third all the way home, while De Vos got a dismal start and battled his way up to fifth behind Tony Klem before being mugged by Paul Jacobs on the final and finishing sixth.
Lightfoot, as usual, was the first to emerge from the usual Turn 1 argy-bargy, just ahead of Macleod, Johan le Roux - who came out of nowhere with a brilliant start – Jacobs and Van Breda.
Le Roux was unable to stay with the leaders, however, and dropped to the back of the leading pack by the end of lap tow, while Macleod and Lightfoot put up a superb dice for the lead, with Macleod in front by a nail-biting 0.364 seconds when it mattered.
Van Breda delivered another textbook ride to finish third, eight seconds adrift, ahead of De Vos, Jacobs Klem and popular Port Elizabeth rider Robbie Breakspear.
MIKE HOPKINS SUPERBIKES
The drama in the Regional series started early, when former champion Malcolm Rapson (Kawasaki ZX-10R) startled everybody with a personal-best 1min11.826 qualifying lap to take pole. Championship rivals Ronald Slamet (Mike Hopkins ZX-10R), Aran ‘Vantastic’ van Niekerk (Stunt SA/DMR ZX-10R) and Gerrit Visser (Competition Bikes CBR1000RR) made up the front row, Van Niekerk with his right shoulder tightly strapped after a monumental tumble in the national meeting just 14 days earlier left him with a fractured clavicle.
When the lights turned however, it was business as usual, with Slamet grabbing the hole shot from Van Niekerk, Rapson and Visser, while Sharl Wasserfall (Berlux ZX-6R) banged elbows and fairing with Nicholas van der Walt (DMR CBR600RR) for 600 Challenge honours.
Van Niekerk outbraked Slamet into Turn 5 on lap three but Slamet refused to let his rival get away, staying doggedly in Van Niekerk’s wheel-tracks before striking back two laps from home.
Going into the final tour, Slamet led from Van Niekerk as Visser crashed out of third; but when Van Niekerk blitzed his arch-rival again into the last corner of the race, he missed a down-shift and ran wide into the dirt.
The resulting fall was very gentle and Van Niekerk was able to keep the bike running, pick it up (with a fractured scapula!) and rejoin to finish third behind Rapson, three seconds ahead of the race-long duel between Wasserfall and Van der Walt, which ended with the Kawasaki in front when it mattered.
Andre Calvert (Kawasaki ZX-6R) was the first Class B rider home, ahead of Mike Wilhelmi (Fast Fence ZX-10R), who posted a career-best lap of 1min16.816 lap, and Leroy Malan (Honda CBR1000RR), while Eric Everson (Suzuki GSX-R750) took Class C from Wayne Arendse (Honda CBR600RR).
Race 2 provided a double dose of drama as Van Niekerk harried Slamet every step of the way, showing him a wheel several times but unable to make a pass that would stick. Neither would give way in the final corner and they came up the hill side by side, with Slamet getting the better of the sprint to the line by just 0.049sec.
Rapson was a distant third, more than four seconds in arrears, while Van der Walt held off a final challenge from Wasserfall - after the two had swopped places on almost every lap – by 0.50sec to take fourth overall and win the 600 Challenge.
Malan, Wilhelmi and Calvert crossed the line within less than a second at the top of Class B and Everson took Class C by 0.023sec from Arendse, while mention must be made of 15-year-old Powersport hotshot Hayden Jonas (SuzukiGSX-R600), who finished 11th and eighth overall respectively in the two races and third for the day in the 600 Challenge in his first outing on a 600cc machine.
Two more nail-biting finishes ensured Graeme Green (SOS SV650) the Powersport honours for the day from Warren ‘Starfish’ Guantario (Calberg ER6) - by 0.086sec in Race 1 and 0.084 in Race 2 - after Guantario had led more the half the laps in each race.
Green’s team mate Brandon Storey took two (distant) thirds, with Alan Kessell topping a hard-fought 400cc Powersport Class and Ayden van Rooijen (I-S GSX-R600) the first Clubman home.