The BMW S1000RR has added another national Superbike title added to the growing list of victories thanks to Greg Gildenhuys’ efforts in the 2011 South African Superbike Championship. This is the second successive title for the 22-year-old from Boskruin in Gauteng, who has shown all the skill, determination and bravery required for victory in a tough season that has not all gone his way, despite securing the 2011 title with one round still to spare.
With back-to-back victories at the previous round in Cape Town last month, Greg Gildenhuys headed for the penultimate round at Zwartkops Raceway west of Pretoria in ‘pole position,’ having scored 296 points from 14 races and enjoying a 51-point lead over his nearest rival, Chris Leeson. Up to this point, the two talented riders had each won four races, but the difference has been Gildenhuys’ nine second places to Leeson’s single runner-up finish.
With 100 points on offer in the final two rounds, Leeson was the only rider standing between Gildenhuys and the crown at the tight and technical Zwartkops circuit, but a fourth and a second in the penultimate round were enough to secure Greg Gildenhuys and his BMW RR a second successive South African Superbike Championship.
With nearest challenger Chris Leeson collecting 32 points from two third-place finishes on his Kawasaki to take his total to 277, Gildenhuys was able to stretch his points lead to an unassailable 52, with just 50 remaining in the final round at Zwartkops on November 26.
Gildenhuys was, however, forced to work hard for the points that secured him this year’s title. Despite an adjustment to the BMW’s clutch and lots of practice on a nearby drag strip prior to this round, his notoriously slow starts once again ruined any chances he had of a win in either of the two races.
Starting the first 10-lap sprint alongside pole position winner Sheridan Morais, Greg had dropped to seventh at the first corner, but managed to get up to sixth at the end of the first lap and then through to fifth behind Julian Odendaal, as the field of 15 riders started lap five. Despite being clearly quicker than Odendall and his Kawasaki, he struggled to find a way past on the short and tight 2.4 km (1.5 mile) circuit, where overtaking is difficult.
This allowed the front-runners to get away and it was only on the final lap that Greg got the better of Odendaal. Although he quickly opened up a gap on Odendaal he had run out of time to catch the third-placed rider and eventually took the chequered flag six-tenths of a second behind Leeson.
Gildenhuys made a better start to race two, dropping from second on the grid to fourth at the first corner. By the end of lap two he was third behind Morais and Leeson, then chased down his championship rival and moved into second place on lap six. By then Morais had opened up a gap of around three seconds and went on to win the 12-lap race, with the Greg content to finish second and take the title on his RR.
Speaking after the celebrations, a delighted Greg Gildenhuys said, “I’m super overwhelmed. Now the pressure is off we can focus on winning the last two races at Zwartkops on November 26. I’d like to say a big ‘thank you’ to my team for all their hard work and also to BMW for their great bike and all their support.”
The last round of the championship takes place at Zwartkops Raceway on the final weekend in November.