Caper Town - Saturday 1 September sees Round 7 of the RST/Suzuki South/Trac-Mac regional superbike series at Killarney. It’s also officially the first day of spring in the southern hemisphere, and in Cape Town that brings with it the Cape Doctor, the strong south-easterly wind that blows the city’s winter smog out to sea.
But it also adds an extra factor to the action at Killarney, especially for those who have the racecraft (and the nerve!) to use it to their advantage. Heading into the wind down the back straight causes the bikes to scrub off speed very quickly under braking; time it right and you can brake significantly later than competitors unused to the conditions. Expect to see some hair-raising overtaking moves going down to Turn 5.
The opposite is true of Turn 1, with the wind from behind pushing the machines on under braking and making them somewhat reluctant to turn in. Expect to see a greater than usual number of riders making use of the escape road at the first left-hander; if they’re leading contenders it could change the outcome of races, if not the championship as a whole.
Across the wind
But by far the most underrated effect of a strong south-easter is felt in Turn 3, where the riders turn across the wind as they lean into the corner. A pocket of high pressure gets trapped between the bike’s fairing and the track surface, pushing the rider towards the outside of the corner and, in at least one reported incident, lifting the bike’s wheels off the tar.
The rider concerned managed to stay aboard and on the track but admitted afterwards it was the longest and scariest three seconds of his life.
Leading the charge in these unpredictable conditions will be David McFadden on the Stunt SA/RPM Centre ZX-10R and the Haupt brothers, Brandon and Bernard, on the Fueled Racing R1s. In particular, older brother Bernard’s years of successful off-road racing will stand him in good stead if the Cape Doctor makes a house call on the day.
Not to be discounted, however, are Trevor Westman (Mad Macs ZX-10R) and Gerrit Visser on the Samurai R1, with Andre Calvert as this weekend’s dark horse. Both Calvert and his Omega Property 1299S are capable of very competitive lap times but Calvert appears to be suffering a crisis of confidence in the big Italian V-twin after a big crash and a season infested with mechanical gremlins.
Once he gets his mojo back, however, he will be the man to watch - and it could happen this weekend.
The Masters division for riders over 35 has been turned on its ear by the return from injury of veteran Malcolm Rapson on the Rapson family-funded Kawasaki ZX-10R. He is now consistently quicker than the two riders who were formerly dominating the class - born again racer Rob Cragg (Mad Macs ZX-10R) and Quintin Ebden on the Milu R1 – and must start as favourite.
If the weather is blustery, however, fitness will play a big part, swinging the advantage at least partly back to keen cyclist Cragg.
Hayden Jonas, having clinched the Super600 title with four races to go, has retired the Samurai R6 in favour of a litre-class campaign in 2019, while rising star Brandon Staffen is a doubtful starter on the AJS Cooling/RPM Centre ZX-6R after injuring an ankle in a spectacular tumble last time out.
That leaves the 600cc race-within-a-race wide open for the likes of Jared Schultz on the Uncle Andy GSX-R600 and his father Karl (ASAP World ZX-6R) with Gareth Gehlig (Formula Autos ZX-6R) as the dark horse of the class.
Wind or no wind, expect to see the usual suspects setting the pace in the Powersport races, with Chris Williams (Trac Mac ER650) Mike van Rensburg (Simple Maintenance Solutions ER650) and Ezio Miglietta battling it out for line honours while Kewyn Snyman (Mag Workshop RC390) and Zante Otto (Otto Racing R3) provide the excitement in Class B.
Will Chris Williams on the thundering Trac Mac Panigale have the legs of Willem Binedell’s screaming Dog Box GSX-R600? Will Wessell Kruger and his vintage Honda SP2 stir the pot again as he did last time out? Will dark horse Jannie Stander and the Nikita’s ZX-10R come roaring back from his long lay-off and surprise them all?
The only way you are going to find out is to wrap up warm against the south-easter and be there.