The second round of the 2004 South African National Formula Vee Championship, saw established Formula Vee Reinmeister Peter Hills (Vacuform Vision) take victory in heat one. Victory in the second heat, went to another veteran of South African Formula Vee racing Symm Grobler (Auto Mecca Rhema 2), after Hills was slow away from the line. Torrential rain the previous day, with further rain during the course of the night, had left the Subway flooded and with the rain continuing to fall throughout the day, both races were run on a rain-drenched circuit.
The decision to continue with the race meeting was conditional on all categories using the Elbow, which eliminates Turn Two of the Oval completely and reduces the approach speed to Turn Three, considerably. Never having used the Elbow before, the drivers were given three sighting laps, before forming up on the grid for the start of the first heat. Missing from the grid, would be Anthony Taylor (Vacuform Rhema 2) and Dayview Mogane (Alley), after Taylor’s car would not start in the Pre Race Paddock and Mogane knocked out his cut off switch, during the final sighting lap. From the second row, it was Dennis Johns (Goldco Midas Rhema 2) and Grobler, who took the lead, followed by Hills, Jaco Schriks (Johannesburg Bright Steels Rhema 2), Alan Holm, in the second Johannesburg Bright Steels Rhema 2, Jody Robertson (Rhema), Cape Town’s Doug MacDonald (Rhema) and Lee Thompson (Rhema).
For Johns, the race was not destined to last very long and as he exited Turn One for the second time, a Rose Joint on the rear suspension, broke. This handed the lead to Grobler but Hills was tucked in behind him, in the spray, with Schriks running a couple of meters further back, to avoid the worst of the spray. Lap three saw Holm get into difficulty, coming into the Stadium and he short cut the Elbow, across the grass but managed to regain the circuit without losing a place. Lap after lap, Hills stuck to Grobler’s gearbox, before lining him up through the Elbow and then passing him around the outside, through Turn Three of the Oval, just before half distance. Shortly afterwards, Schriks lost the use of third gear and dropped back into the clutches of Holm, who swept past and set out after Grobler. By the time Holm had him in his sights, Grobler had lost touch with Hills and it did not take Holm long, before he swept past into second place.
Further down the field, there was plenty of action as well, as driver after driver had their moments, on the slippery surface and then sought to regain lost time, or position. None where more spectacular, than Benny Phetla (Vacuform Rhema). A couple of times he out braked himself at the end of the straight and had a spectacular three sixty degree spin, in front of Tony Beecher’s Beecher, as they powered through Turn Three of the Oval. Yet every time he came back, sliding the car through the Elbow and getting well out of shape but somehow holding it all together, as he corrected the slides with a combination of steering and throttle control. Others, driving well above what would normally be expected of them, included Mac Donald and relative newcomer Bobby Nel (DK Office Furniture Lantis).
Apart from Johns, the only other retirement came from Paul Venter, who broke a push rod on the front suspension, as he entered the Stadium and also short cut the Elbow, across the grass, before retiring to the pits. It was however Hills who went on to win the race, from Holm, Grobler, Schriks, Robertson, MacDonald, Thompson, Phetla, Beecher, Nel and the Cartmell brothers, Kevin and Claude, in their Rand Brake Stings, Hills had only stepped in, to drive the Vision in place of Rion Lerm, on the Thursday prior to the race and gave the car it’s first victory, since sixteen year old Etienne Van Der Linde won the National Championship, in the car, back in 1994.
With the rain continuing to fall, the second heat would be as wet as the first and again, it was the second row of the grid, that out dragged the field on the run down to Turn One. This time it was Grobler who took the lead, from Johns, Hills, Schriks and Holm. Kevin Cartmell spun, as he exited the Elbow onto the Oval for the first time and then just before half distance, Nel who was once again well placed at the time, did the same, completing two three sixties before gathering it all together again. Venter also lost time, with another excursion across the grass, at the Elbow and after hauling in Robertson and MacDonald, to form a three car battle for sixth place, Phetla had a moment toward the end of the race, losing time but not his position. In the end, he would actually gain a place, as MacDonald spun, trying to find a way past Robertson, through Turn Three of the Oval, on the last lap of the race.
With the spray of two cars ahead of him, Hills chose not to risk any suicidal passing maneuvers and settled for third place, as Grobler took the victory, from Johns, Hills, Holm, Schriks, Robertson, Phetla, MacDonald, Bradley Martin (Rhema 2), Thompson, Beecher and Nico Blignaut (Gilus IT – SAP Rhema).
The next round of the 2004 SA National Formula Vee Championship, takes place at Kyalami on the 3rd of April.