The fifth round of the 2004, Formula Vee Northern Regions Championship, produced the sixth different winner of the year, in this highly competitive single seater category. It will also go down, as the event in which the three young Karting graduates, served notice that they are going to become a force to be reckoned with, in the not too distant future.
In the first heat, it was Symm Grobler (Auto Mecca Rhema 2) who took the lead from the fastest qualifier, Alan Holm (Johannesburg Bright Steels Rhema 2), Peter Hills (Vacuform Rhema), Lee Thompson (Rhema), Wayne Bennett (Lafarge Readymix Rhema 2) and the sixteen year old ex Karter Jonathan Vilaca (Vision). For a couple of laps, Grobler led a four car lead bunch, before Holm found a way past and then proceeded to open a small gap, leaving Grobler, Hills and Thompson, to battle it out for second place.
Behind them, another three car bunch, consisting of Bennett, Vilaca and fifteen year old Karter Andre Van Der Merwe (ACC Air Conditioning Rhema 2), were also keeping close company. Van Der Merwe, the 2003 Junior Max Karting Champion, was in fact making his Formula Vee racing debut at the Midvaal event, after a frightening high speed accident toward the end of the Wesbank Raceway’s main straight, caused by a pin falling out of one of the brake calipers during one of the Friday practice sessions, had ruled him out of that event.
Next up was Benny Phetla (Vacuform Rhema), followed by yet another three car battle, involving Kevin Cartmell (Rand Brake Sting), Jannie Geyser (Vision) and fifteen year old Ex Karter Kyle Bennett (Rhema), who had made his Formula Vee racing debut, at the Wesbank Raceway. Earlier, Claude Cartmell (Rand Brake Sting) and Bradley Martin (Rhema 2) had also been involved in this battle but two spins in the same lap, had dropped Claude down the field, while Martin had lost touch, due to a handling problem.
Up front, the positions had remained fairly constant but as the race started drawing to a close, it was time for everyone to start making their moves. Grobler slipped, from second to fourth, as Hills and Thompson went by. Then Thompson found a way past Hills as well, during the final lap of the race but it was Holm who went on to record his first win of the year, from Thompson, Hills, Grobler, Wayne Bennett, Vilaca, Van Der Merwe, Phetla, Kyle Bennett, Kevin Cartmell, Geyser and Claude Cartmell. The only retirement came from JP Nortje, who had spun and was unable to get the car restarted.
The second heat saw Thompson take the lead, from Holm, Hills, Grobler, Wayne Bennett and Vilaca but as they arrived at the end of the main straight, for the second time, a brake problem pitched Holm’s car sideways, in the middle of the pack. Somehow no one hit him and he was able to resume, behind Vilaca, as Kyle Bennett arrived at the end of the straight, with all four wheels locked, also losing a number of places in the process.
Out front, Thompson had got away but behind him Hills and Grobler were disputing second place, while Wayne Bennett and Vilaca where battling it out for fourth place, not far behind, with Holm closing in on them again. Vilaca then found a way past Bennett and after another couple of laps, Holm passed Bennett as well. In the meantime, Grobler had passed Hills but Hills was still stuck to his gearbox, when Holm passed Vilaca, with a couple of laps to go. Approaching the finish line, Holm was right on the tail of Grobler and Hills but they held on, as Thompson took the victory from Grobler, Hills and Holm, the three of them crossing the line within 0,366 of a second. Next came Vilaca, followed by Wayne Bennett, Van Der Merwe, Phetla, Kevin Cartmell, Geyser, Claude Cartmell and Kyle Bennett, with Rion Lerm being the only retirement, when he pitted, after running the bearings of his Vision’s motor.