Former national Supersport champion Chris Leeson, riding the all-new BMW Motorrad Motorsport HP4 for the first time, scored a hard-earned third overall in the second round of the South African Superbike championship at Killarney in Cape Town on Saturday, March 16. Teammate Ryan Ottens was fourth overall.
Heavy overnight rain resulted in the Killarney circuit being deemed too wet for safe qualifying early on the Saturday morning, so the starting order for race one was allocated according to current championship positions. Leeson started second behind Clint Seller (Kawasaki) and finished third behind Seller and Nicolas Grobler (Kawasaki). Ottens started fourth and finished fourth.
HP4 rider Leeson actually led the second 10-lap race around the challenging 2-mile (3.2-km) Killarney circuit for the first two laps, closely followed by Grobler, but he selected a false neutral gear as he braked for the tight left-hander at the start of lap three and dropped to the back of the field. He worked his way up to 10th by lap five and finished strong, recording the second fastest lap of the race.
“This was our first outing on the BMW HP4 and we still have a lot to learn about the new bike. It has plenty of power, but we’re still getting to grips with the electronic race package,” said Leeson. “We’ve had the most amazing technical backup from BMW – these guys really know what they’re doing – and we’re confident with what we’ve learnt this weekend that we’ll be much stronger in the next round in Port Elizabeth in April.”
“We’ve had a few challenges with the new bike,” admitted Rob Holder, general manager of BMW Motorrad South Africa. “We only received the electronic race package for the BMW HP4 after the first round at Kyalami three weeks ago, which is why Chris elected to race the 2012 BMW there. Although we didn’t have a lot of time to test the new bike and establish a more competitive set-up, we’re more than satisfied with our progress this weekend. Chris rode like a star and set some very competitive lap times.”
Ottens was also happy with his performance under the circumstances. The big man, who weighs quite a bit more than Leeson, turned in a best lap within tenths of a second of his team-mate. “We’re getting there,” said Ottens. “I’m really enjoying the new bike and already looking forward to the next round.”
BMW privateers Heinrich Rheeder, Stephen Pienaar and Trevor Westman, all aboard S1000RR machines, finished sixth, seventh and 11th overall. The next round of the championship is at Aldo Scribante circuit in Port Elizabeth on April 6.