The Red Square Kawasaki ZX10 Cup was on the road for the first time this season. The Japanese beasts were crated, locked, loaded and on their way down to the Prince George Circuit in East London for Round 3 of the championship.
Over my racing career, many of my fellow riders have marveled at the sheer speed at which battle take place around the East London circuit, with a special mention of the infamous Potters and Rifle corners, which separates the men from the boys. With a heightened level of curiosity, I decided to make the 10 hour journey to the Eastern Cape, in order to test whether the Slummies track would really put some hair on my chest.
With Round 3 being an away race for the ZX10 series, the organizers managed to swindle an extra practice day on Thursday, for all the travelling categories. Thus allowing the newbies, like myself and Gareth “Action” Jackson, a chance to get to grips with the 3.9 kilometer circuit.
White knuckles were definitely not in short supply as we watched the other Bridgestone categories, during their first practice session of the day. Almost every front wheel was raised off the tarmac on the main straight, attributed not only to the sheer speeds that are reached on the straight but also a well-positioned rise on the track. And thanks to the rainfall from the previous three days, there was a “river” flowing out of the complex corners, covering the apex through the sweep, which changed the corner approach completely.
With a mental note of the slippery corner and with a few deep breaths, it was time to head out on the track with the rest of the Red Square Kawasaki ZX10 riders. All the seasoned competitors fired down the pit lane exit and off into the distance at break neck speeds into Potters and Rifle. Teddy Brooke, Ian Harwood and Jonty Collard demonstrated how it’s done, with insane speeds right out the gate, making the most of the coastal air performance during the practice sessions.
More riders had arrived at the East London track on the Friday, with the aim of getting their Kawasaki’s setup absolutely perfect ahead of qualifying and the two sprint races on the Saturday. The early morning weather threw a nasty spanner in the works with that grey, miserable, coastal drizzle setting-in just enough to keep the surface slick and the grip dicey. But, as the day went on the weather slowly started to clear allowing for more and more horsepower to be applied. Rob Morf was definitely one of the riders that took advantage of the drying conditions setting great pace in the practice, before his session was cut short due to battery issues which sent him straight into Potters run off and almost up to the Pick ‘n Pay. Sifiso Themba and Ian Harwood could be found throughout the day, battling it out on track and gaining in their lap time with every session.
Race day finally arrived and the weather definitely came to the party with glorious sunshine gleaming across the circuit.
At 08:34 the Eastern Cape came alive with the sound of horsepower as 19 Kawasaki 1000cc superbikes fired out of pit lane and down the main straight at some serious pace. The ‘puddle’ in the complex was a permanent fixture on track for the weekend and ensured the field took the corners a little gingerly in the early stages especially on the freshly fitted Bridgestones. A few laps into the session and it was all to play for, as the times started to tumble at a rapid rate. Graeme van Breda drew a line in the sand early with a seriously hot lap time of 1:22.936. Gareth Bezuidenhout was riding the wheels of his ZX10 but was unable to drop his times under the 1:23 mark, securing him a front row start on the grid with his arch rival Jaco Gous on the number 43 completing the top three. Kyle Robinson was fourth quickest on a welcome return back to racing after a long absence away from the series. Rob Morf made good ground climbing quickly up the qualifying sheet in the closing stages of the session until that tricky damp patch reared its ugly head and got the #55 bike out of shape, sending Morf onto the grass at Beacon corner. Unfortunately Morf’s off-road skills were no match for the sodden grass, ending his fast lap just before the chequered flag came out. Despite the unfortunate detour, Rob was able to qualify in 10th position but had his work cut out for him to get the bike race ready before the first heat. Jonty Collard also suffered some misfortune during qualifying when a stone pierced his radiator. Further down the grid Gareth Jackson and I had managed to find a bit of time in the session in the battle of the newbies and qualified in 15th and 16th position.
Just before noon 19 Kawasakis lined up on the Prince George Circuit in anticipation.
Lights On…..Lights Off….
