Hard work by BMW Motorrad Motorsport technicians at Zwartkops Raceway between rounds paid off for former South African Supersport champion Chris Leeson. He rode two brilliant races on the BMW HP4 to record his first victory in the fourth round of the 2013 South African Superbike championship at Zwartkops near Pretoria last Saturday.
A win in the first of the two 12-lap races and a fighting second after a heart-stopping duel with reigning Supersport champion Clint Seller (Kawasaki) in the second race – they crossed the finish line after 12 laps and nearly 18 miles (29 km) of high-speed riding just a tenth of a second apart – saw Leeson move from third to second in the championship. He now has 147 points, 24 less than Seller and one more than third-placed Nicholas Grobler (Kawasaki).
BMW Motorrad Motorsport teammate Ryan Ottens put in another consistent performance on the second HP4 to score a third and a fourth in the two races and strengthen his fourth place in the championship.
Leeson started the opening 12-lap race on the second row of the grid after qualifying third fastest and took full advantage of the absence of pole sitter Seller, who crashed his bike in Saturday morning’s qualifying and was unable to make it to the grid in time. He took the lead from a fast-starting Grobler on lap five and then crossed the finish line 4.5 seconds ahead of Grobler and recording the fastest lap of the race in a time of 1 min 1.855 sec – just four-tenths of a second off the lap record.
With Leeson making the most of the BMW’s superior speed on the straights and a set-up that ensured a stronger second half of the race performance, he and Seller – who had taken the lead from Grobler on lap six – engaged in a wheel-to-wheel battle for the victory in race two from lap eight. Leeson appeared to have the edge on his rival and hit the front with just one lap to go, only to fall back into second after making a mistake on the final lap.
“It probably should have been two wins today – I was faster than Clint in the second half of the race and knew that if I could exit the hairpin ahead of him I’d beat him to the flag,” explained Leeson. “Unfortunately I was a bit too hot on the gas out of the corner on the final lap, went a little wide and opened the door for him to nip through on the inside.
“We’ve made great progress with the bike and are getting closer to extracting the maximum from the electronic suspension,” said Leeson. “We’ve all been pushing hard to achieve this first victory and it’s a great reward for the whole team. Now we know we have a winning combination and we can go to the next round with increased confidence.”
Ottens was equally pleased with his BMW’s performance and his third overall for the day, “We’re still not quite there yet, but we’re getting better with each outing,” he said. “This is a great bike and I’m looking forward to getting more out of it in the races to come.”