Rising star Ronald ‘The Red Baron’ Slamet served notice that the weekend's Round 7 of the Mike Hopkins Motorcycles Regional series at Cape Town's Killarney circuit might deliver a few surprises when he qualified the I-S Freight S1000 RR on pole, on a bitterly cold circuit, in 1min12.948 - 1.3 seconds faster than anybody else.
Regional champion Malcolm Rapson on the Donford S1000RR, Trevor Westman (Walker Brothers S1000 RR) and Gerrit Visser (Competion Bikes CBR600) making up the front row.
But Slamet was pushed wide in the first-corner melee as Westman, Aran van Niekerk on the five-year-old Holmes R1, and Rapson muscled through to the front, and finished lap one way down in midfield.
But if anything, that seemed to light a fire under the Red Baron as he sliced through the field to rejoin the leading trio, who'd been swopping the lead between them on almost every lap.
He put up put up the fastest lap of the day - a superb 1min12.066 - on lap 4 and, a lap later, passed Westman for third while Van Niekerk put a definitive move on Rapson. From then on Westman faded, his tyres shredded, to finish a lonely fourth, while the battle at the front became even more intense over the final three laps.
VAN NIEKERK BY 0.4SEC
Van Niekerk, Slamet and Rapson were within touching distance of each other in every corner as Slamet briefly took the lead at the end of lap seven, only for Van Niekerk to outbrake him again moments later, and hold on to the line to win by 0.4sec, with Rapson a further 0.22sec - less than half a length - in arrears.
Visser held fifth for most of the race but went into Turn 5 too hot on lap six. He gave himself (by his own admission) a huge fright, but pulled off a superb save, only to have Brandon Haupt on the On Demand GSX-R600 slide smoothly through on the inside to take 600 Challenge honours by just over a second.
The third 600 home was the Race Prep CBR600 of Van Niekerk's younger brother Nicholas Van der Walt, who'd practically destroyed the bike in a huge crash during practice on Friday. He and his parents (his father is a goldsmith, his mother a medical doctor) worked through most of Friday night to put it on the line but the battered Honda was running far from its best, making the youngster's eighth-place vverall finish all the more commendable.
Marco Smith (Tiffandales CBR1000RR) put in the ride of his life to win Class B from Shaun de Jager on a similar 'Blade and Jacques Britz' BMW S1000RR, while Robyn de Goede (Honda CBR600) took Class C honours.
The determined Slamet refused let himself be elbowed out of the way again at the start of the second race, holding a close third at the end of lap one behind Van Niekerk and Westman. He then passed both down the back straight and into Turn 5 on lap two to take the lead, and walked away at more than a second a lap to take his first overall win at Killarney by nearly nine seconds.
Behind him, however, Van Niekerk, Westman and Rapson put up the dice of the day for second, ducking and diving changing places at least twice on every lap, before finishing in that order in less than half a second.
Nine seconds further back, Haupt got the best of another three-way battle with Visser and Van der Walt, pulling gently away in the closing stages to lead the 600 Challengers home by almost two seconds after some frantic earlier cut-and-thrust.
Marco Smith took another hard-earned Class B win, this time from Kawasaki ZX-10R's of Tyran Simon and Mike Wilhelmi, while Robyn de Goede cement his lead in the Class standings.
Round 7 was yet another chapter in the “Starfish soap opera” as the Fibreprod SV650 once more flattered only to deceive. Warren 'Starfish' Gauntario qualified the Suzuki second, only 0.308sec behind the all-conquering Calberg F800 of Carkl Liebenberg, with Leroy Malan (BMW F800) and teenager Hayden Jonas (Suzuki SV650) making up an all-V-twin front row.
In the race, Guantario gave Liebenberg a hard time for two laps before the SV650 began misfiring badly and he was forced to retire, leaving Liebenberg and Leroy Malan to lead the filed home, with Jonas third, eight seconds in arrears and leading the Powersport class by half a minute from Andrew Liebenberg's Calberg VFR400.
Frans Maritz was the first 'historic' rider home on his brother Danie's 1985 Suzuki GSX-R750, ahead of Danie himself on the legendary six-cylinder Honda CBX1000 and John Kosterman on a GSX-R750 with severe ground-clearance problems.
The Fibreprod SV650's problem was traced to a dud spark plug, but he had to start the second race from the back of the grid, while a logistical error in the Calberg pit meant Liebenberg had to start from pit lane.
Malan, Jonas and Maritz made the early running while the two contenders made their way through the field; they were first and second by the end of lap four, after which it was game on all the way to the end, with Liebenberg taking the honours after a superb duel by just 0.77sec - about half a wheel.
Malan and Jonas came home in that order, six seconds in arrears, with Frans Maritz leading his brother home again in the 'Historic' section.
Westman got a blistering Le Mans start from pole for the 30-minute endurance race and was never headed, followed for the first few laps by former regional champion Rob Cragg on a Honda CBR1000 and the Kawasaki ZX-10R's of Chris Williams and Zane Simon.
Van Niekerk stalled on the line and got away stone last, but he was fifth at the end of the first lap and third at the end of lap two. He passed Williams on lap three to slot into second, but there was no way he was going to catch Westman, who put in a remarkably consistent 25 laps to finish 15 seconds ahead of his stable-mate, with Williams and Cragg the only other riders on the same lap.
Malan's BMW F800 was the first twin home; while Liebenberg lent the Calberg F800 to BMW tuner Raymond Alexander, who surprised himself by completing 23 laps and finishing 13th in his first outing on the F800.
Andrew Liebenberg added further kudos by completing a creditable 22 laps on the only 400 in the race.