Cape Town – The traditional year-end endurance race for lightweight motorcycles at Killarney returned to its familiar format for 2016, starting at 10am and running for eight hours on Saturday at the demanding one-kilometre ‘K’ circuit under the Mad Mac’s banner.
The 34th running of this classic international event was again dominated by the UK-based RST team of Jonny Towers, CEO of bikewear giant RST, international Superstock 1000 rider David ‘McFlash’ McFadden and local teenage hotshot Kewyn Snyman, on their immaculately prepared Honda CBR150.
It was this team’s fourth win in five years, and the 10th time that Towers had been a member of the winning squad.
But it was McFlash who threw down the gauntlet in qualifying, posting a 48.878 second lap that got him provisional pole ahead of the Superpole shootout, when the top 10 qualifiers were given six flat-out laps, going out at five-second intervals to ensure that each had a clear track.
The result was a blistering 48.325, almost half a second clear of former multiple South African Superbike champion Greg Gildenhuys on the second of the two Van Bros CBR150 machines, and 0.7s faster than Van Bros team leader Aran van Niekerk.
Van Niekerk, however, got the best of the traditional
Nevertheless, by the time the mayhem had partially sorted itself out and the debris from the inevitable early crashes caused by hotshot riders trying to win an eight-hour race in the first five minutes, McFadden had taken over the lead and was pulling slowly away from Daryn Upton on the Gauteng-based OCC CBR150 he was sharing with fellow SuperGP racers Brent Harran and Luca Gaspar, with Van Niekerk a close third on the Van Bros family CBR150 he was sharing with his father, Mark van der Walt, brother Nicholas and Michael Hall.
By the end of the first hour, McFadden and Towers had lapped the entire field at least once, peeling off 69 laps to the 68 of the OCC, Van Bros and Fast Lane riders – Erin Lane, Brandon Story, Damien Mompie and Zafir Dinly on the CBR150 with which Lane usually competes in short-circuit sprint events.
The Powerflow team of Dick Bate, Donald Craig, Ayden van Rooijen and multiple former SA champion Greg Dreyer were within a lap of the leaders until lap 24, when Dreyer hit part of a fallen bike and slit the front tyre. He got the bike back to the pits unscathed for a frantic tyre change, but it cost the team 10 laps and dropped them halfway down the order.
An hour later, the RST riders had reeled off 143 laps to the 140 of the OCC squad – but they’d been slapped with a five-lap penalty for overtaking under a yellow flag and, officially, OCC was in the lead, with the Van Bros bikes third and fourth. The Hi-Tech CBR150 of Dorren Loureiro, Chris Wright and former National star Robbie Portman from Gauteng was up to fifth, ahead of the Ellis brothers, Michael and David – the only two-man team in the race – aboard the Weskus Verkoelers CBR150.
Erin Lane was on track to become the first girl to finish an 8 Hour in the top five when she clashed with a slower rider in the Pits Esses and went down hard; she was able to ride a second stint later, but at the cost of much discomfort, and the Fast Lane team finished well down the order.
Ten minutes into the third hour Mark van der Walt crashed the Van Bros family bike out of third, injuring his left ankle too badly to ride further, and costing the team a long pit stop to repair the bike; they rejoined in 23rd position, 36 laps down and never got back into contention.
With three hours gone, RST were a scant three laps ahead of the second Van Bros crew and the Hi Tech squad, who were not only on the same lap but just 12 seconds apart, with the ASAP World CBR150 of William Friend, Brandon Staffen and Luca Coccioni, the Ellis brothers and the Rayder Racing CBR150 of Gareth Dawson, Raymond Alexander, Renier de Lange and Chris Deppe in close formation, one lap further down.
By the halfway point at 2pm, however, the pace was beginning to tell – but RST was just hitting its stride, stretching its lead to 11 laps from Hi Tech and 13 from Rayder, which had made up three places, at the expense of ASAP World and the Ellis brothers.
The orange and white No.17 machine just kept on reeling off the laps while almost everybody else had to deal with either crashed or broken bikes. By the end of the fifth hour RST’s lead was up to 19 laps, with Van Bros back up to second, Rayder third, Hi Tech fourth and OCC back up to fifth, minus its fairing after a monumental struggle with crash damage.
The sixth hour produced the biggest crash of the day and the only safety-bike period, after Dreyer and Thruxton Racing’s Kosie Rabie collided on the start-finish line. Rabie went down very hard and lay motionless on the circuit as the riders bunched up behind the Mad Mac’s safety bike, and the ambulance moved swiftly to pick him up. Within 12 minutes Rabie was on his way to hospital and the safety bike was parked in the pits; the Thruxton racing bike could have been repaired, but the heart had gone out of the team and they packed it in.
During the rest of that hour the RST crew lapped the entire field yet again, with McFadden posting the fastest lap of the race with a superb 48.583. That increased their lead to 20 laps from Van Bros, Rayder, a resurgent Powerflow with Dreyer putting in some superb laps, and the Fleetway CBR150 of Andre Calvert, David Enticott, Derek Davids and Shawn Payne.
The next four – OCC, Rayder, the veteran crew of Jimmy Pantony, Gerrit Visser Senior, Paul Medell and John Craig (who has ridden in every edition of this event since its inception in 1983!) and the Ellis brothers, were not only all on the same lap, they were all covered by just over 20 seconds.
Shortly afterwards Staffen ran wide coming out of the Pits Esses and collided with Taric Van de Merwe on the Hooligans CBR150. Both went down hard but the riders were soon up and the bikes were hurriedly pushed back to the pits for some frantic McGyvering. By the end of the hour both were running again, although way down the order.
The Hi Tech CBR150 broke its clutch cable during the seventh hour; the crew removed the bike’s fuel tank to replace it and when they replaced it, they couldn’t get the cap to seal. Fuel kept slopping out under braking, and sadly, the bike was retired.
Not 10 minutes later Powerflow’s Ayden van Rooijen – chasing hard to catch the third-placed OCC machine, collided with the Calberg CBR150 of Andrew Liebenberg, Gerrit Visser Junior, Maxim Mandix and Ryan van Eden coming out of the Big Esses, knocking the team down to ninth and out of contention.
Going into the final hour, RST held a 23-lap advantage over Van Bros, ahead of Rayder, OCC and the veterans, with the Ellis brothers pushing hard for a top-six place. Then a late charge into fourth by the Mad Mac’s CBR150 of Trevor Westman, Wesley Jones, JP Friederich and Warren Guantario radically changed the top order, while the Ellis brothers pushed the veterans down to seventh.
When the flag came down at 6pm, 30 of the 33 starters were still running, although some were considerably the worse for wear. Then began a frustrating hour-long wait for the results while the top six finishers were stripped and their engines checked to make sure they were within the rules.
They were, and RST was credited with a record-equalling 552 laps, 24 laps ahead of Van Bros, OCC, Mad Mac’s, Rayder Racing, and the Ellis brothers – who had never stripped their Honda CBR150’s engine before and had to be assisted by the scrutineers!