A fighting second place in race one behind Clinton Seller and a second win of the season for the new BMW HP4 ahead of championship leader Seller in race two, plus a new circuit lap record, was a welcome reward for Chris Leeson and the BMW Motorrad Motorsport team in round five of the South African Superbike Championship in East London on Saturday.
As is often the case, the two wheel brigade provided the best and closest racing of the day. It was the first time the Super Series of national championship categories had visited the historic East London Grand Prix circuit since 2010 and Leeson’s best lap of 1 min 18,883 sec around the fastest and most fearsome circuit in South Africa was a highlight of the day’s racing.
It was the fastest lap by a motorcycle ever recorded at the historic 3,92-kilometre circuit.
“When we last raced here three years ago I won both races and set a new lap record, so bettering it today was a special bonus,” said an elated Leeson.
“We worked hard between race meetings to have a fast bike for this weekend and we were confident after testing here a few weeks ago that we could fight for a win.”
With Seller and Leeson sharing race wins and second places, there’s no change at the top of the championship points table. Seller now has 215 points to the 192 of Leeson. Third is Nicholas Grobler on 178 after finishing third in both races on Saturday.
Leeson’s BMW Motorrad Motorsport team-mate Ryan Ottens, on his first race outing on the East London circuit with its daunting ultra high-speed Potters Pass and Rifle Range bends, scored two sixth places to retain his fourth place in the championship. He was pipped to the flag in both races by Dylan White, the two riders swopping places and finishing just tenths of a second apart.
“It was awesome racing here and the biggest challenge I’ve had on a bike,” said a happy Ottens. “We only managed about 20 laps in practice on Friday, so I still had a lot to learn. I was losing time through Potters and Rifle.
“You have to have a lot of confidence to arrive at Potters at 290 km/h and be able to get through Rifle safely. There was no point in pushing my luck and falling off. I was happy to have improved my lap time from 1 min 26 sec in practice to 1 min 21,5 sec in race two.”
A trio of S 1000 RR motorcycles entered by Bavarian Motorcycles of Centurion in Gauteng had mixed results. Etienne Nelson finished 10th overall for the day with Mark Edwards and Heinrich Rheeder not contesting race two after both failed to finish race one.
Rheeder, at 47 the oldest rider in the field, was lucky to escape with a bruised and battered body after running out of road at the end of the main straight while leading White in fifth place on lap six of the opening 10-lapper. The BMW was badly damaged after hitting a tyre barrier at speed some 250 metres from the circuit and throwing its rider over the tyre wall. The race was red-flagged and restarted without Rheeder.
The next round of the championship is at Phakisa Freeway in the Free State on August 2.