Close racing, thrills and spills where once again the order of the day, as a South African National Formula Vee Championship returned to the Zwartkops Raceway, for round eight of the 2004 Championship.
The first heat, saw Alan Holm (JBS Laser Sprint Rhema 2) take the lead, form pole position and although he stayed in front, he had to soak up a lot of pressure throughout the race. Initially, it was a six car train at the head of the field, with other battles raging all the way down the field as well. Right on Holm’s tail, for the entire race, was log leader Symm Grobler (Auto Mecca Rhema 2). Grobler had lost his nose cone, when he nudge the back of Holm, as they turned into turn two for the first time but was tucked in so close to Holm, that it was not affecting the performance of his car at all. Behind them, Jaco Schriks (JBS Laser Sprint Rhema 2), Peter Hills (Vacuform Rhema), Anthony Taylor (Rigidek Rhema 2) and Lee Thompson (08xconnect.com Rhema) made up the balance of the lead bunch.
Sixteen year old ex Karter Jonathan Vilaca (Vision), was out on his own, in seventh place but behind him, another hectic battle raged, for the balance of the points scoring positions. At the head of the bunch, was the always difficult to pass Jannie Geyser (Vision), being hounded all the way by development driver Benny Phetla (Vacuform Rhema), Cape Town’s Doug MacDonald (Rhema), Alan Kernick (Tasman) and by mid race, Tony Beecher had hooked onto the bunch as well. They where swapping positions on a regular basis, while behind them Kevin Cartmell (Rand Brake Sting) had broken away from the next bunch, headed by Claude Cartmell, in the other Rand Brake Sting, who had Bobby Nel (DK Office Furniture Lantis) and Bradley Martin (Rhema 2) breathing down his neck.
Then Beecher had a moment, rejoining behind Kevin Cartmell and Nel spun, coming into the pit straight. Martin was forced to lock up behind him and just scraped past on the outside. For a few anxious moments, Nel was stranded in the middle of the circuit, with the memory of being hit from behind, in similar circumstances, at the previous Zwartkops meeting, still fresh in his mind. This time, he was able to get the motor restarted and continue but he pulled in at the end of the following lap, to retire. Already out, was the Sting of John Lerm, which had come into the pits, trailing a plume of blue smoke, after holing a piston.
The battles continued unabated and even those toward the back of the field, like JP Nortje (Sting), Gareth Jackson (JBS Laser Sprint Sting) Kearn Francis (Rhema) and Ashley Spada (Omega), where locked in battle. Then Francis spun off and got bogged down in the gravel trap at Turn Two but rejoined, with a lap to go and completed the race.
On the run to the flag, Grobler tried to get up alongside Holm but in the end it was Holm, who beat Grobler to the line by 0,075 of a second. Having worked his way through the bunch, Thompson took third, less than half a second ahead Schriks, who had Hills and Taylor tucked in behind him. They where followed across the line, by Vilaca, Geyser, Phetla, Kevin Cartmell, Kernick and Claude Cartmell, after Phetla and MacDonald had tangled, on the last lap. Kernick had been forced to leave the circuit, as he took avoiding action but he rejoined, only to find the throttle jammed open and he had to complete the lap, with the aid of the kill switch. Losing places to Kevin Cartmell and Phetla, who had made a quick recovery from the incident.
The second heat promised more of the same and at the end of the first lap, the field was still tightly bunched, as Holm led them across the line, closely followed by Grobler, Hills, Schriks, Vilaca, Phetla, Taylor, Geyser, Kernick, Mac Donald and Thompson, already up to eleventh place, after starting from the back of the grid. Then all hell broke lose. Phetla spun in Turn One and as he came around to face the oncoming traffic, all he saw was cars baring down on him and then spinning and heading in all directions, as those behind took avoiding action. With cars all over the place and a big cloud of dust, Beecher chose to go straight on, across the gravel trap and into the tyres, followed by Martin, who managed to stop before the tyre barrier, as his side pods dug into the gravel. When the dust had settled, they where surprise to find they where the only ones left on the scene.
The incident had split up the field and scrambled the race order, behind the first five cars. Taylor did not lose too much time, taking avoiding action and as soon as he was facing the right way again, Phetla selected second gear and followed Taylor away, followed by Kernick, Thompson, Claude Cartmell, Nel and Manie Geldenhuis (Lagus), with MacDonald and Geyser being among the last to get going again.
Just before half distance, Kevin Cartmell and MacDonald where looming up behind Geldenhuis, ready to relieve him of twelfth place. Geldenhuis tried to hold them off but later admitted, that his ambition had exceeded his ability and he spun at Turn Two, resuming at the back of the field, without his nose cone. Then with a couple of laps to go, Francis went off into the gravel trap, at the top of the hill and the Safety Car was deployed. With the field on their last lap, Francis got going again and as the Safety Car headed off into the pit lane they accelerated away, only to find the chequered flag awaiting them, as Grobler led the field through, closely followed by Holm, Schriks, Hills, Taylor, Vilaca, Thompson, Phetla, Kernick, Claude Cartmell, MacDonald and Kevin Cartmell, with the first twelve cars across the line, within less than five and a half seconds!