Some of SA’s top tin-top race drivers took to Zwartkops racetrack, near Pretoria, on August 30 for the sixth round of the national championship series.
By the end of the day the advantage of class A log leader Johan Fourie (Alcohol Killer BMW 335i) had been eroded somewhat, while in class T a series of events saw frontrunner Graeme Nathan (VW Genuine Parts Golf GTI) leave Zwartkops with his points lead also reduced – but not by a significant amount.
Reigning champ Michael Stephen (Audi S4) got a jump on the field from pole position from which he never looked back. Behind him a duel developed between Gavin Cronje (BMW 335i), team-mates Gennaro Bonafede and Hennie Groenewald (Audi S4s), with Simon Moss (Audi S4) and Johan Fourie BMW (335i) dicing a little further back. Bonafede was in determined form, but fell back as his engine lost power after an air intake was crushed when he ran into the back of Cronje, while Moss – proving as hard to overtake as his father was 20-plus years ago – experienced an engine problem which forced him to retire.
Groenewald took up the cudgels on behalf of his team and scraped past Cronje, with Fourie closing in on his team-mate, glad to have seen Moss exit the fray. Cronje was slowing with a puncture and Fourie easily passed the similar red car, setting the fastest lap of the race in the process.
By the time the flag came out Stephen was seven seconds ahead, and what was a runner-up slot for Groenewald became fifth after he was penalised 30 seconds for overtaking under the yellow flag. So it was in fact Fourie who was classified second, and with the bonus point for fastest lap Stephen only closed the deficit in the overall standings by three points.
The class T action got underway in the very first turn, Graeme Nathan (VW Golf GTI) and Michael van Rooyen (Chevrolet Cruze) clashing and Nathan sliding into the kitty litter.
It was a thin class T field, with both Castrol Minis missing: Lee Thompson had crashed his car irreparably on Friday, and the gearbox of the sister car of Mandla Mdakane developed a leak en route to the grid.
Van Rooyen thus led the T-pack, Ford Racing Focus STs of Gary Formato and Shaun Duminy in pursuit. Meanwhile, Nathan rejoined at the back. But the Chev was battling with ongoing braking issues and remarkably, Nathan recovered to regain the lead on the eighth lap, while Formato was up to second by the flag as Van Rooyen slipped down the order and just managing to hold off Duminy.
Race two started with Groenewald leading the pack, and making an early escape. Once again a tight, battle developed astern, with Cronje now holding off Bonafede and Stephen. Slightly further back Moss and Fourie were going at it hammer and tongs again, but Moss eventually outbraked himself, leaving Fourie to try close on the trio ahead.
Along the way plenty of paint was swopped, with Bonafede extremely unhappy at the way Stephen took third place from him with a controversial outbraking manoeuvre into the final corner of the lap. Stephen’s bronze became silver when Cronje suffered an ABS malady, going off the circuit at the hairpin, and eventually stopping and resetting the system – which cured the problem. He rejoined to finish last in class…what should’ve been two runner-up slots had turned into a lean day indeed.
Class T wasn’t short of action either, with Mdakane grabbing an early lead in the Mini, getting past Duminy on lap two. It didn’t last long though and Formato soon took charge, leaving Duminy to fend off the best efforts of Nathan to pass him.
Once ahead Nathan set off after his arch-rival: the youngster in the Mini and the veteran in the Golf already having something of a chequered history. This time round it didn’t end controversially and Nathan was forced to slow – having passed the Mini cleanly – when the left front tyre gave up the ghost after 12 hard laps. Mdakane retook the runner-up slot, albeit in a car which was leaving a trail of smoke in its wake.
They finished in that order, well behind Formato. Nathan was however promoted to second when Mdakane’s car was found to have exceeded its maximum allowable boost by some margin, his exclusion promoting Van Rooyen to third and Duminy to fourth.
Round seven, the penultimate event of 2014, takes place at Killarney Raceway in Cape on Spetember 27.