Posted: 1 October 2012 | Article by: RaceMasteR J | Photos: RaceMasteR J & Chevan Davids | Location: Killarney Race Track, Cape Town

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We recently announced that Ronald Slamet aka The Red Baron #68, a regional and national superbike racer, would be flying the flag high as a Raceweb Speed Star ambassador. The day indeed came on the 22nd of September 2012 at the Cape Town leg of WesBank Super Series at Killarney race track.

It was an exciting buildup to the race as Ronald is the first of many SpeedStar ambassadors. The plan was to follow Ronald on race day to see what he goes through and to show you, our readers, what happens behind the scenes.

We arrived on Friday, a very wet Friday, to check out practice and set up the mounts for the Go Pro. I didn’t want to bother Ronald on race day sitting and fiddling with his bike trying to figure out the best positions and angles for the camera. The weather wasn’t looking great and after getting all the mounts sorted, we headed off and decided to return on Saturday for the race.

WesBank Super Series is one of the biggest events on the racing calendar for Killarney and arriving on Saturday morning, excited as I could ever be, we pulled into a packed to capacity venue. Walking into the pits one realizes the scale of this event as you see numerous race teams set up with their big rig trucks and expo/pit areas. The pit area was turned into a hub of buzzing little bee’s working on their race machines. The atmosphere is electric as this is as proper a race day that you will ever get in Cape Town. Polo Cup cars, single seaters, Bridgestone Production cars, Midas Clubmans cars and ofcourse, superbikes.

Ronald’s pit can be found at the end of pit lane inside the Racebase Motorcycles garage. It was an hour before Ronald’s first race and as you entered the garage you immediately notice the S1000RR BMW on its stands with tyre warmers on.

Where’s Ronald? I looked again and saw him sitting further down at the back away from all the hustle and bustle on his own, eyes closed. Ronald was getting into the zone!

I’ve hung out with other teams before on race day, but after seeing how focused Ronald was I realized that there was no mucking about here. This was serious stuff. I somewhat became anxious myself and I wasn’t even the one who was going to be racing. The vibe in this garage is serious, but calm. Ronalds pit crew is always there at hand if ever he needs anything. When Franki, Richard, Lucienne and Pierre are not outside checking up on what’s happening, they’re inside checking on Ronald or cleaning and polishing the bike.

Ten minutes before race one, Ronald suited up into his full RST leathers and once again sat down, gets in some last minute energy and meditates. Visualizing the race, the start, the turns, braking points… he tries to ride the race in his mind, so when the lights go green, no nervous mistakes are made. It’s no joke this. It’s difficult to explain but watch the video and you will fully understand why bikers have to prepare their minds for such a race.

The speeds that they reach are mind boggling. I honestly haven’t seen anything and I mean ANYTHING go so quickly down Killarney’s back straight. And coming from me, who’s more a car guy, it’s insane to think that they’re doing those speeds ON something and not IN something. Let go of those handle bars and its game over! You cannot relax for one second. In a car you can let go of the wheel and chances are nothing will happen. In a car you can relax your body in the seat that you are firmly belted up in. On a bike there’s nothing keeping you on it but your hands and bum. What’s more incredible is to see how they move on the bike while racing. See all of this in the video at the end of this article.

As I said earlier, the vibe in the garage is serious, but calm… until that whistle blows. Everyone goes into a frenzy running and grabbing things. Ronald stands up, puts his helmet on and walks to his bike.

Tyre pressures are quickly checked one last time, tyre warmers are removed, front and rear stands are manned as they wait for Ronald to mount his bike and start up so they can drop the stands and release him into pit lane.

Once Ronald leaves the garage to do his warm up lap, everyone scrambles to the starting grid.

Ronald has qualified 4th and that’s still on the front row of the grid. The crew waits with tyre warmers, stands, tools and umbrella in hand. Ronald pulls up to his starting position. The bike is immediately lifted up on stands and tyre warmers put on. Keeping the heat in the tyres are crucial and the loss of temperature is avoided at all times.

The job of keeping the Red Baron shaded and cool is left up to his lovely brolly girl and girlfriend, Kay-Lynne.

Francois “Franki” Breedt, his mechanic, does some last minute tweaks. The press is all over, SuperSport camera’s are all around us. The tension is high. The stakes are higher. National TV coverage doesn’t come every day. Ronald knows it’s time to impress. He points to the camera signaling he means business. Its game time!

