The eighth round of the South African National Formula Vee Challenge, saw two flag to flag victories, for Dennis Johns (Goldco Midas Rhema 2). This being the first official Formula Vee race, at the new Wesbank Raceway, Johns also had the honour of establishing the first Formula Vee lap record, of 1min 16,386secs, for the 2,6 KM road course. Behind Johns, there were however plenty of good close multi car battles, all the way down the field.
The first heat saw Johns make a perfect start, from pole position and he held onto his lead, in the run down to the first corner. By the end of the lap, the pursuing pack was still very much in touch with Johns but as they began to squabble among themselves, he was able to set about opening up a bit of a gap to consolidate his lead.
Leading Championship contender Alan Holm (Johannesburg Bright Steels Rhema), had an awful start, which dropped him well down the field but immediately he set about carving his way back through the pack, to join the battle for second place. This would prove to be, the best of the many battles and private duels, taking place all the way down the field, as Symm Grobler (Auto Mecca Rhema 2), Anthony Taylor (Vacuform Rhema 2), David Veringa (Sabat Rhema), Jody Robertson (PS23 Lubrioil Rhema), Peter Hills (Vacuform Rhema), Holm and initially Wayne Bennett (Lafarge Readymix Rhema 2) engaged in a seven car battle, for second place. Bennett could not maintain the pace and eventually dropped off the back of the bunch but the rest would fight it out, all the way to the flag.
At one point, Championship leader Veringa had worked his way to the head of the bunch, only to find himself relegated in seventh place, the following lap. All the time, Holm was busy lining them up and picking them off one by one, as Veringa started his climb, back through the bunch, all over again. In the end, it was Johns who won the heat, from Holm, Veringa, Robertson, Grobler, Taylor, Hills, Bennett, Jaco Schriks (Johannesburg Bright Steels Sting) and Nico Blignaut (ISP Auto Body Rhema), while the Cartmell brothers Kevin and Claude ,filled the final points scoring positions, as the followed one another home in eleventh and twelfth place.
The start of heat two, was delayed, after Kearn Francis had laid a trail of oil, all the way round the circuit, on the way to the grid. Newcomer John Lerm, did not make it back to the grid, from the second warm up lap and once the race did get underway, two more cars retired at the end of the first lap. One of them was James Evans (Gilus IT SAP Tasman) but the more significant retirement came from Holm, as he pitted with a broken gear selector.
Once again, Johns had taken the lead, from Taylor, Grobler and Veringa but with visibility restricted by the cement dust, covering the oil trail, no one was getting too close to one another. Hills and Robertson had a minor tangle, which left Hills with his nose cone pointing straight up in the air, for the rest of the race. It did not seem to hamper him too much but must have created a bit of a problem, in seeing what was going on, directly ahead of him. This time, the closest battle was at the other end of the field, where Doug Mac Donald, Jaco Greyling, Jacques Van Der Zee and Jannie Geyser had resumed their first heat battle.
Taylor then picked up a gearbox problem and with Veringa having already disposed of Grobler, it did not take him long to relieve Taylor of second place, as well and Taylor began to slip back, to an eventual eighth place finish. Then with a bit more than a lap to go, Veringa picked up a small problem, which allowed Grobler to slip through into second place and although Veringa came out of the slipstream again, on the run to the line, it was Grobler who took second place, from Veringa, by the narrowest of margins, as the two them followed Johns across the line. Fourth place went to Hills and he was followed home, by Robertson, Schriks, Bennett, Taylor, Ben Pienaar (BJ Pro Welding Rhema), Benny Phetla (Vacuform Rhema), Kevin Cartmell (Rand Brake Sting) and Claude Cartmell, in the second Rand Brake Sting. Someone that did not quite make it to the line, was Geyser who suffered a rear suspension failure, as he entered the oval for the final time and his Vision slammed into the retaining wall, fortunately without injury to the driver and without doing too much damage to the car.
After his retirement, from heat two, Holm is now twenty one points behind Veringa, with a maximum of sixty two points still available but once again, Holm has Grobler breathing down his neck and he will need to finish all the remaining races, as close to the front as he can, in order to take one of the top two positions, by the end of the season.