Johannesburg’s Sheridan Morais is no stranger to racing at international level with appearances in World Superstock as far back as 2006, top level World Superbike rounds from 2009, as well as various showings in World Supersport races up until 2013.
More recently he’s been in the United States riding in the MotoAmerica series, but the 31-year-old will this year compete in World Supersport aboard a Kallio-sponsored Yamaha R6. Morais will also be racing in the World Endurance Championship on a Yart-sponsored R1 when rounds don’t clash with his Supersport commitments.
A new entry-level feeder class called Supersport 300 (SSP300) will take over from the previous European Junior Cup, and here we’ll have three South African youngsters taking on the globe’s best up and comers.
After three years in the Junior Cup, Port Shepstone-based Troy Bezuidenhout has signed a deal with Hungarian Team Toth to race in 2017’s SSP300 category on a 300cc Yamaha R3. The 17-year-old is a third generation racer - his dad Charles was a South African National Champion motocrosser in 1979 and 1981, his uncles Neil and Tony are also motocross Champions, and his grandfather Neville Riddell was the only South African to race at the Isle of Man in a sidecar.
Capetonian Jared Schultz makes a move from the South African Super Junior KTM 390 series to SSP300 with the Italian BWG squad where he’ll ride a Kawasaki Ninja 300. The 16-year-old recently raced in the KTM RC Cup World Final at Assen, and rode in wild card roles last year at Assen and Donington Park. Schultz plans to make a career of racing bikes, and hopes to follow in the footsteps of compatriot Moto3 World Champion Brad Binder with eventual seats in Moto3, Moto2 and possibly MotoGP.
Finally we have Dorren Loureiro who was born in, and is based in Johannesburg but for recent seasons has raced under a Portuguese flag at international level. Loureiro has also graduated from the European Junior Cup to the new Supersport 300 series, and will contest the season on a DS Junior Team Ninja 300.
The 2017 World Superbike and Supersport season will kick off at the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit in Australia this weekend, while the Supersport 300 season will begin at Motorland Aragon in Spain on 31 March - and it looks like another straight Kawasaki vs Ducati battle
Reigning champion Jonathan Rea was quickest on his Kawasaki ZX-10RR in the pre-season test at Phillip Island earlier this week, ending Tuesday’s session ahead of the Aruba.it Racing Ducati duo of Marco Melandri and Chaz Davies, with Kawasaki’s Tom Sykes fourth. All four riders lapped within half a second of each other, but a dark horse for the title emerged in the form of Xavi Fores (Barni Racing Team Ducati) who was quickest on Monday and fifth fastest on Tuesday.
Varied test session
Leon Camier (MV Agusta) finished Tuesday’s session sixth ahead of Aprilia’s Lorenzo Savadori. The Pata Yamaha team-mates had a varied test session, with Alex Lowes eighth overall whilst Michael van der Mark struggled to 13th.
Red Bull Honda continue to learn and understand how their new Honda Fireblade SP2 works, and finished the test in the bottom half of the timing sheets. Former MotoGP champion Nicky Hayden finished day two in 14th position whilst Stefan Bradl was 19th.
There also seems to be minimal podium threat from Althea BMW this weekend, with Jordi Torres ending Tuesday’s test in ninth place and his team-mate Markus Reiterberger 15th.
There will be 13 rounds in the 2017 World Superbike championship, which as previously will follow a two-race format with a race on Saturday followed by another on Sunday.