Graeme van Breda won both Red Square Kawasaki ZX-10R Masters races at Round 7 of the national Extreme Festival series, held in perfect weather at Killarney on Saturday.
But the former SA Superbike champion didn’t have it all his own way, having to fend off determined challenges from riders who were, in some cases, almost two decades older than he was.
ZX-10R Masters racing caters for three classes of rider – those older than 35 (Class A), those older than 45 (Class B) and those older than 51 (Class C) – all on late-model Kawasaki ZX-10R litre-class superbikes with very limited modifications, running on identical Bridgestone tyres.
And it was a Class C rider, 53-year-old Pieter de Vos from Benoni, who qualified third behind reigning champion Sven Grune (a Class B rider!) and Van Breda, then scorched off the line to get the best of the first-corner melee and lead the first four laps from Grune, Van Breda and Jaco Gous.
Local hero Jacques Ackermann, in his first ZX-10R Masters outing, came off the second row of the grid to go down to Turn 1 with the leaders but overestimated the grip of his Bridgestone tyres and ran very wide, dropping back into sixth behind Sanjiv Singh.
Van Breda passed Grune for second on lap two, stalked De Vos for three laps and made his move on lap five, taking a lead he was never to relinquish. Grune and Gous put in a late charge, pushing De Vos down to third on lap seven, but the veteran was having none of it, striking back on the final lap to finish third behind Van Breda and Grune, less than a second ahead of Gous, with the top four covered by just five seconds.
Ackermann, meanwhile, found that although his home-circuit advantage made him faster through the corners than Singh, the visitor could consistently outbrake him, so there was no way to get by without taking unjustifiable risks. He finished sixth overall, two seconds behind Singh – then discovered that Singh was a Class B rider, which made the local rookie third in Class A!
Ackermann got a better-judged start in the second race, going down the outside again but this time holding his line to slot into third behind Van Breda and Gous.
Grune pushed the local hero down to fourth before the end of lap one but, more importantly, he had De Vos (who got boxed in on Turn 1) and former off-road star Brian Bontekoning between himself and Singh.
The leading four soon split into two dices, with a fired-up Gous chasing Van Breda for all he was worth and De Vos charging past Ackermann to take the fight to Grune in what turned out to be the dice of the day.
For the next seven laps Ackermann had the best seat in the house as De Vos and Grune, never more than a couple of bike lengths apart, battled it out for third overall, swopping places four times in the last two laps. But it was Grune who was ahead, by less than a quarter of a second, when they crossed the finish line, nine seconds behind Van Breda and seven behind Gous.
Ackermann came home fifth overall, well ahead of Johan le Roux, Bontekoning and Singh - and that made him fifth overall for the day as well, and third in Class A. But, as the Highlander said, in the end there can be only one, and that one was Graeme van Breda, clear winner overall for the day.