Cape Town – The 35th running of the 8 Hour endurance race for short-circuit motorcycles at Killarney's 'K' circuit at the weekend provided all the drama and rollercoaster emotions this annual end-of-season event is known for, but with fewer crashes than usual and only one injury requiring the ambulance.
Kewyn Snyman put the Otto Racing CBR150 on pole with a superb 48.705s qualifying lap, but it was Aran van Niekerk on the VanBros CBR150 who led away from the traditional Le Mans start to set the early pace, with international World Supersport 300 rider Dorren Loureiro on the Greased Lightning CBR150 from Gauteng and Snyman in hot pursuit.
At the end of the first hour, however, Ricardo Otto on the Otto Racing machine was leading pre-race favourite Mad Mac’s (Trevor Westman, Warren Guantario, JP Freiderich and Wesley Jones) by just 5.694s after 68 laps, with the VanBros bike 20.410s further adrift.
Midway through the second hour, however, Zante Otto crashed heavily in the pits esses, dropping the team down to 10th and promoting the Formula Autos CBR150 of Gareth Gehlig, Michael White and multiple SA Superbike champion Greg Gildenhuys to third. Slick pit work and consistently smooth riding, meanwhile, enabled Mad Mac’s to put a lap on the VanBros machine; after two hours and 139 laps they had a lap in hand, with Formula Autos a lap further down.
Dramatic third hour
A dramatic third hour saw big changes on the leader board as both VanBros and Formula Autos suffered crashes, moving the Powerflow CBR150 of Dick Bate, Richard Bate, Donald Craig and Andre Calvert up to second, albeit nine laps adrift, with veterans Jimmy Pantony, Gerrit Visser Snr, John Craig (who has competed in this race every year since its inception in 1983) and Gerrit Visser Jnr in an unexpected third, on the same lap as Otto Racing and the Rayder Racing CBR150 of Raymond Alexander, Chris Deppe, Leroy Kilian and Renier de Lange.
Three minutes before the midway point Visser Snr arrived at end of the main straight to find himself without brakes. The resulting crash was spectacular (fortunately without injury, other than to Visser’s pride) but the cause turned out to be even more noteworthy. It transpired that one of the lugs into which the standard fork brace was bolted had torn out of the right fork slider, causing fork oil to be liberally pumped all over the disc.
The team replaced the front suspension and triple clamps with donated parts but were unable to get the brakes working properly and withdrew the bike with 257 laps on the chart.
At the midway point after four hours, Mad Mac’s were 10 laps clear of the field on 275, ahead of Otto Racing, Vanbros, the Honda CBR150 of Jan Nytomt, Peter Linden, Christoffer Bergman and Norwegian rider Vegar Hjellodegard, and the Ellis brothers, David and Michael - the only two-man team in the race - on the Snapkamera CBR150.
The Mad Mac’s riders reeled off another 68 laps in the fifth hour for a total of 343, putting another lap on Otto Racing, while VanBros passed the Powerflow machine to retake third, and the Ellis brothers moved up a place to fifth. The sixth hour, however, was their worst of the race, with only 67 laps completed, while Otto Racing made up two laps to consolidate second, ahead of VanBros, Powerflow, the Ellis Brothers and Rayder Racing.
They picked up the pace to post 69 laps in the seventh hour, putting three laps on Otto Racing and VanBros, who were now on the same lap after seven hours of racing. Eight laps further down, Powerflow soldiered on, well clear of the Ellis brothers, Formula Autos and Rayder Racing.
Just three minutes into the final hour Donald Craig suffered a brake failure on the Powerflow machine and crashed out at Turn 1, bringing out the Safety Bike for only the second time on the day. Craig was taken to hospital with a neck injury and and the team withdrew the bike.
Meanwhile the Green Meanies put in another 69 laps, to fall just four short of the all-time record of 552. Otto Racing’s teenage stars put in a final heroic effort, posting 70 laps to reduce the deficit to 11, three laps clear of VanBros on 534. The Ellis brothers posted 518 laps to take fourth, one lap ahead of Formula Autos.
A notable result was that of the Salt River Customz crew of Damian van Zyl, Uriah van Zyl, Ralph Kumbier and Steven Pitt, who fitted a Honda CR85 two-stroke motocross engine into a CBR150 frame to create a one-off hybrid CBR85 that reeled off 491 laps without missing a beat and finished a creditable 13th, and first two-stroke.
A surprising 29 of 33 starters were still running at the end of the gruelling eight-hour marathon.