It was a bitter-sweet day for Team Afrox in the opening round of the 2009 Bridgestone SA Production Car Championship at Port Elizabeth’s Aldo Scribante circuit on Saturday.
Pole position in qualifying, a convincing lights-to-flag victory in race one, a fighting third in race two and first overall for the day – Anthony Taylor and his Team Afrox BMW 330i gave the team the almost perfect start to the new season. But it was a tough team debut for 2008 Formula Ford champion Robert Wolk. He qualified well, just seven tenths of a second off Taylor’s pole, and started fifth on the grid.
Wolk’s chances disappeared in a cloud of dust and clashing metal when he got his BMW 330i’s wheels on to the dirt on the inside of the circuit on the run to turn one.
He was catapulted back on to the circuit, crashing into the Audi A4 quattros of team-mates Michael Stephen and Shaun Watson-Smith. Both Watson-Smith and Wolk, together with Marco da Cunha (Nissan 350Z), who collided with Watson-Smith, were out of the race and the red flag was deployed to halt proceedings before the first lap was completed.
Taylor had made a great start and had led the field into turn one, followed by Melvill Priest (Audi), Leeroy Poulter (Nissan 350Z) and Johan Fourie (Audi). He repeated the feat in the re-start and this time led across the start/finish line at the end of lap one from Fourie, Priest, Dawie Olivier (Subaru), Poulter and Stephen.
While Fourie chased hard for the first half of the race and kept Taylor honest, the Team Afrox driver was not really troubled and eventually went on to win by 1,6 seconds from the reigning class A champion. Stephen finished third, almost seven seconds behind Fourie, with Poulter fourth and Olivier fifth.
With the top three finishers from race one starting in reverse order, Taylor was third on the grid behind the Audis of Stephen and Fourie and the Nissan of Poulter. In a hectic first lap it was Stephen from Taylor, Fourie and Poulter at the end of the first of the 12 laps.
Taylor fought off a determined challenge from Fourie for four laps before dropping back to third and then having to fend off an equally determined challenge from Priest and Watson-Smith. On lap seven there was just four tenths of a second covering the three cars battling it out for the final step on the podium.
“There was oil on the circuit and the car was sliding around a bit,” said the former champion. “The tyres started graining and I couldn’t hold off Watson-Smith (who got through on lap eight). When the tyres came back again I was able to close the gap to Watson-Smith and take advantage when he slipped off at the Esses fighting with Fourie on the last lap.”
“A bitter-sweet result,” commented a rueful Donovan van Heerden, manager of Team Afrox.
“Pole position, a race win, a third and first overall for the day – Anthony gave us the almost perfect start to the new season, but it was a tough team debut for Robert. He qualified well, just seven tenths of a second off Anthony’s pole. It was very unfortunate what happened and it’s put us in a difficult position for the next round in three weeks’ time. The car is very badly damaged and we’ll have to assess our options, but we’re up for the challenge and we’ll be ready for Kyalami on March 28.”
Team Afrox is proud to be associated with the following sponsors: Afrox, Castrol, Midas, SNR Bearings. ADF also acknowledges its specialist official supplier and technical partners: Autobahn Approved Repair Centre, Hi-Tech Mag Repairs, Powerbrake and Sax Suspension.