The leading bikes will complete more than 500 laps of the 1.02km circuit in eight hours of flat out racing Pictures: Dave Abrahams

The entry list for the 36th running of the 8 Hour endurance race for lightweight motorcycles on the Formula K circuit at the Killarney International Raceway on 15 December is out, including a number of surprises, not so much in terms of who’s entered as in what they will be riding.

RST bikewear boss Jonny Towers, who has been a member of the winning team at this race no fewer than 10 times, is back with a ‘dream team’ of himself, international Superstock rider David McFadden and SA Super300 champion Kewyn Snyman, all previous 8 Hour winners. However, rather than Towers’ immaculately prepared Honda CBR150, which has won this race on a number of occasions, they will share a two-stroke special – built in-house by the team – featuring a Honda CR85 motocross engine in a CBR150 chassis.

The last time a two-stroke machine featured in the results for this machine was in 2013, when Martin Paetzold’s MPS Special with a 65cc Kawasaki motocross engine in a beautifully hand-crafted Grand Prix-style frame, finished second. McFadden freely admits that although two-stroke engines are simpler in principle, running them in an endurance race poses unique challenges.

“You have to watch that they don’t overheat and seize,” he explained. “Your premixed fuel needs to be precisely controlled and the detail work in the pit needs to be spot on.”

Nevertheless, he said, the bike is fast enough to be very competitive, adding that “we wouldn’t enter it if we didn’t think we could win”. Having won so many times with the RST CBR150, he said, the team was looking for a new challenge and this is it.

The are four two-strokes in the 29 strong field – the RST CBR85, two Yamaha YZ80-engined specials and the Salt River Customz CBR150/CR85 hybrid, which is not yet on the entry list but has been spotted in practice. They may be the darkest of dark horses but if they are still running at the finish they could well be in the frame.

Also of note is the Rig Repair entry of local rider Nick van der Walt, with national riders Bjorn Estment and Brent Harran from Gauteng and up-and-coming racer Connor Hagan, all of whom have previous 8 Hour experience to their credit. If their pit crew is up to the task they have the pace to give the established stars a run for the silverware.

Another team with a lot of short circuit experience is Hillbilly Racing, which has entered a Honda CBR150 for Peter Hill, Mitch Robinson, Jessen Samaai and Saul Turvey; ignore them at your peril.

The Killarney 8 Hour is truly an international event, with a distinct creole flavour this year thanks to no fewer than four entries from Mauritius, one of which includes a rider from Reunion as well. Nearly all motorsport in Mauritius involves lightweight motorcycles, making this event an ideal ‘away match’ for Mauritian riders.

The gates open at 7.30am on race day, qualifying starts at 9am and at 9.35am the top 10 qualifiers will go out again for a five-minute Superpole session to determine the starting order at the sharp end of the field.

The race itself will get underway at exactly 10am with a traditional Le Mans start, in which the riders sprint across the track to their machines, hit the starter and sprint away in the most intense traffic jam you’ve ever seen. Expect a lot of crashes in the first half-hour, before the initial high-adrenalin sprint settles down for the long haul, although the pace will be just as frenetic throughout. On a number of previous occasions the fastest lap of the day has been posted in the second half of the race.

Entry is R80 for adults, R20 for scholars under 16 and free for kids under 12; the Formula K circuit is accessed via gate 5 (the ‘motocross gate). The Karting Clubhouse at the circuit will be open all day for refreshments and light meals – after all, spectators need fuel too. Just bring a hat and some sunscreen, and settle down for the craziest motorsport event on the calendar.

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