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March 6, 2012  

Supplied by MotorSport Administrator from Motorsport South Africa
The 2012 National Superbike Championship got underway in an exciting fashion this past weekend at Zwartkops International Raceway just outside Pretoria as part of Round 1 of The WesBank Super Series.


The 2012 National Superbike Championship got underway in an exciting fashion this past weekend at Zwartkops International Raceway just outside Pretoria as part of Round 1 of The WesBank Super Series.

The atmosphere that round one generates is something like no other race throughout the year. The excitement of new bikes, new riders, different team combinations and the excitement of seeing old friends makes the first event special. You can feel how charged the paddock is after the nearly four month off-season.

Leading news for the new season came in two fronts, a new rider and a new bike. Firstly David Mcfadden, 2011 National Supersport Champion took the leap to the big bikes proving that in the rider’s eyes, 1000cc monsters are the premier class in South African Motorcycle Circuit racing. The likeable Capetonian would again ride for the successful Pepper Racing Kawasaki outfit that helped him to overall glory in 2011. Secondly, the much publicised and long awaited Ducati Panigale would make history by being raced in National Competition for the first time worldwide here in South Africa with Chris Leeson at the helm and backing from “RACE!”, after an absence from the National Championship of quite some years, the welcome sound of the big bore V-twin could be heard from every corner of the race facility.

Friday practise saw a four way battle for top honours on the timesheets, a psychological advantage to any rider and team for the critical grid position acquisition the next day in qualifying, the first battle of the weekend. The four riders involved in the timed practice dual, last year’s champion, Greg Gildenhuys aboard his BMW Motorrad Motorsport S1000RR, Nicolas Grobler on his Jonway backed BMW S1000RR, Chris Leeson and his Ducati Race Panigale and David Mcfadden on his Pepper Racing Kawasaki ZX10R. The overnight advantage went clearly to Mcfadden with the Kawasaki rider topping the timesheets in all three timed practises. Leeson, Grobler and Gildenhuys taking the next three spots in different running order during the day.

Mcfadden may have had the overnight advantage but the sleep helped Leeson and his Ducati most with Leeson shooting to the top of the timesheets as early as lap 3. Mcfadden tried all he could to get that one perfect lap out of his Pepper Racing Kawasaki but had to settle for P2 on the grid. Greg Gildenhuys and his BMW Motorrad Motorsport S1000RR claimed P3 with Nicolas Grobler on his Jonway BMW in 4th. Ryan Ottens proved his speed on his Northside BMW backed S1000RR by claiming P5 with Stephen Steenkamp on his Pretoria North Toyota backed CBR1000RR Honda taking a very respectable P6 on the grid, making it four brands in the top 6.

Robert Portman, still suffering from some injuries sustained in December, claimed P7 with privateer and regional graduate Ryan van Aswegen on his Gem Auto CBR1000RR circulating in an amazing pace to claim the last position on the second row, P8. Gareth Davidson, another regional racing graduate on his BMW Umhlanga S1000RR claimed 9th on the grid. The top 10 was rounded out by the first of the Masters riders in the form of Richard Carmody and his Star Racing Kawasaki ZX10R. Hot on his heels was another regional racing graduate Vin Horn on his Full Throttle entered CBR1000RR who claimed a top 5 position at the first regional at RSR two weeks before. Wayne Thomas made a welcome return to National Racing after a long spell and put his Trolan Bikes backed Kawasaki ZX10R on P12 for the race. Simon Bezhuidenhout, another Master on a Kawasaki backed by EMTEK Racing was in 13th with Chris Du Preez also on a Kawasaki in 14th leaving Etienne Nelson on his Cabac Engineering Northside BMW S1000RR in 15th on the grid.

The lights went out for race 1 and the 2012 Championship was officially underway. Obviously not having too much practise at starts with his brand new bike Leeson fluffed the launch in a massive way. Mcfadden, Grobler, Gildenhuys, Steenkamp, Ottens and Portman all dashed past him long before turn one. Mcfadden was in the lead from his holeshot until they exited the sweeping turn three and came back into sight followed by Grobler, then Gildenhuys, Steenkamp in 4th, Ottens in 5th, Portman in 6th and the Ducati of Leeson in 7th. Ryan van Aswegen, Richard Carmody, Vin Horn and Wayne Thomas were all locking horns for the lasting top ten spaces.

