Cape Town – This weekend’s penultimate round of the national Extreme Series at Killarney is shaping up to a be North vs South battle in the two-wheeled categories, with highly-qualified instructors in both categories willing and able to show the visitors the way round.
Top contenders Sven Grune and Graeme van Breda from Gauteng will face off against local heroes Jacques Ackermann and former regional champion Rob Cragg on the Mad Macs machines.
While this will be Ackermann’s first outing in the Masters series and he is approaching this weekend as a learning curve, we feel that he is being unnecessarily hard on himself; his times in the RST/Suzuki South regional Superbike series show that his pace should be competitive with all but the very top echelon of the Masters riders at his home circuit.
Cragg, however, is altogether a different breed. He has considerable experience of racing Superbikes at national level, and in his day was competitive with the best in the country on home turf - he has said that the reason he retired the first time was that he didn’t have the time or the means to put in the hard yards at the inland circuits where SA championships are won and lost.
That doesn’t apply here: Cragg is a master - in more senses than one - at Killarney and more than able to give local fans something to cheer about.
Not that the regular competitors are going to make it easy for him, with the vastly experienced Brian Bontekoning, Jaco Gous and Sanjiv Singh all having raced in the Cape many times, and newer riders Gareth Bezuidenhout and Johan le Roux riding for points in the 2018 series as well as for pride.
Remember, all the bikes are identical Kawasaki ZX-10Rs, prepared to the same near-standard specifications - the Masters Cup is all about skill, racecraft and nerve.
The same cannot be said of the Thunderbikes entries, a cross-section of hot streetbikes with a minimum of modifications allowed.
The man to beat here is former local Lance Isaacs on the Supabets S1000 RR; his intimate knowledge of the circuit and years of experience at national and international level must make any home track advantage enjoyed by the local entries a moot point.
His main challenge will come from Nicolas Grobler and the GME/Adrenalin Powersport R1, another rider with plenty of laps at Killarney under his belt. This will be his first outing on this circuit aboard the Yamaha, however, making him something of an unknown quantity, and a rider to watch.
But Cape Town has a secret weapon: Andre Calvert on the Omega Property/KC Transport 1299S. Properly set up, the big Ducati is capable of blistering pace and Calvert has proved that he is capable of running with the best.
A string of mechanical problems and a huge crash have ruined his 2018 regional campaign, but don’t write this young rider off; if there is anybody capable of pulling off a surprise on Saturday, it’s Calvert.
Backing him up will be Mark van den Berg on the Autowatch GSX-R1000 L7 and Klint Munton, riding the Speed Angle ZX-10R. While neither is in Calvert’s class for sheer pace, they outweigh him when it comes to racecraft. Offer them the slightest gap and they’ll take it away from you. Visitors, you have been warned.