Regional bikes battle dire conditionsComment on this story
One veteran rider called it the oiliest weekend he had ever seen. Every time the riders in Round 6 of the Mike Hopkins Regional Motorcycle championships, run at Killarney in Cape Town at the weekend, were due out on the circuit, a four-wheeled competitor would go out and spill oil on the track.
Not once, not twice, but five times - twice during Friday's official practice and three times during race day on Saturday, eventually forcing the meeting to be abandoned halfway through the afternoon programme after a classic sports-car spilled its guts on the main straight just before the second Superbike race.
Yet the results tell a different story - even if half of them are missing. Former Regional champion Malcolm Rapson turned the fastest laps of his life in qualifying - despite fresh oily patches in Turn 2 - to put the Donfords ZX-10R on pole for the Superbike races with an electrifying 1min12.338 hot lap, while 2013 title rivals Ronald Slamet (Mike Hopkins ZX-10R), Aran van Niekerk (Stunt SA/DMR ZX-10R) and Van Nielerk's younger brother, 600 Challenge hotshot Nicholas van de Walt (DMR CBR600RR) completed the front row of the grid.
HIGH-SPEED FORMATION FLYING
When the lights turned, however, it was the young guns who made the running, taking their battle for this year's Regional crown to the front off the line and moving away from Rapson at about half a second a lap, seemingly tied together as Slamet and Van Niekerk gave the fans an exhibition of high-speed formation flying. Then, just when it seemed all over bar the shouting, Van Niekerk outbraked the championship leader into the final corner of the race and held the advantage to take the win by 0.151sec.
Rapson came home a steady third - if lapping consistently under 1min13 can ever be called steady! - ahead of Gerrit Visser (Competition Bikes CBR1000RR), born-again racer Jan Lucas de Vos (Kawasaki ZX-10R) and Van Der Walt, who got the better of a electrifying race-long battle with 600 Challenger and crasher of note Sharl Wasserfall (Berlux ZX-6R) to take class honours by 0.099sec.
Leroy Malan's Honda CBR1000RR was the first Class B bike home, ahead of veteran Mike Wilhelmi's Fast Fence ZX-10R and Jacques Brits' BMW S1000RR, while Wayne Arendse (Honda CBR600RR) and Andries Coetzee fought for the Class C win like it was a World title, finishing only 0.173sec apart after eight nail-biting laps.
It was clear from the first lap of qualifying that the day would belong to the 650 twins, with Graeme Green and his Suzuki SV650 claiming pole position with a best effort of 1min19.753, ahead of Warren "Starfish" Guantario on the Calberg ER6, Hayden Jonas' fast but fragile SV650 (which had already had its engine rebuilt twice that week!) and Brando Storey's Fibreprod SV650.
And that's how they ran in the race - Green and Guantario swopped the lead at least once on every lap in a duel for the lead that kept the crowd on its feet from lights to flag, with Green ahead when it mattered by what a Calberg crew member later described as the thickness of an onion skin and the timekeepers quantified as a exactly a tenth of a second.
Jonas finished a distant third, happy to bring the Suzuki home with all its moving parts still moving, and Storey put in a smooth eight laps for a creditable fourth.
Norman McFadden, in an all-too-rare return to competition on the Kawasaki ZX-6R that his son, World Superstock rider David "McFlash" McFadden, rode to the 2011 SA Supersport title, fought a race-long ding-dong with Andrew Liebenberg on the second Calberg ER-6, that ended with McFadden in front by 0.57sec when it mattered.
John "Konstabel" Costerman's Suzuki GSX-R750 Pre-Sling was the first Vintage Superbike home, well ahead of Kevin Spratley's Yamaha RZ350R, while the most frustrated rider on the circuit was Mandy Peake, who qualified 17th on her rumbling Honda VTR1000 V-twin and pulled a decent start - only to have the front exhaust header break off less than 20mm from the head at the start of lap two.
A quick trip to the Harp Engineering workshop at the circuit had it serviceably welded in time for Race 2 - which never happened, leaving her with a grand total of six laps on her scoresheet for the whole weekend.