Cape Town – Round three of the RST/Suzuki South Superbike series delivered all the expected action and then some, as a number of late entries swelled the grid to an impressive 24 machines.
Most important of these was that of 2016 champion Brandon Haupt, at this stage the only rider capable of taking the fight to current title-holder David McFadden and his RPM Centre ZX-10R. And that’s exactly what he did, putting the Fueled Racing R1 on pole with a qualifying lap of 1m10.957, more than a quarter of a second quicker than his arch-rival, with Trevor Westman completing the front row on the Madmacs ZX-10R, albeit 1.426 secondsoff the pace.
McFadden got a very poor start in Race 1, however, finishing lap one third behind Haupt and Westman; he seemed almost reluctant to mix it with his rivals under braking and into the slower corners as he usually does, neatly passing Westman on lap two and slotting in behind Haupt.
And that’s where he stayed, riding and unusually conservative race and never once showing Haupt a wheel, although his fastest lap - a very smooth 1:10.768 - was actually half a tenth faster than his rival’s.
Westman, however, came under a very determined attack from Gerrit Visser on the Samurai R1, who got past on lap five and held third for two laps, only to drop back a little in the closing stages, finishing a close fourth, well ahead of team-mate Hayden Jonas on the Samurai R1, who broke away from an early tussle with Kewyn Snyman (CelluCity/RPM Centre ZX-6R) and Brandon Staffen (AJH Cooling/RPM Centre ZX-6R) to stamp his authority on the Super600 Class, and come home fifth overall.
Things were much closer in the SuperMasters category for riders of 35 and older, however; born-again racer Rob Cragg (Madmacs ZX-10R) and long-time rival Quintin Ebden (Milu R1) went at it like teenagers from lap two onwards, swopping places at least twice and finishing eighth and ninth, less than a quarter of a second apart, with Ebden in front when it counted.
McFadden admitted after the race that he had indeed been riding with less than his usual aggression; with a national SuperGP meeting coming up the following weekend (to his own surprise, he was leading the SA championship after two rounds) and a Spanish national championship race a couple of weekends after that, he was under strict instructions not to injure either himself or the bike.
But that didn’t stop him from getting a much better start in Race 2, and chasing Haupt all the way, never more than a bike length behind. When Haupt ran wide in Turn 2 on lap six he went smoothly inside to take the lead for the first time. Haupt, however, was in no mood to settle for second; within a lap he was up behind McFadden, whose Kawasaki was beginning to suffer rear suspension issues, setting up a thriller last-corner showdown.
The two went howling down into Turn 5 side by side, with Haupt on the outside, determined to find a way round the Kawasaki. Willing to take chances where McFadden wasn’t, he squared off the corner like a two-stroke racer of old, got the drive he needed coming out and (just) held the advantage to the line to take the first double win of his career by just 0.311s.
Ten seconds later, Westman and Visser reprised their earlier battle for third with a splendid exhibition of cut-and-thrust racing, Visser saying afterwards that he could stay with the Madmacs Kawasaki, and even show him a wheel occasionally, but simply could not outbrake the former short-circuit champion, even with new Ohlins front suspension on the Yamaha. Expect fireworks next time out.
Jonas made a lonely race of it in fifth overall, as did Snyman in sixth after Staffen’s Kawasaki suddenly went sick on lap six and he retired rather than risk blowing the engine, but behind them Cragg and Ebden were within touching distance for most of the race, with Cragg eking out a small but crucial gap over the final two laps to win the class by 0.443s and take the overall Masters honours for the day by less than a quarter of a second.