After an exciting and very intense 3rd round down in East London, the green machines were back up at altitude in Midrand for the 4th round of the Kawasaki ZX10 Masters Cup. The excitement was tangible on arrival at the world-class Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit as riding at the prestigious racetrack has become quite a rarity after its major revamp a few years ago.
The organisers of the Red Square Kawasaki Masters Cup pulled a rabbit out a hat getting Kyalami back on the racing calendar after the May round had fallen through. It seemed as it was going to be yet another year of minimal racing for which the circuit was supposedly saved and revamped. But by hook or by crook the race was on and here we were all pulling into pit lane with cheesy grins on our faces, all ready to do battle around the fast-flowing 4.522km circuit.
The format was slightly different for this round as there was no allocated Friday practice. The COC had set aside three timed practice sessions and two races on Saturday (luckily there was plenty of Red Square Reload on hand to get us through the day). The fastest time set by each rider in any of the practice sessions would decide their starting position on the grid, so needless to say, when pit lane opened it was serious right out the gate.
Practice Practice Practice
The pits were buzzing with excitement and anticipation to the build-up of the first session, not even the electricity supply could keep up with the 20 strong field of riders that had put their names on the entry list for a chance to claim bragging rights at the most prestigious track in the country. At 8:50, the pit lane was officially opened for the first timed practice session.
27 ZX10’s rolled down pit lane looking to try and get as close to the first corner come race time. The first timed practice session was a tricky one as there was not enough rubber laid down on the surface as yet, and the track temperature was a little on the cold side, but one thing that was heating up was the battle between the 3 Amigo’s with Gous taking top spot ahead of Bezuidenhout and Van Breda. Jonty Collard, Michael Smit, Appanna Ganapathy, Teddy Brooke and Kyle Robinson had locked in a top ten spot early and were all within a second of each other. At the end of the second practice session, the times had dropped with Gareth Bezuidenhout now topping the timesheets ahead of Michael Smit and Van Breda.
Brian Bontekoning and Appanna Ganapathy had found some time on their return to the Kawasaki series and had locked in top ten positions. When the chequered flag waved the end of session 3 the times had dropped even further as the conditions had become ideal for a day at the races but now we all waited for the timekeepers to whip out the abacus and sort out the starting grid based on the fastest times set across all three sessions. After a few tense minutes, the timesheets were approved by the COC and up on the notice board.
Van Breda yet again pinned the target on his back by snatching pole from Bezuidenhout and Gous who had seemed to have found a good setting with the newer model. Brian Bontekoning was up into 4th just edging out Michael Smit, Robinson and Ganapathy. Pieter De Vos secured 10th spot just beating Nieuwenhuys, van Vollenstee and Johan Le Roux who was back after his crash back in March. Wayne Spicer was 15th and Carl Rohrbeck, who had missed out on breaking under the two-minute milestone, was 20th on the grid with a 2:00.010.
At 14:15 the Red Square Brolly Dolly’s fluttered down pit lane as the Kawi pilots steamed around Kyalami for one sighting lap before stopping on the grid for battle.
Lights On…Lights Off!!!
…27 bikes jumped off the line and headed down the long main straight fanning out 5 abreast into the first corner. Van Breda tried to push up the inside and take the holeshot but it was Gous who had the advantage of carrying a few extra kilometers into the turn. Behind them, the Bridgestone R11 tyres were being pushed hard through the left and right combination of the Jukskei Sweep jostling for position. Gous led the way in the early stages and was pushing to put Van Breda’s unbeaten winning streak to an end. Gous led the way for the opening laps but could not drop Van Breda.
Bezuidenhout held on to third and was in quite a lonely place on track after pulling a slight gap from Bontekoning, Collard, Smit and Brooke were all in the mix using different lines almost at every turn, trying to one-up each other. Appanna Ganapathy was working hard trying to recover from a very costly start which meant he now had to be clinical getting through the field.
Four laps in, Van Breda made his move into clubhouse which had the change of surface flag on constant display until the end of the race due to a Kawasaki body part lying on the racing line, this, however, didn’t affect Van Breda’s plan of attack as he had now hit the front. Gous held onto the back of Van Breda and struck back a few corners later into Crowthorne. Van Breda drove hard out the bend and attacked straight back into Clubhouse which seemed to be his secret weapon.
As the race went on Johan Le Roux, Andre Van Vollenstee and Kyle Robinson disappeared from the timing sheets. As the laps ticked down Gous stayed in the mix but was just not close enough to make the pass, it seemed as if he was biding his time for a potential last lap attack. Unfortunately, with one lap to go, Michael Smit went down into the Clubhouse bend and collided with the barrier, bringing out the red flag which would rob the enthusiastic crowd of quite a few last lap showdowns. Stewie Christie, Guy Didcott and Sfiso Themba took it down to the wire as well as Gareth “Action” Jackson and myself, who had it all set up for a final corner lunge.
Van Breda took the win from Gous and Bezuidenhout. Brian Bontekoning was fourth ahead of Jonty Collard who made some telling passes during the race. Appanna Ganapathy made it back up into a top 10 place ahead of Wayne Spicer, Christie and Didcott. Ruan Oberholster was the top 15 finisher and Ian Harwood was 17th after a tough battle with Rohrbeck and Mclachlan.
Just after 16:30 it was time to hang cable again. 25 bikes lined up on the grid ready for another action-packed race. Michael Smit and Johan Le Roux were unable to make it back in time for the restart and would have to watch this one from the stands. The second race was reduced down to 8 laps as fitness and sunlight were a concern for the majority of the grid.
Lights On…Lights Off!!!
The final race of the day was underway.
The front row got off the line well, Gous lunged down the inside of Van Breda but ran wide, letting Van Breda back through into the lead and onto the back straight. The field ran some creative and unusual lines through the Jukskei Sweep into Barbeque. It was quite a sight, watching 25 Kawasaki’s running at high pace through sunset corner as the sun drifted behind the buildings.
I had a ton of work to do, as I had a first corner mishap with gear selection and had to make up all the positions I gave away, which was easier said than done as JB Schoeman, Chris Duplessis, Gareth Jackson and Henk Schuiling are not easy to get past, by any means.
I eventually made my way through and could see Ian Harwood’s extremely bright leathers drifting off ahead of me. He was involved in an all-out war with Sfiso Themba yet again. Unfortunately, it was short-lived as they upped the pace leaving Ruan Oberholster and myself in a bit of a lonely ride.
On lap three, Van Breda dropped the hammer in a big way and shattered the ZX10 Cup lap record putting in a very respectable 1:50.987 which completely knocked the wind out of Gous’s sails. Teddy Brooke was having a great race in fourth and was pulling away from Bontekoning, whilst Pieter De Vos showed good pace during the race in seventh place with Kyle Robinson and Apanna Ganapathy hot on his heels. After eight grueling laps around the undulating 4.529km circuit.
The chequered flag made its final appearance of the day, to wave Van Breda home ahead of Gous and Bezuidenhout. Brooke held fourth place from Bontekoning and Collard whilst Dale Nieuwenhuys snatched a top ten finish from Guy Didcott, who won the rider of the day award. Rodney Mclachlan took 15th and the final overall point up for grabs. Stewie Christie’s last lap didn’t go to plan when his rear end spun around and spat the Dog Doctor off, adding a bit of character to his shiny new leathers.
As the sunset behind the castle looking over Kyalami, the green machines were loaded on the trailers as the Phakisa Freeway awaits. See you trackside in Welkom on the 8th of June!