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Classics 'play it again' at Killarney

Published Sep 10, 2012

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The Western Cape's first Historic Motorcycle parade, held at Killarney on Saturday, attracted no fewer than 25 Classic and Vintage Superbike machines, ranging from a 1975 Ducati 750 SS to a gaggle of Yamaha two-strokes, led by an immaculate and ultra-rare RZ500 V4.

The riders were an even more varied bunch, including former champions Tony Tilling, Danie Maritz and Dick Bate, local hotshots from the 1970s such as Frans Maritz and John Craig and 1980's riders including Jenni Abrahams, Neill Wilkie, Marco Sanders, Martin van Staden, current Classics riders John Kosterman, Tony Jones and Simon Portlock, and a few very quick street riders who simply dare not ride their supersports bikes on 21st-century streets the way they were built to be ridden in the 1970s.

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BACK ON TRACK

Craig, who as a student competed on a Yamaha RD350LC in the late 1970s, was out on convenor Casey Wolters' immaculate RZ350, while Dick Bate, a National Class A contender on a Ducati Pantah in the early 1980s, was back on the track for the first time in nearly a quarter of a century on Roddy Mills' ex-Tony Sandell Pantah.

Tony Tilling, a Western Province champion in the 1960's, gave his immaculate Honda RC30 (with only 8900km on the clock) a rare outing, but was unlucky to lose the front end in the high-speed, double-apex Turn 4. He was unhurt, but the bike was severely damaged.

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At least two racing personalities of the early 1990s were out on the same bikes they campaigned 'in the day': Neill Wilkie hauled out the ex-Johan Booyens BMW R100 RS, a bike with a racing history that goes back almost three decades, while Jenni Abrahams (then Peters), who hadn't turned a wheel in anger since she retired in 1999, was back on the all-white Moto Guzzi Le Mans (known to race fans as the Loose Goose) for the first time since then, not counting two brief test rides on the street.

BIG FOURS

The Big Fours were represented by a Honda CB1100 RC, a Suzuki Katana, a couple of early GSX-R750's - including the bike on which Danie Maritz won the 1986 Western Province title, ridden on this occasion by older brother Frans, who earned his racing stripes in the 1970s on a Yamaha RD400, while Danie was out on his six-cylinder CBX1000, a bike as well known for its evil handling as its awesome straightline speed.

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There was also a second Honda Six, this one the product of a two-year restoration project by former racer Martin van Staden. It was the first time he'd ridden the270kg monster in anger, and he soon discovered that, although they give superb results on the dyno, the hair-trigger response of the six imposing Keihin CR racing carburettors he'd fitted made the bike practically unrideable in the corners.

Maritz' championship-winning machine, by contrast, still runs the six 28mm Keihin CV carburettors installed at the Honda factory in 1978. The difference as they negotiated Killarney's banked Turn 5 was audible as well as visible, with Maritz' machine settled, collected and on the power, while Van Staden's bike fought him all the way round, snarling like a bad-tempered Rottweiler.

FLEXING RUSTY REFLEXES

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But this was not a race, it was a parade; up at the front Kosterman, Jones and the Maritz brothers, all still active in Classic racing, ducked and dived and sliced each other up to the delight of the crowd, while the rest of the field flexed rusty reflexes and enjoyed once more the feeling of riding fast on a bike built for doing nothing else.

There will be two Historical Motorcycle parade sessions at the Killarney's All Bike Race Day on 15 December. Be there, if only to see the Good Old Days come roaring back.

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