Heavy rain, coupled with oil on the circuit, brought a premature end to the third round of the 2017 DEOD SuperGP Champions Trophy held at Zwartkops Raceway on Saturday, 13 May. The first cold front of winter hit Gauteng late on Friday afternoon, bringing with it icy conditions and rain. While Saturday morning was dry, allowing the other classes to complete their first races, the SuperGP riders weren’t as lucky.
Rain started falling just before they left the pits, and despite them changing onto wet tyres, a huge crash on the opening lap brought out the red flags and ultimately an end to the day’s racing.
Tricky conditions in Friday afternoon’s qualifying session didn’t deter Clint Seller (MiWay Yamaha Racing R1). He set a time just a tenth slower than his lap record at the Pretoria West circuit which was set in much more favorable conditions. Lance Isaacs (SupaBets / Sandton BMW Motorrad S1000RR) was next up with Brandon Goode (Linex Yamaha R1) completing the front row. Daryn Upton (Paramount Tracks / Fourways Motorcycles Kawasaki ZX10R), Michael White (Consortium Shipping Yamaha R1) and Greg Gildenhuys (Autohaus Towing Kawasaki ZX10R), who were all within a second of Seller’s time, filled the second row of the grid.
While the riders were doing their formation lap before the start of the first race the track was not completely wet but it was already very slippery. Wet tyres became the order of the day, especially after the race officials declared it a wet race and gave them an extra warm-up lap to come to grips with the conditions. An indication of what was to come came when Ivan van Niekerk lost the front end of his Harki Recon Engineering Kawasaki ZX10 under braking at the top of the hill before turn 5. His bike collected White as it slid along the track, unceremoniously dumping him onto the tar. While White was able to remount and take his place on the grid, van Niekerk’s race was over.
Pole-sitter Seller grabbed the lead from the start with Upton picking his way through to second ahead of Goode at the second turn. They were followed by Nicolas Kershaw (Tsunami Beach Bar Yamaha R1) and Isaacs as they made their way up the hill. Kershaw was the first to succumb to the treacherous conditions, losing the front on the entrance to turn 5. His bike took Upton out as it slid off the track while Gildenhuys also lost the front of his bike forcing Isaacs to take to the run off road to avoid the sliding Kawasaki. Just when it looked like the carnage had come to an end, Gareth Laverick (RGM Cranes Yamaha R1) came to grief in the same place. While his bike slid off the road and into the gravel trap without collecting anything on the way, Laverick himself slid into AJ Venter causing him to fall as well.
With bikes and bodies scattered all over turn 5, race officials stopped the race to allow the marshals and medical crews to work in safety. The discovery of oil on the circuit during the clean-up operation forced the suspension of racing while attempts were made to clear it, but the weather conditions worsened and racing was abandoned.
Steven Odendaal (Petra Yamaha R6) missed the last round of the Super600 championship in East London – he was in Spain for opening race of his European Moto2 title defence – but he announced his return in style grabbing pole position with a lap almost nine tenths quicker than his closest rival Hayden Jonas. Jonas is now part of the MiWay Yamaha Racing squad, filling in for the injured Adolf Boshoff. Jesse Boshoff (Phoenix Payroll Systems Kawasaki ZX6) had his best qualifying session of the season to date, claiming third on the grid.
Aiden Liebenberg (Shop #74 / Fercor Construction Kawasaki ZX6), Kewyn Snyman (Otto Racing Kawasaki ZX6) and Malcolm Rudman (Montclair Motorcycles Kawasaki ZX6) filled the second row of the grid, the three of them separated by just a couple of tenths.
In the race Odendaal opened up a substantial lead over Jonas who, in turn, held a comfortable advantage over the battle for third place which is where all the action was. A four-way fight between Boshoff, Baker, Liebenberg and Rudman could have gone to any of them. In the end it was Liebenberg who was in front when it mattered after a last corner move on Baker netted him the final podium step. Baker managed to hold out Boshoff to take fourth with Rudman having to settle for sixth.
In the SuperJunior category Taric van der Merwe (Evolve Nutrition KTM390) was handed pole position after the quickest man, Ricardo Otto (Otto Racing KTM390), was found to have an underweight bike at the end of the qualifying session. Luca Coccioni (KTM390) and Tyreece Robert (KTM390) completed the front row of the grid.
In East London van der Merwe took two easy wins and he continued that form at Zwartkops, pulling away at the front to win by over 13 seconds. Robert and Coccioni had a great dice for the other two podium positions, finishing less than a tenth of a second apart in that order.
Pole sitter Shaun Jubber (RAD Moto KTM RC12) crashed out early in the BOTTS race leaving Jade Gutzeit (Dezzi Raceway Ducati Panagale) and Keagan Wessels (Moto Rentals KTM RC8) to fight it out for the win. There was almost nothing in it at the flag, but Gutzeit was far enough in front to claim the win. Thomas Brown (Rehab Racing Ducati Panigale) completed the podium.
Taric van der Merwe (Evolve Nutrition Kawasaki 250) also claimed pole position in the 250 Cup category but things didn’t go as well for him there as they did in the SuperJunior race. He had to settle for fourth behind a three-way battle for the lead that was only decided on the last lap. Luca Balona (Hi-Tech Racing Kawasaki 250) took the win from Ricardo Otto (Otto Racing / Inex Construction Kawasaki 250) and Keagan Wessels (Moto Rentals Kawasaki 250).
The SuperGP category will be in action next at Kyalami on the between 26 and 28 May as part of the SA Bike Festival before all the categories that make up the 2017 DEOD SuperGP Champions Trophy return to the track at Red Star Raceway outside Delmas on 10 June.