But technicalities and officialdom will determine the final result
CAPE Superbike rider Lance Isaacs may have to wait until his victory in the Interfile SA Superbike Championships is officially confirmed but, win or lose, very few would begrudge “Sir Lancelot” his day in the sun.
In one of the tightest battles for the title ever seen in this category Isaacs prevailed only because he managed to retain focus in the face of, at times, psychological mayhem – and mulishly refused to contemplate defeat.
The “enemy” was budding Superbike talent Greg Gildenhuys whose switch to the world-conquering BMW machine early in the season spelt huge trouble for the high-aiming Bikefin Honda outfit, ramrodded by ace tuner Brad Anassis.
“The BMW basically comes off the showfloor with a World Superbike team racing spec. Their electronics give them traction control, wheelie control... basically every aid a racer needs so that the bike becomes easier to ride,” explains Isaacs.
“As our bike didn’t have any of those aids, I had to ride my ass off to beat them.”
Isaacs’ mantra of ‘go big or go home’ does not need to be explained to any trackside observer, it’s obvious from his body language on the bike – and why the outspoken dynamo has a substantial national following.
His deter mination, for instance, was no more apparent than at East London, one of the fastest circuits in the world, where he literally rode the rubber off his tyres to stay with Gildenhuys, keeping spectators and television viewers glued to the edge of their seats.
Eventually, with his bike entering the corner sideways and leaving tracer-like rubber lines, even Isaacs’ cat-like skills could not cope with the laws of physics and in the second race the Honda spat him into the dust.
Even so he got up to finish eighth, but knew his title preten- sions were in tatters.
Nevertheless, at the final raceday at Kyalami last weekend, an undaunted Isaacs again tried everything possible to pressurise Gildenhuys, getting a lightning start and forcing the BMW pilot to come and fetch him.
To his credit, this Gildenhuys did and Isaacs had to swallow another runner-up podium, the title now gone unless his rival did something stupid in the last race.
The Capetonian’s supporters will say the pressure paid off, opposite camps will stick to Gildenhuys’s claim that the ABS braking system failed, but the fact is, after Isaacs had aced another blistering start, the BMW rider lost the front of his bike in a turn while chasing and had to retire his damaged machine – gifting the title to Isaacs.
So why the wait for official recognition?
Well, at East London, a postrace protest saw the scrutineers pick up a technical infringement on the BMW, and Gildenhuys was disqualified.
That was subsequently overturned with his points returned. A counter objection was lodged against the Honda, who in turn retaliated by objecting against the overturning of the BMW disqualification. With both cases now awaiting for arbitration, who said races were decided on the circuit!
However, Isaacs says he is not in the least concerned about the off-track antics as he knows the Honda has been 100% legal all season. “But that is now for MSA to decide.
“We started the season confident but a bit worried because we knew the BMWs were going to be really hard to beat as they were cleaning up around the world.
“As it turned out, only in South Africa were Honda able to beat them and that forced BMW to come up with a counter, and that backfired, as seen at East London. Saying the Honda is illegal, that’s bull****.”
Isaacs said Bikefin Honda has to take most credit for the title.
“You have no idea how hard those guys work. The mechanics only work on the race bikes, nothing else.
“Technology moves forward all the time and they have worked flat out at developing our race bikes every single day. “The effort they put in... “Yamaha, for instance, never came up with a decent bike this year, nor Kawasaki, though we hear they have a really special bike for next year. It will be interesting to see how that goes. It looks like a very open season ahead.
“But we are confident we will again do well and be in the running for the championship.
“For that matter, Honda have been telling us for some time they will be bringing a top bike out soon, I just wish they’d hurry up!
“So there should be some great new bikes and a lot of riders and teams switching. The racing should be really good next year.”
Isaacs says any title win is special but this one has been been particularly tough.
“I had to stay focused and keep my eye on the prize which at times was difficult (when things weren’t going right).
“But it is all about discipline and focus and in the end we got it right as a team.”
LANCE ISAACS: Superbike champ