Cape Town - As the only confirmed local entry for Saturday’s Red Square Kawasaki Masters races at Killarney’s Extreme Series national race meeting on Saturday, Jacques Ackermann knows he’ll be carrying the expectations of the local fans on his shoulders.
But the soft-spoken and easy-going (off the track, anyway) Ackermann sees it as incentive, rather than pressure. He's looking forward with considerable excitement to his first outing in this one-make national series and believes that he can run with the leaders, provided he can get on terms with the Bridgestone control tyres used in Masters Cup racing, which do not give the same level of grip as the Pirellis he races on in the Mike Hopkins Motorcycles regional series.
The Masters Cup is a very tightly regulated one-make series for riders of 35 years or older (Ackermann doesn’t look it, but he qualified in June 2017), all riding Kawasaki ZX-10R superbikes, which must be completely standard, other than replica bodywork, open exhausts and a few mandatory safety modifications. There are also two additional classes within the race, for riders of 45 or older, and 51 years or older.
All competitors, of course, are on the same type of Bridgestone tyres, and must use the same set of tyres for qualifying and both races at each meeting. The result, not surprisingly, is fiendishly close racing, especially at the sharp end of the field; Ackermann faces a steep learning curve.
He’s even had to change his racing number, something motorcycle racers are notoriously superstitious about - look for his bike with the number 70, rather than his usual No.10 plate.
But he’s enjoying immense support from his rivals in the regional series who can’t enter the Masters Cup, either because they’re not old enough or because they don’t race a ZX-10R. Suspension guru Martin Paetzold is busy rebuilding the rear monoshock of Ackermann’s Kawasaki, Mad Mac’s team-mate and regional contender Trevor Westman will be on the computer on the day, sorting out the bike’s ECU, veteran rider and tuner Danie Maritz will be preparing the running gear, international rider David McFadden will be setting up the chassis, and Peter Haupt, father of reigning regional champion Brandon Haupt, has offered the use of their pit garage.
“I’ve got such a professional crew backing me,” grinned Ackermann, not entirely in jest, “that the garage is going to look like a MotoGP pit!”
He’ll need all the help he can get; entries include former South African Motorcycle champion Graeme van Breda, reigning Masters Cup title-holder Sven Grune, former national Superbike contender Sanjiv Singh and former national off-road star Brian Bontekoning.
As a complete rookie, Ackermann will start as the underdog, but with home track advantage and huge support from fellow regional riders and the very partisan Killarney superbike racing fans, he could just give the Zwartkops Mafia a big wake-up call.