The Castrol-sponsored Day of the Champions, which forms part of the classic motor racing extravaganza at Zwartkops Raceway at the beginning of each year, continues to grow in popularity. The number of motorcycles that will be in action on Sunday, January 29, could total as many as 250.
As usual this massive gathering of classic motorcycle racing enthusiasts will again include many champions and former champions, hence the name, Day of the Champions.
“We at Castrol South Africa are delighted to once again be the headline sponsor of this awesome historic motorcycle event,” commented the company’s recently appointed Public Relations and Sponsorship Manager, Nandi Canning.
“Castrol has been involved with motorcycle racing virtually since its inception more than 100 years ago and continues to sponsor teams in both MotoGP and World Superbikes. An annual event such as the Zwartkops Day of the Champions is an excellent example of our ongoing support for the racing heritage of our famous brand, which is not just oil, but liquid engineering!”
Once again many overseas riders, mainly from the United Kingdom, are taking the opportunity of spending time in sunny South Africa for the classic racing series.
Seven times Isle of Man TT winner, Mick Grant, who has been sponsored by Castrol for more than 40 years, is once more the main mover to get overseas riders to SA. He will be riding an ex-Barry Sheene factory Suzuki RG500 as well as racing one of Peter du Toit’s GSM Dart sports cars in the 45-minute Execuline SA Tourist Trophy for 1966-1968 sports and GT cars.
Grant had the opportunity last year of racing a genuine ex-factory Lotus 23 sports car with Mick Knopfler of Dire Straits at the Goodwood Revival and says he is looking forward to racing on both four and two wheels at Zwartkops.
Steve Wheatman, owner of the largest collection of Suzuki GP bikes outside the factory, is sending two factory RG500s to South Africa. One is the 1984 ex-Sheene bike for Grant and the other will be ridden by Phil Read, who won eight world titles and also enjoyed long term sponsorship from Castrol. Read will ride the 1974 Suzuki he rode in that year’s world championship.
Former Isle of Man TT lap record holder Steve Plater is returning to Zwartkops and will ride a Suzuki RG 500.
Another important machine that will show its paces at the Day of the Champions event is a four-cylinder Formula 750 MV Agusta, which was one of the machines used in the famous Italian factory’s last foray in Grand Prix racing. It will be ridden by former multiple SA champion Keith Zeeman.
Many other ex-SA champions have entered for the event. One of them, Les van Breda, who was hospitalised at the time of the 2011 Castrol Day of the Champions, will be on the track again on January 29. He will be riding his fabulous 1974 Suzuki TR 750 which is still in excellent condition and the only known machine of this type still being ridden in anger by its original rider anywhere in the world. The wail of its exotic three-cylinder two-stroke engine leaves an indelible memory.
Some of the other well-known names from the past that will be seen at Zwartkops are Paddy Driver, Jim Redman, Dave and Robbie Petersen, Wayne Heasman, Howard Mellett, Tiny Marriner, Ian Scheckter, Rodney Gray, Ophie Howard and Kevin Hellyer,
Honda SA managing director, Yoshiaki Nakamura, will again be in action, this time riding John Chapman’s Honda RS250, while multiple SA production car racing champion Gary Formato will be out on a 1981 Suzuki superbike.
Making up the numbers will be many owners of exotic racing machinery from years gone by, with motorcycles that have been lovingly restored and maintained. They are competently ridden by enthusiasts from the Historic Motorcycle Group, Classic Racing Club of SA and private teams such as Ian Groat’s Team Incomplete.
Ian Groat’s team consists mainly of famous British single-cylinder racers from the past, although he also provides a four-cylinder 250 Honda for multiple world titleholder Jim Redman. The riders of his other machinery this year includes Peter Labuschagne (Matchless G50 “Wagon Wheels”), Paddy Driver (Matchless G50), Jimmy Guthrie (500 Manx Norton) and Groat himself (350 Manx Norton and 350 McIntyre AJS 7R).
Racing will start at 08:45 and continue until well into the afternoon.