With a new sponsor, NGK Spark Plugs, onboard the SA Superbike Series supported by Bridgestone made its way to Zwartkops Raceway for the second round of the 2020 championship on 13 and 14 March.
After what was, by his high standards, a poor start to the season at the opening round, defending SA Superbike Champion Clint Seller bounced back, powering his King Price Xtreme Yamaha R1 to both heat wins.
In the SuperSport 600 class, Ricardo Otto (Otto Racing Yamaha R6) took an easy win in the first heat but had to fight all the way to the flag to secure his second win of the day.
At the opening round at the beginning of February, it was David McFadden (RPM Center/Stunt SA Yamaha R1) who took both heat wins and during Friday’s qualifying sessions he signalled his intention to carry on in that vein, topping the timesheets in both sessions. It was, however, very tight at the top with just 0.162” separating the top three at the end of the day. Seller set the second quickest time with Lance Isaacs (Superbets BMW Motorrad S1000RR) in third.
Reigning SuperSport 600 champion Blaze Baker made the step up to the litre class and was very happy with fourth on the grid after his first competitive outing on his new JBR/Rapid Bike Kawasaki ZX10R. Byron Bester (Hi-Tech Racing Kawasaki ZX10R) set the fifth-fastest time but injured his knee in the final session which could see him on the sidelines for as long as four months. Otto was the quickest of the 600s, lining up in sixth place on the combined grid. Hendrick de Bruin (NETCB Yamaha R1) headed the third row of the grid with Damion Purificati (Andala FT Racing BMW S1000RR) and the second of the 600 contenders, Taric van der Merwe (Dragon Energy Yamaha R6), alongside him. Capetonian Brett Roberts (Lights by Linea Yamaha R6) just got the better of Marius Koekemoer (Libra Racing Ducati Panigale) to take tenth with Gareth Gehlig (Superbets/BMW Motorrad S1000RR), another rider making the step up from the 600 class, in twelfth. Shaun Vermaak (DT Automotive/Gapcon Honda Fireblade) and Garrick Vlok (DCCS Coring, Cutting and Sealing Yamaha R1) completed the grid.
In Saturday morning’s warm-up session Seller gave an indication of what was to come, setting a time comfortably quicker than his best qualifying effort the day before. He put that speed to good use in the opening race, quickly opening up a gap over McFadden, who was the only rider able to maintain any sort of contact. Seller looked to be cruising to the win until about two-thirds of the way through the race when his Yamaha tried to spit him off at the exit of turn six. This gave McFadden a chance to close the gap, but he could not find a way through and had to settle for second. Behind the leading duo, there was a great three-way fight for the final podium position with Baker, Isaacs and Vlok circulating within a couple of bike lengths of each other. Unfortunately for Vlok, his challenge came to an end when his front brake failed, leaving Baker and Isaacs to continue the fight. Isaacs eventually found a way through but could not do anything about the leaders so settled for third. Baker took fourth ahead of Purificati who had Otto, on the first of the 600s, in his wheel tracks. Gehlig and Koekemoer were the last of the classified finished after mechanical maladies sidelined the rest of the field.
In the second race, Seller again grabbed the lead when the lights went out. Behind him, Baker got a great start and moved up to second with Isaacs, McFadden and Vlok right behind him. Vlok’s Yamaha let him down again so it was left to Isaacs and McFadden to put the pressure on Baker while Seller disappeared up the road. Isaacs was the first to get past the Kawasaki but despite being quicker than the reigning champion almost every lap, the lead that Seller had built up in the early stages of the race was too big to close down and the BMW man ended up just under a second and a half shy. McFadden took another couple of laps to get past Baker but by then his chances of closing the gap to the front had gone and he settled for third. Baker took another fourth place ahead of Purificati who again had Otto snapping at his heels. This time Otto didn’t have it all his way in the 600 class, van der Merwe hounded him for the whole race with the two youngsters never more than a couple of bike lengths apart and only 0.132” separating them at the flag. De Bruin was next up in eighth with Gehlig ninth, just ahead of Roberts on the third of the 600s. Koekemoer, who claimed the masters trophy ended eleventh.
The next round of the NGK SA Superbike series is scheduled to take place at the East London Grand Prix Circuit on Saturday, 25 April 2020, however, this could change depending on whether further restrictions are imposed in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Published by: Paul Bedford
Picture Caption: Clint Seller leads the way
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