Cape Town - The first race meeting of the season can always be relied on to deliver a few surprises but the opening round of the Mike Hopkins Motorcycles Regional series, this Saturday at Killarney, promises more than most.
The most important one is that the intermediate Powersport classes have become so successful that they now get two races of their own. From this weekend the Powersport machines, their ranks swelled by the arrival of several short-circuit graduates on KTM RC390 Cup machines, will have the track to themselves for two eight-lap races, while the Clubmans and the Classics will run together.
That means six motorcycle races on the card instead of the previous four – and it’ll make the races easier to follow, since the rider in front will almost always be the leader, something that has not always been true in the past.
But who will be in front, well, that could be another surprise. International star David ‘McFlash’ McFadden has given notice that he will be out there giving lessons in racecraft in the Superbike races, aboard the now fully sorted Race Prep S1000 RR, but defending champion Brandon Haupt will not be among his pupils, although older brother Bernard has entered their father’s immaculate Yamaha R1M.
Nevertheless the biggest challenge that McFadden will face will come from Ronald Slamet, Regional champion for three years in a row from 2013 to 2015. The Namibian hotshot has abandoned the BMW S1000 RR that could not be made to run consistently and as a result cost him most of the 2016 season, and will be fielding the ex-Jacques Brits Yamaha R1, a machine of proven reliability. The R1 is particularly good on the brakes, so expect to see some epic late-braking manoeuvres at the ends of Killarney’s two straights.
Ready to rock 'n roll
Also ready to rock ‘n roll will be veteran Malcolm Rapson on a family-funded Kawasaki ZX-10R, and Mad Mac’s team-mates Trevor Westman (ZX-10R) and Warren Guantario (ZX-6R), the current 600 Challenge title-holder.
However, the rider he beat to the trophy, teenager Hayden Jonas, has a brand new engine in his Fifty8 Racing ZX-6R and will be out to prove a point. Expect fireworks in this, the most competitive class at Killarney – and, just to make things even more interesting, ASAP World rider Jared Schultz, who has noticeably raised his game since his international forays aboard the KTM RC390, will be keeping both of them honest on a new ZX-6R.
For 2017, however, Schultz has also secured a ride with Italian-based Team BWG in the inaugural World Supersport 300 championship, riding a Kawasaki Ninja – and if the bike is ready in time, he’ll be giving it a shakedown run in the Powersport races.
BWG’s vastly experienced team principal Marco Lobello is confident of getting “more the 40kW” out of the little green twin – which could just make Schultz thpe man to watch in the Powersport races, tilting the previous precarious balance between JP Friederich (Calberg SV650), and Trac Mac ER650 team-mates Chris ‘Green Goblin’ Williams and Mike van Rensburg.