The big question, of course is whether there is anybody in the Class A field who can bridge that vital half-second gap to get him on terms with David ‘McFlash’ McFadden and the Sandton Auto S1000RR. McFadden was lapping consistently around 1min10.6sec at the March Extreme Festival, while none of the other local heroes could break 1min11, which means he must start as clear favourite this weekend – but he’s unlikely to have it all his own way.
Trevor Westman has the advantage of a well-sorted machine – his Mad Mac’s ZX-10R is the same bike he raced in 2016 – and he has shown that on his day he is capable of phenomenal pace. But pace alone doesn’t win races; Westman will have to put together eight perfect laps to stay with the smooth, ultra-consistent McFadden.
Ronald Slamet remains the only rider ever to have beaten McFadden head to head in a Class A regional race. Whether he is yet capable of doing it on the new Helderberg R1 is doubtful; he is still at the bottom of a steep learning curve.
Slamet undoubtedly has the talent; whether he has the strength of will to grind out the hard yards on the circuit in practice and in the gym – because that’s what it will take to rival McFadden’s level of fitness – only he knows.
Andre Calvert faces an even steeper learning curve; he has moved from a smooth running litre-class four cylinder machine to a hard-revving, vibratious Ducati 1299S.
Rated the most powerful V-twin superbike yet unleashed on the street, the 1299S is not an easy machine to get the best out of but, ridden right, it’s capable of great things. Right now Calvert is the darkest of dark horses – but write him off at your peril.
Possibly the rider with the most work to do, however, is Samurai Racing’s Gerrit Visser. His brand new Yamaha R1 picked up a transmission gremlin at the SuperGP meeting, after just six laps of qualifying and one lap of Race 1.
That left the Vissers, father and son, with problems to solve before they could even begin developing the Yamaha into a competitive weapon. Nevertheless, Visser is a very talented rider and his father, Gerrit Senior, an accomplished tuner and crew chief. Each has a point to prove; they’ve been battling for two seasons with an uncompetitive Honda and they want to get back on terms with the leading group.
This weekend’s races will likely establish the pecking order among the Cape’s top half-dozen or so riders for the rest of the season; it may well be that the final battle lines for the 2017 Mike Hopkins Motorcycles regional will be drawn here.