Dominating the front row of the grid is always a good recipe for success in motor racing and that’s exactly what the pair of BMW 335is did in the qualifying session for the penultimate round of Bridgestone Production Cars at Killarney, Cape Town on October 5.
Pole-sitter Johan Fourie then controlled the rolling start to perfection to rocket into an immediate lead, leaving team mate Etienne van der Linde to fend off the Subaru of Hennie Groenewald, using the big Beemer’s straightline speed advantage to keep a gap on the circuit’s two long straights.
A little bit further back reigning champion Michael Stephen waited in the wings, leading a slightly depleted Audi S4 contingent – Melvill Priest’s example requiring an engine change after qualifying and missing the first sprint as a result.
With half the seven laps done the Subaru was already heading towards the pits, a terminal engine malady the cause, moving Stephen onto the podium and bringing Gennaro Bonafede into fourth.
Whilst he didn’t get a win, Graeme Nathan’s second place in class T brought the Golf GTI driver a step closer to a successful title defence, assisted by Gavin Cronje finishing a disappointing sixth, struggling with a Mini Cooper S which was misbehaving thanks to fuel spilling onto the rear tyres. That left Lee Thompson to uphold Mini honours – which he did with a strong performance which saw him rapidly move from third to first place, first taking the Chevrolet Cruze of Michael van Rooyen with a neat move, and a little later he went to the front when Nathan made a mistake…
Finishing order was therefore Fourie, Van der Linde, and Stephen in class A and in T, Thompson, Nathan and Van Rooyen.
With a little more turnaround time than usual between the two sprint races the teams who needed to make running repairs did so, though the gap was clearly too short for the Subaru team to effect an engine change.
With the reverse grid rule it was teenager Roman de Beer who found himself on pole, and did an excellent job of staying ahead, until sliding backwards into the clutches of Michael Stephen, who went on to win the second sprint with an impressive drive. Runner up spot went to Van der Linde, and third to Bonafede, able to capitalise on Fourie’s brake problems.
Thompson made it a double in class T, a perfect drive from the back of the field making the second win especially sweet. Peering at the Mini’s rear window once again was Nathan, reasonably happy with second considering that Cronje was third after losing third gear. Ryan Cooper was well-pleased with a sixth to add to his fifth earlier.
The fastest man on the track was Melvill Priest, whose team finished the engine swop to get him out midway through the race, and with a clear track the burly businessman was able to set the fastest lap – which means pole position for the 14-lap feature which concludes the day’s proceedings for Production Cars.
So far, it has been a good day for the champions, Nathan’s pair of second places and Stephen’s first and third keeping them comfortably ahead, aided by the fact that their chief rivals weren’t able to emulate their level of consistency.