Super-close racing in SA SuperbikesComment on this story
As usual, the Superbike brigade stole most of the thunder in Round 2 of the WesBank Super Series at Killarney at the weekend.
Local hero David “McFlash” McFadden (Kawasaki), having twice upstaged BMW's reigning SA champion, Greg Gildenhuys, at the opening round of the WesBank series at Zwartkop, took the fight to the champion in another superlative dice in Race 1.
McFadden grabbed the lead on lap one and held it to half-distance, whereupon Gildenhuys took advantage of a tiny opening to go through, holding off the Kawasaki for another three tours. But McFadden was having none of it; he outbraked the BMW into Turn 5 two laps from the end and held on to win by 0.092sec.
Behind them the same margin separated Nicolas Grobler (BMW) and Chris Leeson, on the Ducati Panigale, in third and fourth. Their battle was just as intense as the duel between McFadden and Gildenhuys, with Leeson complaining afterwards that he couldn't take advantage of the Ducati's superior mid-corner speed because Grobler was holding him up!
There was double drama at the start of race two when Kawasaki riders Richard “Ricky Racer” Carmody and Chris du Preez went down at the first corner, with two more riders taking violent evasive action to avoid the carnage, and the race was red flagged.
The restart lasted less than half a lap as Etienne Nelson cartwheeled his BMW in Turn 2 and wound up lying face down in the middle of the track. Race direction immediately called out the red flags again, although by the time the rider had cruised round to the start, Nelson was up and walking. The marshals cleared away what was left of his BMW and the action got underway a third time.
Leeson got the best of a slightly ragged start - understandable, under the circumstances - to lead lap one; then Gildenhuys moved through to take the lead, hoping to take advantage of a poor start by McFadden (who was down in fourth) and put some distance between them.
McFadden, however, is at his best when fighting back, he passed Leeson for second on lap three and harried Gildenhuys every step of the way until the end of lap eight, when he blitzed the BMW to take the lead, to the cheers of his home fans.
Then he left a tiny opening going into turn 2 on the final lap; Gildenhuys dived through to take the lead, and for the rest of the lap he rode the widest BMW in the business to keep the green machine behind him. McFadden moved out of his slipstream going through the final kink and the final dash to the line was so close the timekeepers had to resort to a photo finish to ascertain who had won.
And the decision went to Gildenhuys, by 0.007sec - it doesn't get a lot closer than that.
Leeson and Grobler, about two seconds behind the pair, had the best seats in the house as the battle unfolded, finishing in that order.
For one and a half races it looked as though the works Honda team would make a clean sweep of the podium places for the second consecutive meeting as local man Lance Isaacs won the first race from team-mate Clint Seller in another photo finish (the winning margin was 0.029sec) with teenager Cam Petersen taking the final podium place.
For the first five laps of Race 2 Seller led from Isaacs with team mate, teenager Brent Harran, in hot pursuit - and then the wheels came off.
First Seller out braked himself and crashed out of the lead then, two laps later, Isaacs and Harran tangled in Turn 2 and both went down. Suddenly Free State rookie Ivan Torlage, on a Kawasaki, who's been running an unexpected fourth in stellar company, was catapulted into the lead, while Dean Vos (Kawasaki ), Dylan White (Triumph) and Cam Petersen on the sole surviving works Honda, disputed second.
Torlage held it all together to come home a winner by six seconds, while Vos held off a determined charge by Petersen to take second by 0.043sec, ahead of White, Nicholas Kershaw (Kawasaki) and Nicole van Aswegen (Triumph) in her best National finish to date.
Harran and Seller got going again to finish eighth and ninth respectively but Isaacs' bike was too bent to continue, and the Honda squad went away with a bloody nose.