Mcfadden seemed in control. When looking at the lap charts post race, the number 69 bike was half a second quicker from a standing start in the first lap, the only other rider close, the youngster from Jonway BMW, Nicolas Grobler. Just before half race distance. Gildenhuys and his BMW edged closer and closer to Grobler and Greg made the pass to steal 2nd spot. At the same time, the Ducati in the able hands of Leeson managed to claw back from 7th position up the order to 4th and he could smell the blood pumping through Grobler’s veins. 5th place was held by Steenkamp and 6th by Ottens. Portman had slipped to 7th with Van Aswegen in 8th, Carmody in 9th and Horn in 10th. Gareth Davidson and his BMW Umhlanga S1000RR unfortunately pulled out with brake pad issues.

On lap 6, Leeson and his Ducati made the pass to a podium position relegating the early charging Grobler into 4th place. Leeson wasn’t done yet. With McFadden’s insurmountable lead of a few seconds over Gildenhuys, Leeson’s best hope was for a 2nd place finish. Leeson spent the last third of the race closing the factory BMW rider down bit by bit until the last lap where turning into the fourth corner of the circuit, #99 slid in on the inside of the Champion to take 2nd place. Mcfadden wasn’t caught and crossed the line 4.8 seconds ahead of the Ducati Panigale of Chris Leeson in 2nd and Greg Gildenhuys in 3rd. 4th place went to Grobler followed by Steenkamp, Ottens who had a race long battle and then Portman in a lonely but solid 7th place. 8th place home was the elated Ryan van Aswegen who simply had the ride of his career thus far. First master home was Richard Carmody in 9th followed by Wayne Thomas in 10th and Vin Horn in 11th.

Race 2

The grid for the second race was the same mix of riders as in heat one but due to the second fastest lap of qualification dictating the order, a few riders were moved around on the front row with the middle to back of the grid much the same as heat one. Chris Leeson’s Ducati was again on pole with Greg Gildenhuys’ BMW on P2, McFadden’s Kawasaki in P3 and Grobler in his P4 of race one.

The lights went out and Leeson seemed calmer off the line and pulled off in the leading pack this time out. The holeshot was taken by Gildenhuys this time followed closely by Grobler then Leeson and Mcfadden in 4th. By turn four of lap one, David Mcfadden had past the three riders in front of him finding himself in the lead going up the hill towards Mercedes corner followed closely by Gildenhuys and Leeson. Grobler now in 4th was followed by the hard charging Portman aboard his Emtek racing Kawasaki.

Ottens and Steenkamp were having none of this and soon past Portman to take 5th and 6th respectively. The battle for first was a little closer than in race one with Gildenhuys matching McFadden’s pace in the first 3 laps. That was until Gildenhuys and Leeson got locked in battle and allowed for some breathing room for Mcfadden. By lap 10 of the 12 lap race, Mcfadden sealed the deal and his lead was too much for the BMW or Ducati to catch. This didn’t dampen the spirits of Leeson and Gildenhuys who took their battle to the line.

Mcfadden got the double and crossed the line in first place with a margin of 3.7 seconds over Gildenhuys who was a mere 0.261 seconds ahead of Leeson in 3rd. Grobler finished a lonely 4th but would be happy with his pace and points earned. Ryan Ottens was victorious in his battle against Steenkamp and took 5th some 8 seconds ahead of the Pretoria North Toyota Honda rider. A dejected Portman crossed the line in 7th, although the points would be appreciated what with Zwartkops not being the favourite track of the Johannesburg rider. 8th was taken by an elated Ryan van Aswegen on another Honda. Taking overall honours in the Masters class was Richard Carmody in 9th position with Wayne Thomas, another Master, hot on his heels in 10th. Simon Bezhuidenhout crossed the line in 11th with Chris Du Preez and Etienne Nelson 12th and 13th respectively. Unfortunately Gareth Davidson pulled out on lap 5 with further technical issues and Vin Horn crashed out at turn 6 also on lap five.

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