Cape Town – The record books will show that the national stars walked away with the honours at the first round of the 2017 SuperGP series at Cape Town’s Killarney circuit at the weekend.
What they won’t show is how hard the visitors were made to work for it, in every one of eight races in four divisions on the day, as local hotshots chased them all the way and, in two cases, beat them.
The headline SuperGP class, however, was a welcome return to form for multiple former SA champion Clint Seller, who took his MiWay R1 to two solid wins, leading every lap of both races.
Another rider with a titled pedigree, Greg Gildenhuys (Autohaus ZX-10R), put in a strong showing at the start of each race but battled with too-soft front suspension settings and had to give best to local hero David “McFlash” McFadden (Sandton Auto S1000 RR) in both races – and, in fact, to Lance Isaacs (Bell S1000 RR), still a contender at 39 years of age, in Race 1, coming in fourth, just 0.047s behind the veteran after a nail-biting finish.
Michael White (Consortium R1) and hard-charging local Trevor Westman (Mad Mac’s ZX-10R) rounded out the top six while Allann Jon Venter (Hygenica R1), Brandon Goode (Linex R1), Cape Town-based Namibian Ronald Slamet (Helderberg Yamaha R1) and up-and-coming local rider Andre Calvert (in only his second outing on the KC Transport Ducati 1299 S) finished in that order after a race-long four way dice for seventh.
The second leg was more of the same as McFlash was jostled down to fourth in Turn 1, got stuck behind Gildenhuys for three laps and then set off after Seller, but was unable to close the gap. Gildenhuys pulled clear of Isaacs in the closing stages, when the SuperMasters champ found himself having to defend fourth from a determined White, while Westman rode to a somewhat lonely sixth.
Behind him, however, another battle erupted between Venter, Garrick Vlok (Diamond R1), Goode, Calvert and Nicolas Kershaw (Racebike Rentals R1), who finished in that order within five seconds.
A tired McFadden revealed afterwards that the Sandton Auto BMW had blown a gearbox in practice; the RPM team (McFadden is his own crew chief, remember) replaced the engine overnight and had to use qualifying as a shakedown run.
The bike ran very well in both races but McFlash said determinedly at the end of the day: “We’ll have to find some more - we’re not going to the next round at East London to come second.”
The first 600cc race erupted right off the line into a titanic three-way battle between current European Moto2 champion Steven Odendaal on the Petra R6, defending Super600 title-holder Adolf Boshoff (MiWay R6), Blaze Baker (Suzuki GSX-R600) and local hotshot teenager Hayden Jonas on the Samurai ZX-6R.
Boshoff, who was riding his spare bike after a huge crash in practice on Friday, muffed the start and wound up at the back of a four-bike train that almost immediately broke away from the field, circulating nose to tail and swopping places on almost every lap.
Odendaal held the lead for the first three laps until he was outbraked by the local hero on lap four; he held onto second, in the teeth of a determined challenge from Boshoff and took back the lead on lap six – just as a midfield crash for Cameron Aitken (Torre R6) brought out the red flags.
The restart didn’t even last one lap before Brandon Staffen (Keating & Jansen 675) went down in Turn 2 and out came the red flags again.
The second restart saw Jonas grab the lead on the first time around and stay in front for three heart-stopping laps, until a determined Odendaal muscled his way to the front at the start of the fourth lap – only for Zante Otto (Inex ZX-6R) and Luca Coccioni to crash in Turn 2 and stop proceedings again.
By now, however, eight racing laps had been recorded, just two-thirds of the required 12, which was enough to call a result under international rules – and that made Jonas the winner by 0.199s from Odendaal, with Boshoff just 0.049s ahead of Baker for third on aggregate times.
Two more locals, Warren Guantario (Mad Mac’s ZX-6R) and Kewyn Snyman (Inex ZX-6R) were at the head of a six-bike train that included Malcolm Rudman (Montclair ZX-6R), Aidan Liebenberg (Fercor ZX-6R), World Supersport 300 rider Jared Schultz (ASAP World ZX-6R) and Jesse Boshoff (Torre R6) – all of whose aggregate times were within less than a second of each other.
The second outing was cut to 10 laps as a result of time lost to the earlier red-flag incidents – but nevertheless saw the lead change five times as the top four broke away again for in a thrilling battle for the lead.
Boshoff pulled a superb start and held the lead from Odendaal, Baker and Jonas at the end of lap one, only for Odendaal to go to the front on lap two, while Jonas moved up past Baker into third.
At the end of the next lap, however, Jonas passed both Boshoff and Odendaal under braking and around the outside of Turn 5, and the race had its third leader. That held for two laps before Odendaal blasted past into the lead. Jonas tried again into Turn 1 at the start of lap seven, only to run wide and drop down to third, while Boshoff got by Odendaal in the confusion to take a (very brief) stint in front.
Jonas was lining up to pass Odendaal on the way into the final corner of the race when they came up behind a back-marker – but in this incredibly competitive class even the back markers are hitting more than 200km/h at the end of the back straight.
Odendaal used that to his advantage, slipping in behind the back-marker to gain a little extra impetus for the vital few metres before the braking point, and hold the advantage al the way to the line to win by 0.569s from Jonas, Boshoff and Baker – and even Baker was only 1.6 seconds behind the winner.
Thirteen seconds later, Guantario led the pack over the line for his second hard-earned fifth, followed by Jesse Boshoff, Liebenberg and Schult, with Dino Iozzo (MiWay R6) and Dian Nelson nine seconds further adrift in ninth and 10th respectively.
Cape Town’s Sam Lochoff rewrote the history books when he went out and won his very first Superjuniors race – albeit a two-parter after Conor Hagan went down on lap five and brought out the red flags – after a superb tussle with fellow rookie Taric van der Merwe, Tyreece Roberts and Ricardo Otto.
He was all set for a historic double rookie win when he went into Turn 1 too hot on lap four and slid off into the dirt, leaving Otto, Roberts and Van der Merwe to fight it out it out for the win all the way to the line.
They came home in that order, with just 1.121s between first and third – almost half a minute ahead of Conor Hagan, himself half a minute ahead of Jason Linaker in fifth.