Cape Town – The penultimate round of the one-make Red Square Kawasaki Masters Cup, and the only one to be run at Killarney, produced some of the closest racing of the series, as well as a dramatic climax when the defending champion crashed out of the lead, bringing the second race to a premature close.
Qualifying also delivered its fair share of surprises, with Sven Grune, leading the points standings from reigning title-holder Graeme van Breda, more than half a second quicker than anybody else, while Van Breda and local heroes Rob Cragg and Jacques Ackermann took the next three places on the grid.
But when the lights went out for Race 1 Grune and Van Breda resumed their year-long domination of the series, with Cragg slotting into third ahead of former South African Off-Road champion Jade Gutzeit, Jaco Gous and a slow-starting Ackermann.
By lap five, however, Ackermann, who admitted beforehand he was very nervous ahead of only his second outing in this national series, was up to fourth, while Gareth Bezuidenhout had pushed Gutzeit down to seventh.
Meanwhile, at the sharp end, Grune and Van Breda were pushing it to the limit, lapping at under 1m15s on Bridgestone street tyres and swopping places on almost every lap, setting up a dramatic finish - until Van Breda suddenly slowed on the last lap.
Cragg came up alongside him in the final corner and made a gesture asking “What’s wrong?”, whereupon Van Breda pointed to a broken steering damper.
The local rider then dived through on the inside and the two stormed up to the finish line, taking the flag only 1.1s apart, five second behind an elated Grune, while Ackermann got the better of a race-long dice for fourth with Gous by an even smaller margin - just 0.681s.
Grune pulled a superb start in the second race, but was mugged by Van Breda and Cragg in Turn 1, while Ackermann got into it with Gutzeit and Bezuidenhout in a tight battle for fourth. On lap three, however, Grune slingshotted out of Cragg’s slipstream on the back straight and passed the local rider going down to Turn 5 - igniting a battle for second that had the crowd on its feet as they swopped places on nearly every lap.
Meanwhile, Van Breda was pulling away at nearly a second a lap, so much so that he began reeling in the back markers at the end of lap seven. He tried to pass two slower riders in Turn 1 at the start of lap eight, but collided with Hannes de Vos, sending both himself and De Vos tumbling and bringing out the red flags.
Since more than two thirds of the 10 lap race had been completed, the results were taken as at the end of lap seven, ironically giving the win to Van Breda, with Cragg second and Grune third, just 0.040s behind the local man – but it wasn’t enough to prevent Grune from taking the overall honours for the day.
Nicholas Grobler put the GME + Adrenalin R1 on pole for the Thunderbike races and walked away to win the first race by seven seconds from Lance Isaacs’ Supabets S1000 RR and local rider Bernard Haupt on the Fueled Racing R1.
But the real action was in midfield, where Jade Gutzeit (Kawasaki ZX-10R), Capetonian Klint Munton (Speed Angle ZX-10R), Damion Purificati (Amalgun S1000 RR) and Marnus van der Merwe (Jassies ZX-10R) finished within 1.7 seconds after a race-long battle for sixth.
Race 2 lasted a little less than a third of a lap as Grobler outdragged the field into Turn 1 and then threw it away on the exit, bringing out the red flags.
The race was restarted without him and turned into an Isaacs benefit as the veteran rider romped away to win by 12 seconds from Haupt and Hendrik de Bruin (NETCB/Keto R1).
Three seconds behind him, Piere Grobler (Kawasaki ZX-10R) got the best of a titanic four-way dice for fifth with Gutzeit, Van der Merwe and Purificati, all of whom were covered by just 0.765s at the line, with Munton only 1.261s further behind.