My nerves are shot. I need a cigarette. But I keep calm by the distraction of snapping away and trying to hide behind my lens. A board gets raised saying, “Start Delayed”. I can’t handle it anymore! There was a bit of oil that was spilled on the track during the previous race and marshals are busy prepping the track. I look at Ronald and his crew - cool, calm and collected. They’ve done this before, clearly! A few minutes pass and things stay the same until the sound of that whistle. The whistle that sounds like a judgment day trumpet because once blown, the frenzy begins once more.

Everyone rushes about… trye warmers and stands are grabbed as everyone makes their way off the grid. I quickly scramble to switch the Go Pro on and check that it’s recording and hurry off the track. The man with the red flag is about to drop it like it’s hot and once that happens, it’s go time!

However, due to the oil spillage in the previous race, the bikers are told that they have been given one sighting lap and then they should reform the grid for the actual start of the race.

Sighting lap done, grid reformed. The race official runs off the grid with the red flag… one, two, three… lights are off and it’s GO GO GO! Ronald makes a good start getting ahead but since he’s on the outside of turn one he falls back into 4th place but he is right up there with the rest of them. He manages to keep up with the pack but as the laps go on his times are starting to drop… something’s wrong.

Inevitably he pulls in a few laps later. He has a few words with his crew, Franki checks the bike out… Ronald sets off again. But immediately on the next lap Ronald pulls into the pit once more. He gets off the bike and walks into his garage. What was the problem? A puncture. Ronald felt the loss of grip at the rear and soldiered on until it became just too much. Unfortunately this is not like F1 where tyres can be changed in 3 seconds, the race is not 2hours long either and picking up a puncture during a race meant Ronald was out for race one.

I can only imagine the frustration one feels as you stand on the sideline and watch as your fellow competitors fly past. But such is racing I guess. Things happen for a reason and you have to look forward and prepare for the next race.

The minutes and races go by… the bikes puncture is fixed and Ronald gets some rest but before you know it’s time for Race 2. With only 2 race’s in the day for Super Series, this was the time to make or break it! It’s the same procedure as before, relaxed, calm, peaceful… and then that bloody judgment day whistle! Move move move! It’s almost like Ronald is moving in slow motion towards his bike while everyone around him moves in fast forward. Just goes to show how relaxed he is. He gets a quick massage to relax his arms. He gives me a thumbs up. I can tell by his eyes he is in the zone. My nerves hit the ceiling once more. Click, click, hide…

He rides off to do the warm up lap and once again stop at the starting grid. Stands on, bike up, tyre warmers on, umbrella over… sorted! We wait. This is taking forever. What’s going on? We overhear one of the marshals… then it’s announced, someone has fallen and injured themselves and its going to take at least another 20minutes before they can race. Head back to your pits and you will be called once the track is ready. Tyre warmers off, stands down, back to the pits…

Eventually the track was indeed cleared and it was the whole rigmarole once more. Fast forward to the lights going off and it was yet another great start for Ronald which kept him up there with the rest of the front runners. Keeping steady 1:12’s lap after lap for about 15 minutes was a sure way to the podium. From starting 4th he managed to finish 3rd in this race. Not bad at all! Well done to the Red Baron!

As he arrived back to his pit garage he is greeted by an applaud from his crew, family, fans and supporters. What more could one ask for!? Ronald is on his way to becoming a local hero and hopefully we would like to see him race internationally one day. Hanging out with Ronald and seeing how he and his well oiled crew operate it’s clear to see he has his head screwed on properly.

Reaching his goals of racing overseas one day shouldn’t be too difficult then. Raceweb would like to wish Ronald well and good luck for all his future races. Stay tuned for more action from the Red Baron right here on www.raceweb.co.za!

RaceMasteR J

Ronald would like to thank the following people:
Ronald’s dad, Ronald Slamet Snr for always making sure he can race. His brother, sister, sister in law and brother in law for always supporting him and making sure people know about him. Ronald’s mom for making sure he is ready for race day. His girlfriend and friends for being his #1 fans! Last but not least thanks to his mechanic Franki! The one guy Ronald has 100% faith in!

Watch the on board video below:

View the rest of the behind the scenes photos below...

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