The race was ON! The first three corners resembled the Anaconda ride at Gold Reef City as the ZX10 pilots all looked to maximize the slip stream before making their attack through the complex section. As the field entered the complex section Kyle Robinson and Rob Morf both headed through the grass, as there was just not enough asphalt to accommodate all the motorcycles gliding their way through the bends of the Border Circuit. Rob Morf was unable to rejoin the race due to the after effects of his crash in qualifying being a little more serious than initially thought. Robinson did rejoin and had a lot of work ahead of him to make up for the time lost during his off-road excursion. Van Breda led the field in the early stages ahead of Jaco Gous and Gareth Bezuidenhout. Jonty Collard had Teddy Brooke for company as the two went at it tooth-and-nail ahead of Dale Niewenhuys and Pieter De Vos. On lap two, Abrie Marais disappeared from the field with what seemed to be technical issues, whilst Henk Schuiling followed suite two laps later, as his fuel pump waved the white flag on proceedings. Michael Smit also seemed to have problems but kept circulating with the aim of collecting as many championship points as possible. Back upfront Van Breda managed to pull away from the chasing Gous and Bezuidenhout and kept a comfortable gap right down to the chequered flag. Collard managed to hold off Brooke over the line and Robinson took a hard earned sixth place after his first lap mishap. Dale Niewenhuys had an impressive ride and brought it home just ahead of Pieter De Vos whilst Wayne Spicer got the upper hand against Themba and Harwood which was definitely the battle to watch on track over the 10 laps.
At just on two thirty the ZX10 paddock came alive with the sound of horsepower yet again. 18 1000cc superbikes shot down the main straight of the East London circuit refueled, reloaded and ready for action.
Lights On…. Lights Off….
There might have been a bit of creeping on the grid but 18 bikes were off in a flash. Weekend favourite Van Breda didn’t get off the line well and was swallowed up by the field into the first corner. Gareth Bezuidenhout led the field into the complex section with Teddy Brooke and Jaco Gous hot on his heels. Jonty Collard was in fourth place with Van Breda all the way down in fifth with quite a bit work to do. With the event being an all bike day the track conditions just seemed to improve as the day went on and the pace was really hot in the early stages. Gareth Bezuidenhout led the 18 strong field over the line for the close of lap one and looked determined to dethrone Van Breda. Teddy Brooke was up in to second place after a magic start ahead of Gous. Further down the field Ian Harwood and Sifiso Themba were going at it hammer and tongs yet again with Henk Schuiling sitting in their slip stream looking to pounce at any given opportunity. Henk Schuiling managed to swop his fuel tank with Rob Morf between races as Morf was unable to get his bike ready in time for the second heat (an example of the amazing comradery between the riders in this series). Back on track, the front three had managed to break away from the chasing pack and it wasn’t long until Jaco Gous managed to slip his Kawi passed Bezuidenhout. Unfortunately the block pass completely killed Bezuidenhout’s drive onto the main straight which allowed Van Breda through into turn one. Gous defended well through the Complex but unfortunately could not defend through the hair raising Potter’s corner which eventually saw Van Breda get through and take the chequered flag for another race win. Jaco Gous took a hard and well-earned second place ahead of Gareth Bezuidenhout. Jonty Collard finished in fourth place, ahead of Teddy Brooke. Dale Niewenhuys just missed out on the top five but was still able to take home the ‘Rider of the Day’ title after showing blistering pace all weekend.
There were some solid rides further down the field by Wayne Spicer and Pieter De Vos as well as Kyle Robinson who really pushed hard for their top ten finishes. Gareth Jackson left it all out on track with a last lap move to mug JB Schoeman for 13th position on track.
1. Jaco Gous
2. Gareth Bezuidenhout
3. Jonty Collard
4. Dale Niewenhuys
5. Kyle Robinson
6. Sifiso Themba
7. Gareth Jackson
8. Abrie Marais
9. Clifford Ogle
10. Michael Smit
1. Graeme Van Breda
2. Wayne Spicer
3. Ian Harwood
1. Teddy Brooke
2. Pieter De Vos
3. Carl Richback
4. JB Schoeman
5. Henk Schuiling
Another nail-biting weekend came to an end down in the Buffalo City and it was time to cage the beasts and send them back up to highveld as the magnificent Kyalami beckons for the fourth round of the Red Square ZX10 Masters Cup on the 1st of June. Looking forward to seeing you there!
Big thanks to Eric (basswolf007), Paul Bedford and Gillian Herold for bringing my story to life!