We were very upbeat after making some changes following the last round in Port Elizabeth and successful tests at both Zwartkops and Kyalami, said team principal Lee Philips. “Nissan Motorsport’s Glyn Hall was very helpful and loaned us his driver, Leeroy Poulter, to assist with testing and setting up our two cars for Zwartkops. Unfortunately the Nissans, both our’s and the two factory cars, were not really in the hunt this weekend.”
Lobb made a good start to the first 15-lapper and had made up a place to fifth by the end of the first lap. Then he and Poulter (who had started alongside him on the third row of the grid), touched wheels on lap two, launching both cars into the air. While Poulter was able to carry on without losing a place, Lobb suffered a flat right front wheel and had to pit to change it. He eventually finished 11th, a lap down.
He put in a storming charge from 11th on the rolling start grid for race two and worked his way up to sixth by lap six. When Sipuka and Etienne van der Linde (BMW 330i) tripped over each other while squabbling over fourth place on the last lap, Lobb was right there to take advantage and score valuable championship points.
Former works Nissan touring car and production car driver Duncan Vos stood in for Marco da Cunha (who had MBA study commitments) and qualified 11th in his first competitive outing on a race track since he switched to off road racing in 2006. The reigning national off road production vehicle champion finished 10th after an eventful race which saw him involved for much of the race with reigning production car champion Shaun Watson-Smith (Audi). The two old rivals traded argued over ninth place until Vos spun out after contact on the penultimate lap and dropped back.
“We were happy with Darryn’s qualifying time – it was only 0,06 sec off Poulter’s best lap and two tenths off Tschops Sipuka’s time – but it still put us back in sixth place on the grid, with the works drivers third (Sipuka) and fifth (Poulter). You need a good grid position at Zwartkops and we weren’t really in the hunt after Friday’s qualifying.
“We were very happy with Duncan’s performance,” said Philips. “All we asked of him was to keep out of trouble and bring the car home in one piece. The next round (in East London) is just two weeks away and we couldn’t afford to expose ourselves to any unnecessary risks. Duncan did a great job and I’m sure he had a lot of fun dicing with his old foe Watson-Smith in race two. Fortunately the car didn’t suffer much damage when Watson-Smith unkindly spun him around.”
Vos, somewhat wide-eyed after the first race, commented that things had changed a lot since he last drove a Nissan 350Z in anger on a race track. “These guys are a little crazy. It was very hectic out there! I had to take avoiding action in race two to avoid Johan Fourie (who spun in front of him). It was no problem; I just drove off the track and around him, using all my off road racing experience,” he joked. “I see my old rivals have lost none of their bad manners on the track,” he observed mischievously, “including Shaun (Watson-Smith)!”
“At the end of the day, it was not a bad result for us,” said Philips. “We survived relatively intact, while others didn’t. Now for East London, where we hope for more luck and better results.”