Cape Town – Saturday 16 December sees the 35th running of the annual end-of-season endurance race for short-circuit motorcycles on the Killarney ‘K’ short circuit.
Started in 1983 as an experiment to see whether the notoriously highly modified 60cc ‘buzzies’ of the day would last for two hours of racing, it soon became a four-hour event, then six, and for the past two decades it has been run as an international eight-hour event for team of two, three or four riders.
The buzzies have given way to 150cc four-stroke singles with standard engines although the 8 Hours is still open to tuned two-strokes of up to 80cc as a nod to tradition, but they are rare now. One thing has not changed, however; the teams still don’t treat it as an endurance race – they ride it as if it were an eight-hour sprint!
Mayhem and motorised madness is the order of the day, punctuated by huge tumbles and epic tales of inspired MacGyvering in the pits to keep the battered little bikes going; many finish the race without a shred of bodywork other than a fuel tank and seat pad.
The leading teams will complete close to 550 laps of the demanding one-kilometre circuit, at an average of just under 50 seconds a lap – and at least 16 pit stops! Nevertheless, it has been known for the top teams to finish on the same lap after eight hours of epic racing.
The 8 Hours has been dominated for a number of years by UK based Jonny Towers, head of international bikewear firm RST, who, together with top local talent, has notched up four wins in five years on his Honda CBR150 , and has been a member of the winning squad no less than 10 times.
But the RST squad won’t have it all their own way; top riders from the UK, Mauritius and around the world will be teamed up with former and current regional and national stars to challenge the 2016 winners.
From the traditional Le Mans start at 10am – where the riders run across the circuit to their bikes, start them and ride away – until the chequered flag comes out at 6pm, there will be non-stop action all round the circuit, nearly all of it in view from the main grandstand on top of the pits, as well as in the pits, to which spectators have full access.