With their 2003 title chase at the halfway point, the country’s top two- wheeler circuit racers can not afford any mistakes at the tight and tricky 2,3 km Zwartkops track, which traditionally produces some of the season’s most competitive racing.

The man to beat on August 2 will be defending South African Champion and Autopage Cellular Yamaha team leader Russell Wood.

Following five victories from ten starts this year, Wood leads the Championship on 165 points, versus the 123 of his closest rival, First Technology Yamaha racer Shaun Whyte.

Wood will be determined to maintain - or stretch - his 42-point advantage at Zwartkops, but that will be a tall order.

Counting Wood and Whyte, at least nine riders could win the day’s two races, with another three close enough to benefit from any mistakes by the front- runners.

Topping the challenge will be Cell C Suzuki’s Hudson Kennaugh and First Technology Yamaha’s Arushen Moodley, respectively third and fourth in the Championship on 118 and 109 points.

Other podium challengers will be Greg Dreyer (Autopage Cellular Yamaha), Cell C Suzuki racers Stewart MacLeod, Trevor Crookes and Noel Haarhoff, plus Zwartkops specialist Alex Lenearts on his First Technology Yamaha.

Both the Yamaha and Suzuki camps went testing at Zwartkops last week and both equipes reported breaking the venue’s current overall two-wheeler lap record.

Only the brave or the foolish would bet on the outcome of next Saturday’s events.

More than able to beat the works teams at their own game will be a number of privateers, led by veteran racer Gavin Ramsay on his Kreepy Krauly Yamaha. Ramsay challenged for overall victories at AA Kyalami a month ago, and he could do so again at Zwartkops.

So could works Inala Kawasaki riders Garth Norris and Greame van Breda, plus privateer youngster Sheridan Morias, currently the “find” of the season on his Teasers’ Kawasaki.

Chasing Morias in the Privateer Championship will be Clinton Pienaar (Mad Buzz Ducati), Robert Cragg (Suzuki), Charles Grassie (Autopage Cellular Yamaha) and Robert Portman on his Ducati.

The Superbike brigade will tackle two races at Zwartkops, with a 10-lapper in the morning, and a 15-lapper in the afternoon.