Some days are diamonds, the song says, and the 39th running of the Livingstone Baths 8 Hour at Killarney on Saturday 18 December was definitely one of those. Any eight hour endurance race produces its fair share of drama, but none of this year’s incidents (and there were plenty of them!) took anything away from the iconic event that is the 8 Hour.

There were a number of crashes, but none bad enough to bring out the safety bike; the worst injuries were a badly skinned knee and a couple of cases of heat exhaustion. Nevertheless, nobody got a free ride – even the top two teams had at last one crash each – and only 22 of the 28 starters were still running at the end of the day.

Right from the traditional Le Mans start, Slade van Niekerk on the Team Wayward ProjectSixty60 CBR150 that he was sharing with team leader Trevor Westman and Michael White got away from pole into the lead, hotly pursued by Nicholas van der Walt on the VanBros Motorsport CBR150, National contender Dorren Loureiro on the Lights by Linea CBR150, Wesley Jones on the Powerflow CBR150 and Gerrit Visser Jr on the No Rush CBR150, which he shared with his father, Gerrit Visser Sr, John Craig, who has competed in every edition of this event since its inception in 1983, and Jimmy Pantony, who has ridden in all but one.

For the first half-hour it looked like a sprint race as the leaders jostled for position, until the first round of rider changes spread the field out and they settled in for the long haul.

By the end of the first hour ProjectSixty60 had reeled off 72 laps, with VanBros a lap down and Lights by Linea two laps adrift – but that was about to change. Midway through the second hour Slade van Niekerk on the leading machine was skittled by a back marker, which cost Van Niekerk the abovementioned knee injury and the team several frantic minutes in the pits as they checked the bike over, dropping them to seventh, while VanBros (Van der Walt, Aran van Niekerk, international star AJ Venter and George Hliphilippoli) took over the lead.

By the start of Hour 3, however, they were back up to fourth behind VanBros, Lights by Linea and Powerflow, having posted what proved to be the fastest lap of the race at 47. 935 seconds. A slow pit stop briefly handed the lead to Lights by Linea midway through the hour but VanBros were soon back in the lead, three laps clear of ProjectSixty60 and four ahead of Powerflow as Lights by Linea, which began so strongly, dropped down through the order.

At half distance the lead was down to two laps as the two strongest teams in the race continued their epic duel, with Powerflow third and In Focus (Donovan Le Cok, Justin Priday, Graeme Green and Jean-Baptiste Racoupeau) fourth, eight laps down.

After five hours VanBros had completed 345 laps, two more than ProjectSixty60 and seven more than In Focus, with Powerflow a further two laps down. The two leading teams held station throughout the sixth hour, gradually pulling away from the rest of the field.

Then disaster struck for VanBros in what was to become the decisive moment of the race as Hliphilippoli, a late stand-in for Blaze Baker, dropped the No.42 bike in the 180s. He was up and running again in seconds but had to bring the bike into the pits a few laps later to tighten a loose footpeg. That cost them only three laps but it was enough to put ProjectSixty60 in the lead for the first time since the second hour, a lead they were never to relinquish.

With an hour to go, ProjectSixty60 were two laps up on VanBros, with In Focus third, nine laps down, and Powerflow fourth. In what has become an 8 Hour tradition, the team leaders of the two leading bikes took over for the final

stint and the crowd were treated to a full-on sprint race between old friends and rivals Westman and Van Niekerk, running at near lap record speeds after almost eight hours of racing.

Van Niekerk actually unlapped himself in the dying moments to finish just one lap down, less than a minute adrift after 556 laps. However, each team had been penalised three laps for infringing the rules, so the official tally was 553 to 552.

Third, on 543 laps, were In Focus, with Powerflow (Wesley Jones, Nian du Toit, Paul Medell and Le’Roi Kilian) fourth with 539 tours to their credit. Mention must also be made of HSC Racing (Nicholas and Braddon Hutchings, Raymond Alexander and Abigail Bosson, the only lady in the race), fifth on 521 laps. The veterans of No Rush Racing finished a very creditable sixth on the same lap, with Trackmacs (Andrew Liebenberg, Juan Liebenberg and Tiaan Terblanche on a Yamaha YZ85), the highest-placed two-stroke in ninth overall on 506 laps despite having to carry 23 kilograms of ballast to bring them up to the minimum weight.