Split seconds decide Cape SuperbikesComment on this story
When the three fancied riders put their identical BMW S1000RR superbikes on the front row of the grid for the final round of the 2012 Mike Hopkins Regional Motorcycle Series at Killarney, with Ronald 'Red Baron' Slamet on pole ahead of former champion Malcolm Rapson and Trevor 'Killer' Westman, the fans knew they were in for a treat.
But the surprise packet was teenager Nicholas van der Walt (Race Prep CBR600), who took the inside spot on the front row of the grid ahead of a number of fancied riders on litre-class machinery.
He knew all arch-rival Gerrit Visser (Competition Bikes CBR600) had to do to clinch the 600 Challenge was to finish second in class in Race 1, but Van der Walt says he doesn't care about points - he's there to race.
And what a race it was, as Westman leapt off the line into the lead ahead of Slamet, Van der Walt and Quintin Ebden's DMR CBR1000RR, while Rapson got a poor start and slotted into fifth. He passed both Ebden and Van der Walt on lap two to move into third, but was unable to close the gap to his rivals.
Slamet, meanwhile, was suffering from arm pump in the extreme heat and battling to hold off the determined Westman, who would outbrake his younger opponent into the slow corners and then lose a little ground as Slamet got the power down earlier coming out.
The two were within arm's length for six laps, by which time Slamet was unable to brake effectively and Westman moved away to lead the last two tours and come home three seconds clear.
Rapson was a lonely third, while giant-killer Van der Walt harried Ebden all the way to the line, leading four of the eight laps by sheer nerve and kamikaze late braking but losing out by just half a second to the bigger machines when it mattered most.
Visser, by contrast, played it cool, following veteran David Bolding's PJ One ZX-10R home for a safe seventh overall and the 2012 600 Challenge title.
Zane Simon (Kawasaki ZX-10R) took Class B honours from Bikernetics R6 hotshot Mike van Rensburg by a nailbitingly tight 0. 389sec, while Robyn de Goede was a clear winner in Class C.
Slamet pulled a jerky but ultimately successful launch for the hole shot as the lights went out for the start of the second race, leading Westman, Rapson, Ebden and Van der Walt and Visser into the first turn.
The three BMWs soon opened a gap at the head of the field with Slamet firmly in command, and attention shifted to the fight for fourth, where Ebden would power past Van der Walt on the straights, only to have the lighter machine outbrake him into the corners.
This went on at least once a lap until lap seven, when Van der Walt pulled the pass of the day round the outside of the treacherous Turn 2 - a move that so demoralised Ebden that a lap later he got it completely wrong in the same corner and was lucky not to go farming, as Visser and Hilton Redelinghuys (Suzuki GSX-R600) nipped through to demote him to eighth.
But the win was never in doubt as Slamet brought the I-S Freight machine home in its final outing, 4.6sec clear of a battle to the line between Westman and Rapson, who finished only 0.149sec apart.
Zane Simon beat his brother Tyron (also on a ZX-10R, but running in Class A), Kashief Mohammed (Honda CBR1000RR) and Van Rensburg in a four-way showdown at the top of Class B that saw all four finish in just over a second, while Kurt Fortune (Blaze ZX-6R) and Andries Coetzee (Yamaha R6) came home only 0.336sec apart at the top of Class C.
Hayden Jonas knew that all he had to do was bring his Suzuki SV650 home second in class in Race 1 to take his second consecutive Regional Powersport title (at fourteen years old!) but that didn't stop him and Warren 'Starfish' Guantario from mixing it with the theoretically faster Calberg F800 of veteran Carl Liebenberg on every corner of every lap, until all threec came home within less than half a second.
Almost half a minute further back brothers Danie (Honda CBX1000) and Frans (Suzuki GSX-R750) Maritz dominated the classic field as they went at it hammer and tongs, giving the crowd sibling rivalry at its very best, neither willing to back off until the Honda 'big six' shredded its rear tyre in the closing stages and elder brother Frans pulled out a three-second lead in the final three tours.
With the Powersport crown safely in the bag Jonas was ready to 'unleash the beast' (his words!) in Race 2 and Guantario was given a front-row seat for the dice of the day as Jonas and Liebenberg carved each other up on every corner of every lap. Jonas actually led four of the eight laps but the two were side by side coming out of the final corner and the bigger, torquier BMW managed to eke out a 0.088-second advantage on the run up to the line.
The Maritz brothers were at it again in fourth and fifth, with Danie on the bigger, heavier, older (and, in fact, barely controllable) six-cylinder Honda actually in the lead when the front wheel tucked in Turn 5 on lap five and the bike went down – fortunately without damaging the fuel tank, which carries the autograph of six-times World champion Jim Redman.
But there was more drama behind them, as Mandy Peake stalled the Fast by Fran VTR1000 on the start line. By the time she got the big V-twin going, the back of the field was disapppearing round Turn 1.
Peake then put in the ride of a lifetime, catching and passing tail-ender Buddy Ekron (Kawasaki Z1000) halfway through lap one and making up another 12 places in the next five laps to pass Hylton Ball (BMW F800) for sixth on lap six.
She then set about reeling in Class D leader Raiel le Roux but was still nine seconds adrift when she ran out of laps and had to settle for second in class and sixth overall - after starting stone last.