The 37th running of the annual end-of-season endurance race for lightweight motorcycles on Saturday 14 December, on Killarney International Raceway’s one-kilometre Karting circuit, is set to provide all the thrills and spills – usually involving some famous faces! – for which this long-running event is famous.

The 8 Hour began as a two-hour experiment at the end of the 1983 Short Circuit season, to see whether the temperamental little two-strokes which were at that time standard for this discipline would in fact last long enough at race pace to bring tactics into play. They did, but the race almost immediately became a two-hour sprint, and was soon stretched to four, then six and finally eight hours.

Today, nearly all the entries are drawn from the CBR150 one-make series, and have to conform to the strict class rules. With a few safety-related exceptions, the machines must be mechanically standard – which makes the racing even more intense.

Also permitted are 200cc Chinese-built motorcycles, which must also be mechanically standard, and two-stroke singles of between 48 and 85cc, which may be freely modified; the use of 80cc motocross engines in circuit racing chassis is also permitted, provided they were made before 2007.

Entry is open to teams of two, three or four riders, and no competitor may ride for longer than 45 minutes at a stretch – with a minimum break of 10 minutes before they go out again. Riders must be at least 13 years old on the day of the race – except that the organisers may grant permission to race to riders from 11 years and upwards, as long as they can provide proof of at least two seasons’ circuit-racing experience.

However, you’ll also see teams of former champions such as John Craig, who has competed in this event every year since its inception in  1983.

The 8 Hour is known for attracting top-class competitors, up to and including former Grand Prix riders, from all over the world, as well as the cream of South African Superbike, Super600 and Super300 contenders. For the locals it’s an end-of-season fun tradition, for the overseas entries it’s a good reason for a family holiday in the sun during the worst of the Northern winter.

Among the entries already received for the annual 8 Hour endurance race for lightweight motorcycles on Saturday 14 December on the Karting circuit are two from the UK, underscoring the international flavour of this long-running event.

One entry comes from Jonny Towers, head of global bikewear giant RST, a supporter of this race for almost two decades and a multiple former winner with his RST ‘dream team’ of top local and international riders.

One of the fascinating aspects of this event is that it is one of the few motorcycle races in the world to retain the traditional endurance racing ‘Le Mans Start’, with the motorcycle lined up on one side of the track, each held upright by a crew member, and the riders lined up on the other.

When the flag drops the riders sprint across the track, fling a leg over the saddle, start the bike and ride away – a confused and often chaotic way to start a race. At one stage in the early 2000s the RST team qualified on pole for several years in a row, only to have their No.17 CBR150 refuse to start, resulting in their bike being last away!

Not that it stopped them from winning – it just made the race more interesting for the spectators.

The top crews take the 8 Hour very, very seriously. Each year motorcycles are built specially for this race, and international riders form ‘dream teams’ to try to beat the local hotshots. This is, however, a punishing event for riders and machines; the top teams will complete up to 550 laps of the one-kilometre circuit during the eight hours, and even the top teams will crash at least once during that time. This is as much a test of the teams’ ingenuity in keeping the hard-ridden little bikes going as it is for the riders.

The best part of it for spectators, however, is that the pits are open to the public all day, so you can watch how they MacGyver crashed bikes to keep them open, and running lap counts are posted every hour on the notice board so you can follow their progress as fortunes ebb and flow.

The New Pits Lounge and Karting Cafe are also open throughout practice and racing for light meals and drinks, with live music and a beer garden offering plenty of shade, so make a day of it.

Gates open at 7:30am, racing starts at 10:am and goes on non-stop till 6:00pm. Entry is R80 for adults, R20 for scholars under 16 and free for children under 12.

More information from Janice Linaker at 083 235 3476 or janicelinaker@gmail.com.