There were decidedly mixed fortunes for BMW Motorrad Motorsport’s Chris Leeson and Ryan Ottens in round seven of the South African Superbike Championship at Zwartkops Raceway west of Pretoria on Saturday.
On a late-winter’s day that saw qualifying cancelled for safety reasons because of the cold early morning conditions – the grid for the first 12-lap race was determined by championship positions – Leeson started second on the new BMW HP4. But a disappointingly familiar slow start dropped him to fourth behind team-mate Ottens, who had made a great start and was second on the opening lap, before the race was red-flagged after a rider came off exiting turn three.
The race was restarted and Leeson again bogged down as the lights went off while Ottens repeated his earlier quick getaway to be second on the opening lap. Leeson had worked his way into third place ahead of Ottens and was closing on Clint Seller in first and Nicholas Grobler in second when he lost control of the BMW at 180 km/h powering out of turn three on the final lap and crashed heavily.
“I don’t really know exactly what happened,” said a slightly dazed Leeson after hard contact with the tyre wall. I was on the same line I’d used all day out of turn three when the bike let go without any warning.” The race was red-flagged and the results declared according to the positions at the end of the penultimate lap.
This gave Leeson third place and, despite also falling off his bike at turn five on the last lap, Ottens picked up his ninth fourth place of the season. “The front tucked in as I braked for the tight right-hander at the Table Top. It was a little embarrassing,” admitted the genial Ottens. “I was lucky the race was red-flagged, although I’m sorry it was because of Chris crashing.”
Leeson elected to miss the second race after suffering a heavy blow to a shoulder and a foot. Ottens took full advantage of his team-mate’s absence to score a season’s best third place for the third time and finish the day third overall.
Leeson now has 244 championship points and drops to third behind Seller (315 points) and Grobler (254) with two rounds and four races remaining. Ottens maintained his fourth place overall with 185 points.
The next round of the championship is at Killarney in Cape Town on October 5.