Cape Town – The 2018 RST Suzuki South Regional Superbike series got off to a thrilling start at Killarney on Saturday as 2017 champion David McFadden and 2016 champion Brandon Haupt, each on a new bike, served notice that this is going to be an epic season.
McFadden put his new Stunt SA ZX-10R, which will eventually be an exact replica of the machine he will be racing in the Spanish National Superstock series, on pole with a 1m11.314s qualifying lap - just 0.138s ahead of Haupt on the Fueled Racing/TCF R1, with Andre Calvert on the Omega Panigale completing the front row of the grid on 1m12.287.
Haupt, however, completely fluffed the start, and was fifth into Turn 1 behind McFadden, Trevor Westman (Mad Mac’s ZX-10R), Gerrit Visser (Samurai R1) and Calvert.
He went down the inside into Turn 5 at the end of the first lap but ran into the back of Calvert's machine, sending the Ducati careening into the dirt and out of the race, while Haupt managed to stay on the bike and on the blacktop, albeit at the expanse of kicking a hole in the R1’s carbon-fibre tailpipe.
Then, while the defending champion delivered a perfect ‘McFlash’ performance, controlling the race from the front and never putting a tyre wrong, Haupt set about working his way through the field to get back in contention. He passed Visser on lap two and Westman a lap later, then slowly reeled in the leader to finish little more than two seconds adrift at the line.
Visser, in turn, put in a flyer on lap three to pass Westman and, finally showing the form we’ve always said he’s capable of, held off the Mad Mac’s team leader to finish a convincing third, while multiple 600 Challenge champion Hayden Jonas aced the Supersport class, finishing fifth overall on a Samurai R6 so new it hadn’t yet been painted in the team’s livery.
Former Regional title-holder Rob Cragg (Mad Mac’s ZX-10R) was the first Masters rider home, 10th overall in his comeback ride after more than a decade of retirement, ahead of Greg Warner (Carpentry Connection R1) and Jacques Ackerman (Mad Mac’s ZX-10R).
Haupt got a perfect start when the lights went out for the start of the second race, leading the field into Turn 1, but ran wide in Turn 2, opening the door for McFadden to dive through into the lead and setting up one of the most thrilling chases yet seen at Killarney as Haupt harried his more experienced opponent at every turn, showing him a wheel at least once a lap, never allowing McFadden to settle into his usual ultra-smooth race rhythm.
Finally, Haupt dived inside under braking for Turn 5 on the final lap, held the line to stay in front coming out; McFadden ducked out of the slipstream for a slingshot pass on the line but failed by half a wheel - 0.019s, according to the electronic timer.
Thirteen seconds later Visser also held off a late charge from Westman to take third by – unbelievably! – the same tiny margin, while Jonas was the first 600 rider home in a lonely fifth after an early dice with Brandon Staffen (AJH Cooling ZX-6R) and Alex Van Den Berg (Suzuki South GSX-R1000).
Cragg, Warner and Ackerman shared the Masters honours; they will bear watching as the season goes on and the pace in this class within a class hots up.
One respect in which Danie Maritz’s Suzuki GSX-R cannot match the modern machines in the Clubmans class, even though it now has a later (and much larger) Bandit engine in the original 1985 chassis, is acceleration off the line.
Even starting from pole, he was mugged on the drag down to Turn 1 and finished lap one fifth behind Willem Binedell (Dog Box GSX-R600), Chris Williams’ TracMac 1299, Wessel Kruger’s Honda VTR1000 SP2 and Shameer Alexander on the Ecoyze360 R6.
By lap three however, he was fourth; he moved to second on lap four, took the lead on lap five and was leading a four-bike train - all covered by 1.3 seconds - on lap seven when Leslie Sim (Kawasaki ZX-6R) crashed out of sixth at Turn 4 on lap seven and brought out the red flags.
Race 2 was even more dramatic; Maritz got mugged at the start as Binedell took the early lead, worked his way up to fourth by lap three, dived into the lead going into Turn 5 a lap later, only to run wide and lose five places.
The next four laps were a thriller as Maritz did it it all over again, grabbing the lead for the second time a lap before the end - only to be outdragged to the line by Williams’ hugely powerful Ducati and losing out by just 0.13s.
Defending champion JP Friederich and his GR Tax /MSO Racing SV650 took up in 2018 where he left off in 2017, romping away to two dominant wins in Powersport A, leading home Chris Williams (TracMac ER650) by 18.7s in Race 1 and 12.9s in Race 2, with Mike van Rensburg (Simple Maintenance ER650) even further behind in third.
But the ride of the race came from teenager Kewyn Snyman, who finished fourth overall in both races on the Class B Mag Workshop RC390, well ahead of teenager Zante Otto, who is so tiny she makes a 300cc Yamaha R3 look like a superbike, but finished fifth overall in Race 1 and seventh in Race 2 to take second for the day in Powersport B.