Not since the bygone days of Jon Ekerold, Alan North, Kork Ballington and Mario Rademeyer have SA motorcycle fans had real heroes to follow and support on the World stage. Rademeyer was the last South African to finish on a World podium, he finished 3rd in the 250cc GP held at Kyalami in 1985.
Following a 27 year drought, 21 year old Ronan Quarmby of Johannesburg gave fans something to shout about when he stood on the World Superbike podium at Imola in Italy on 01 April this year. Quarmby became the 1st SA rider to finish on the podium in a World Championship race and the first ever to finish on the podium in a World Supersport race - after taking 3rd by just 0.004 of second from local Italian rider Roberto Tamburini – and less than two years after doctors diagnosed a massive cyst in his left femur and told him his racing career was over.
Ronan only started his racing career in June 2006. His first ride was aboard a 125 where he finished fourth in only his third race. In November of 2006 and against all the experts’ recommendations he climbed onto a 600cc Supersport bike and was given permission to race in the South African National Superbike series, scoring points in his first ever 600 race.
2007 started with Ronan receiving coaching from Andy Ibbott, California Superbike Director and Moto GP and WSBK coach, before being entered into the British Virgin R6 Cup and European Superstock 600 events. Whilst overseas, Ronan, the youngest entrant in that year's Virgin Media Cup, took the spectators breath away in his first race. Having started in 19th position, “Ronan Quarmby wasted no time at all in wading through the standing water to lead the field. The South African magnificently saved two dramatic high-sides as he led…” quotes Motorcycle Racer Magazine. “Judging by his explosive start at Oulton, Ronan has already shown a glimpse of his potential” says Motorcycle Racer, Official Media Partner to the Virgin Media Cup. The British press nicknamed him Wonder Boy and splashed his image across Sky TV and numerous publications. He went on to compete in the Moto GP support race at Donnington Park and followed this by beating his Lightspeed Kawasaki team mate at the World Supersport event in Misano, Italy. He returned to SA and with only one year’s riding experience behind him he led in East London and took second at both the Port Elizabeth and Kyalami nationals. A fantastic achievement considering that Ronan had only a year’s worth of racing behind him.
In 2008, Ronan, with his customary 34 race number and bright yellow branded Yamaha was offered a ride with Raceways Yamaha in British Supersport. He moved to the UK at the age of 16 and lived with his team mate, forcing him to mature rapidly. After completing a very difficult year due to serious injury sustained at Thruxton, he returned to SA to compete in the final round of our National series at Kyalami. He achieved a close second in race one and had a commanding lead in race two before rain stopped the race.
Ronan stayed in SA in 2009 and was the man who halted Sheridan Morais’ winning streak at the Phakisa Nationals. Not only did he surprise Morais and all of SA but he also walked away with the fastest lap. His next race was at Kyalami – the last national of the year. Ronan qualified pole and took the overall days win. A master in the rain, he won race two by more than 10 seconds and has not looked back since.
Ronan Quarmby started 2010 in the way that he finished 2009. He took pole position for both race 1 and 2 and went on to win both races to take a well deserved first place and opening lead in the championship. He won 5 out of 6 races prior to entering the World Supersport round at Kyalami in May 2010.
With some help from Ten Kate, on a locally prepared Honda, he stunned the world scene by finishing 4th in first practice and almost taking provisional pole on the Friday afternoon. Unfortunately a collision with Ten Kate’s Michele Pirro three quarters of the way through his fastest lap left Quarmby in excruciating pain. When the pain did not subside and he was still unable to put weight on his leg a decision was made to take him to Sandton Clinic where X-Rays and MRI scans were done. The MRI revealed that Quarmby had a 12cm long cyst in his left Femur which had eaten away most of the bone and weakened his femur to the point that the smallest of bumps resulted in cracking or bending. He was relegated to a wheelchair and doctors told him his 2010 championship was over.
Ronan had a remarkable recovery (now nicknamed” Comeback Kid” by the SA press) and was declared fully fit to race at the beginning of July – only two months after his operation. Whilst he missed South African National rounds, he returned to take 5 out of the remaining 6 race wins and the SA Supersport championship.
Ronan was one of 5 nominated for 2010 Motorsportsman of the Year.
In 2011 he competed full time in the World Superbike series on board a Triumph 675 and became one of the top ten competitors in the Supersport championship. His success in 2011 was highlighted toward the end of the year. Whilst running 7th in the Imola race, he crashed at 240km/h on the last lap. Although injured and in some sever pain he followed this up with a 10th place at Magny Cours – a track he had never seen before and only one week after the big Imola crash.
Ronan moved to PTR Honda for the 2012 World Supersport season. He qualified 13th for the first race held at Phillip Island in Australia but managed to blitz his way through the field to finish in a very credible 7th spot. At the second round of the championship in Italy, Ronan found himself on the 3rd row in 11th position on the challenging Imola race track. He fell to 13th at the start but quickly recovered to set up a final lap battle for third with local favourite Roberto Tamburini. Crossing the line just 0,004s ahead of the Italian gave Ronan his first WSS podium result and the first ever World Supersport Championship podium for South Africa.