Town – With reigning champion Mathew Scholtz pursuing MotoAmerica fame and fortune in the land of opportunity, one could be forgiven for thinking that former champion Clinton Seller on the Midway R1 and veteran Capetonian Lance Isaacs (Bell S1000 RR) must start as favourites in the first round of the 2017 SuperGP series, South Africa’s national superbike championship, to be run as part of the Saturday’s Extreme Festival at Killarney.
Not so fast, china. The national hotshots may be in for a culture shock at the southern tip of the country, as they face up to four of the five fastest riders ever to straddle a superbike at the bumpy old Potsdam Road circuit.
First up is international Superstock contender David ‘McFlash’ McFadden, who so impressed the top brass at BMW SA with his pace in the second half of 2016 on a (very) second-hand S1000 RR that he’s now aboard a brand new ‘works’ model.
McFadden has not only earned his nickname in the saddle, he is also a gifted tuner; on his very first outing with the new bike, he posted a best lap of 1m11.118s, less than half a second off Seller’s personal best at Killarney and faster than Isaacs’ could do in his previous outing at this circuit.
McFlash has an extraordinary record at his home circuit; since moving up from the 600 Supersport class in 2012 he has only been beaten once in a Regional superbike race; with that one exception, he has won every Regional he has finished.
The one man who has beaten him, Cape Town-based Namibian Ronald Slamet, has relinquished the BMW S1000 RR with which he was never entirely comfortable and that gave his crew endless grief in 2016 in favour of a new Yamaha R1, aboard which he was quick enough to keep McFadden honest in its maiden outing at Round 1 of the 2017 regional series in mid-February.
The quietly-spoken, deeply religious Slamet is a workmanlike rider, lacking the flamboyant style of his arch-rival, but at his best he is deceptively quick, and has three consecutive Regional titles on his CV to prove it. Both he and his crew reckon there is significantly more pace to be had out of the Yamaha and, if they’ve found it, he will be a force to be reckoned with on Saturday.
Undeniably talented, former short-circuit champion Trevor Westman has never put together a sufficiently consistent season to challenge for the regional title; always spectacularly brave on the brakes, on his day he is genuinely fast. Now in his second season aboard the Mad Mac’s ZX-10R, he has a well-sorted machine with expert backing to rely on and should be in with a shout for a top-three finish.
But the real dark horse at Killarney will be Gerrit Visser, aboard the brand-new Samurai R1, after a year’s sabbatical. Always consistently quick, even on uncompetitive machinery, Visser could just spring the surprise of the day.
Nevertheless, SuperGP races are long - 18 laps compared to the eight-lap regional sprints – and Visser will have to contend with former SA superbike champion Greg Gildenhuys (Autohaus ZX-10R), Michael White (Consortium Shipping R1), Brandon Goode (Linex R1) and Garrick Vlok (Diamond Core R1).
Likewise, 2016 champion Adolph Boshoff (Yamaha) and his arch-rival Blaze Baker (Suzuki) are likely to find themselves under attack in the Super600 races from a number of locals with nothing to lose, led by Hayden Jonas, with a freshly-sorted new engine in his Samurai ZX-6R and a point to prove after a disastrous 2016 season.
Jonas, however, would be the first to admit that he’ll face determined challenges from the vastly experienced Warren Guantario (Mad Mac’s ZX-6R) and teenagers Kewyn Snyman (Kawasaki ZX-6R) and Jared Schultz (ASAP World ZX-6R), who will fly back during the week from testing his new World Supersport 300 bike in Europe for this meeting.
Extensive international experience during the 2106 RC390 Cup series at various European circuits has put a polish on Schultz’s riding that will stand him in good stead this weekend – but the real dark horse is another RC390 Cup star.
Brandon Staffen, who is 16 years old but looks about 12, has also benefited from a number of wild-card rides in the international RC390 series and will be out to prove that he has what it takes to wrestle the much heavier and vastly more powerful ASJ Cooling 675 around Killarney
Two more locally-based Samurai Racing teenage hotshots will be making the most of home ground advantage in the SuperJunior class. Expect to see Sammy Lockhoff and Jason Linekar, each on a KTM RC390, among the front-runners in the lightweight races.