From a Layman’s perspective: SBK Kyalami

SBKIt’s no great secret that I’ve never been a fan of bikes. I can ride one, sort of, but to me they’ve never held any appeal. Cars have always seemed the more fun option, plus they have two more wheels, and more is always better. However with this being said, the South African round of the Superbike World Championship was just an opportunity not to be missed. So with much curiosity and a little excitement brewing, I headed off to Kyalami on race day.

Now I’ve always liked Kyalami, both as a circuit and as a venue. As a track it’s well varied and has a lot of character, while as a venue it provides many great viewing spots where multiple parts of the track may be viewed at once. Us South Africans are very proud of our sport, but motor racing has never really taken off in as big a way as I’d like, but let me tell you I have never seen the place as jam packed and bustling in my life as on that day. It truly was a sight to behold.

So making my way down into the pit area, press pass in hand, it was time to see what this sport was all about and boy was I eager to learn. To my pleasant surprise this was incredibly easy. Everyone I ran into was incredibly friendly and just bursting to talk about a sport they have a passion for, whether they were fans, media or commentators, everyone was there to have a good time. So armed with gems of knowledge such as, Kyalami is the highest altitude grand prix circuit in the world, even higher than Mexico City, and it has traditionally been a Ducati dominated circuit, I strode on into the pits to see what’s what.

Now I know Formula One inside and out. It is an incredibly complex sport. When people tell you this is the Formula One of bike racing here’s a tip. Believe them. The pit area of Kyalami is massive, I’ve seen seemingly hundreds of cars parked inside the garages no problem at all and yet for those few bikes it seemed there was hardly any room to move, let alone set up the highly sophisticated machine that is the modern Superbike. In preparation for the race, people were bustling everywhere. Technicians tapping away at laptops monitoring every conceivable piece of data while mechanics grabbed implements from toolkits the size of which would embarrass the world’s most prolific handyman and all the while at the eye of the storm sat the Superbikes, calm and serene, while at the same time demanding of your attention.

Soon however it was down to business and the reason why everyone had turned out. Race time. One of the most impressive things I have ever seen in my life is the start of a Superbike race. With over forty bikes lined up within what could not have been more than fifty metres, all ready to do battle, engines raring to go, it is truly a spectacular sight. That is until the lights go green. Then something truly magical happens. How forty odd Superbikes manage to perform a full bore start, while trying to overtake one another, going from zero to what seems like a million miles an hour in a split second, haring down to the first corner and at the same time not flying into each other is a mystery to me. All I know was that it is a sight to behold and one that is burned into my memory for a long time to come.

Many people say racing is boring and nothing interesting ever happens unless there’s a crash. Those people know nothing. Both races were slam bang excitement from thrilling start to exhilarating end, remembering of course that the race itself is broken up into two small races rather than one big one. For a while the reasoning for this puzzled me, but after thinking about this for a bit on the way home it all made perfect sense. With a short race there is very little time to pull out a massive lead, thereby making the racing all the more intense, the field always bunched up and with one slip up at any point in time having the potential to completely change championship standings. In my opinion it’s a great format and one that really provides extra entertainment value.

So I guess you could say that the Superbikes have brought about a small change in me. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’ll be buying my first Yamaha PQRXZTT anytime soon, but it’s certainly shown me that they can be immense fun. So if you happened to miss the race this year and are by now regretting the decision I’m sure, well I’ll be seeing you all next year. You’ll all recognise me. I’ll be one at the front of the queue as the gates open.

Nick Hodgson

Photo Credit: Motorpics

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