Cape Town – The second round of the 2018 RST Suzuki South Regional Superbikes series at Killarney on Saturday delivered few surprises but plenty of drama, close racing and a gutsy comeback after a huge crash.
But there was definitely a surprise in qualifying when Brandon Haupt put the Fueled Racing R1 on pole with an electrifying 1m10.468s flying lap - just two tenths outside the ultimate motorcycle lap record for the circuit.
That relegated defending champion David McFadden and the RPM Centre ZX-10R to second on the grid, with Gerrit Visser on the Samurai R1 and Madmacs ZX-10R rider Trevor Westman to keep them honest in the absence of Andre Calvert, whose KC Transport/Leslie’s Gifts 1299 was ready but whose shoulder was not yet sufficiently recovered from his spectacular tumble at the previous meeting.
McFadden wasn’t too fussed, however, saying the Kawasaki was much easier to launch than his previous BMW S1000RR and that he was confident of a good start – and so it proved, as he took the lead going down to Turn 1 and was never headed, controlling the race from the front as he likes to do.
But it was a tenuous control at best, with Haupt all over him like a rash for most of the race, never more than two bike-lengths apart and usually closer, in one of the tightest duels seen at the sharp end of the Superbike class in many seasons.
Two laps from the end, however, Haupt ran wide in Turn 5 and McFadden pulled a couple of lengths clear, just enough to break the tow and force Haupt to push even harder to close in again. Too hard, as it turned out; Haupt lost the front wheel in Turn 2 at the start of the next lap and tumbled into the dirt, leaving McFadden to cruise home unchallenged, 12 seconds ahead of the battle for third.
This saw Gauteng visitor Daryn Upton - in the Cape to get invaluable track time at Killarney on the Uncle Andy GSX-R1000 ahead of the March 24 SuperGP meeting – fighting it out with Visser and Westman. The three changed places at least once a lap throughout the race and finished in that order, covered by less than two tenths of a second at the line.
Hayden Jonas on the Samurai R6 showed Upton’s team-mate Adolph Boshoff (Uncle Andy GSX-R600) the way home in the 600 Class, while born-again racer Rob Cragg (Madmacs ZX-10R ) beat Quintin Ebden (Milu R1) by a quarter of a second for Masters Class honours.
Stirred but apparently unshaken, Haupt was back on the start line for Race 2, his Yamaha wearing the body panels from his father’s track-day bike and under strict orders not to crash it!
But that didn’t stop him pulling a superb start, heading the field into Turn 1 and leading the first two laps, until McFadden went steaming past on the back straight on lap three. Haupt never again got close enough to show the champion a wheel, but hung in all the way, finishing just 0.572s adrift.
Neither Upton nor Westman could match Visser’s new-found pace in Race 2, although once again the fight went all the way to the flag, with Visser finishing a little more than a second clear of his rivals to take third - and Westman outdragging Upton to the line to grab fourth by 0.131s.
Jonas once again dominated the 600s, while Cragg had to give best to Ebden in the Masters Class by less than a quarter of a second after a superb dice.
Mention must be made here of Powersport champion JP Friederich, out for the first time in the Superbike races on a Madmacs-sponsored ZX-6R that he’d ridden (briefly) for the first time the day before. He went two seconds quicker than he had earlier on his Powersport machine but still trailed round near the back of the field.
But “this was just practice,” he said, and “watch me next time,” making light of the huge gulf between the classes.
The irrepressible Danie Maritz, took his Go Daddy GSX-R1100 to two emphatic wins in the Clubmans races. After getting a poor start in Race 1, he sliced through the field – fifth after lap one, fourth after lap two, then diced with Chris Williams’ Trac Mac Panigale for four laps before blitzing both Williams and race-long leader Shamier Alexander (Econyze/Mia’s R6) on the final lap to win by 2.6 seconds.
Alexander’s superior acceleration off the line could only hold off ‘Danie van Killarney’ for one lap in Race 2, however, as Maritz romped away to win by 19 seconds, while Alexander fended off a late charge from Williams, holding on to second by just 0.044s at the line.
However much of a rookie he may be in Superbikes Friederich is The Man in Powersport racing, leading each lap of both races and winning each by more than 25 seconds.
Behind him Chris Williams on the Trac Mac ER650 and Mike van Rensburg (Simple Maintenance ER650) fought it out for second, while Kewyn Snyman (Mag Workshop RC390) Zante Otto (Otto Racing R3) did the same in Class B.
In fact they provided the closest finish of the day in Race 2, having swopped positions on almost every lap, when Snyman held off a finish-line slingshot attempt from Otto by just 0.013s - less than the width of a tyre!
Race 2 was however, marred by a big crash in Turn 2 on the opening lap, when Erin Lane’s Fibreprod RC390 went down, breaking both her wrists and one forearm, and bringing out the red flags.