A host of off-track activity that is family orientated will be offset by some rather fierce battles on the tight Zwartkops layout. The nature of the circuit lends itself to close racing, and the season has reached the stage where some title challengers are going to have to throw caution to the winds and get stuck in and produce results.
That sets up a scenario that is geared for action – and plenty of it. With seven national championship categories in action – incorporating saloon cars, sports cars, singleseaters and motorcycles – there is also plenty of variety for even the most discerning motorsport enthusiast.
And, as so often happens in motor racing, there is a little cameo that adds extra spice to the menu. In this case it is the return to action of three-time South African champion Gary Formato.
The talented young Johannesburg driver returns to the Samcar WesBank V8 fray in the Auto Trader Jaguar XR8 and joins a championship that is in a state of flux at the moment. A disastrous outing at AA Kyalami in June saw defending champion Johan Fourie, in the Sasol DualFuel Opel Omega, lose his championship lead.
Fourie, in fact, has slipped to third in the championship behind veteran Larry Wilford, in the Fuchs Mustang, and Grant van Schalkwyk in the Hi-Q Mustang. The ball is in Fourie’s court, and the WesBank outing had plenty to offer before Formato’s appearance on the scene.
There was a time when motorsport buffs were thirsting for a straight Fourie versus Formato confrontation. It has finally appeared, in interesting championship circumstances, although it might take Formato a race or two to iron out teething problems with the Jaguar – brought into South Africa from New Zealand – and get rid of a little rustiness brought on by inactivity over the last year or so,
Either way Formato’s reappearance is a fillip for the WesBank series. At this stage of the season he won’t be a championship factor, but he is the wake up call Wilford, van Schalkwyk and Fourie don’t need at this stage of proceedings.
On the South African Production Car front the AA Kyalami event in June also produced a few setbacks for drivers in the hunt for titles. Etienne van der Linde (Castrol BMW) in Class A, Dawie Brough (Honda Ballade) in Class B and Dave Compton (Toyota Tazz) in Class D were forced to share wins with Shaun van der Linde, Bert Grogor and Angus Thompson respectively.
In terms of the overall SA Saloon Car championship it was Brough who was hardest hit by the AA Kyalami setback, and Capetonian Lawrence Boshoff (Honda Ballade) took advantage of the situation with two comfortable wins. The van der Linde, Brough and Compton trio cannot afford any further hiccups, and a little late season pressure is building on drivers who previously thought they were in comfort zones.
The AA Kyalami outing hinted at a little needle appearing in the Class A ranks, and the Zwartkops battle has the makings of a slugfest. The van der Linde’s will be up against the BMW’s of the robust Regardt Roets and Richard Sorensen, with hometown boys Martin Steyn (Alfissimo Alfa Romeo 156) and Leroy Poulter in the Champion Mercedes-Benz, serious threats to the BMW brigade.
Reigning champion Tschops Sipuka and Silvio Scribante both scored wins at AA Kyalami to throw the Engen VW Cup title race wide open. Like Fourie in the WesBank series, championship leader Hennie Groenewald had a day to forget at the Midrand circuit, and will be hoping for better luck a few kilometres down the highway.
A circuit like Zwartkops is tailor made for a one-marque series like the VW Cup. Add to that the fact that there are also indications of a few grudge matches brewing within the ranks, and you have another scenario that could explode into furious action.
Sipuka is back fresh from a Formula VW outing in Europe and, after a shaky start to the season, is back in the championship hunt. However, the likes of Scribante, Groenewald, Neil Stephen and former champion Graeme Nathan won’t be in the mood to take prisoners and race stewards could be in for a busy day.
On the Formula Ford front championship leader Morne Jurgens, in the Truck Den Mygale, is being made to sing for his supper this season. At a stage when it looked as though the experienced Jurgens would run away with the championship, young Michael Atkins (Xumbug Mygale) has come out fighting.
In two memorable races Atkins shared wins with the champion last time out, and Jurgens suddenly finds himself under a little unwanted pressure. Experienced Garth Waberski, the da Cunha brothers, Robert Wolk and Martin Robinson are also all capable of rocking the boat, and the championship could yet be headed for a closer finish than Jurgens would have liked.
After being in danger of being branded the perennial runner-up, Neil Lobb has found the winning touch and two wins at AA Kyalami gave him some breathing space at the top of the Vodacom Sports Car series. Now that he has added winning to consistency, Lobb looks a good bet for the championship.
Lobb, however, will also have to show that he can withstand pressure that is sure to come from the likes of former champion George Ferreira, reigning champion Bernard Tilanus, Melvill Priest, Dave Beattie and Donovan Roscoe. Sometimes it is harder to stay at the top of the log than it is to get there!
South Africa’s official circuit racing development category, the Vodacom Isondo Sports 2000’s, things are looking pretty much the way they have all season. After beginning the season in style, Devan Moonsammy will look to continue his run of form but Capetonian and championship leader Morne Edas will do everything in his power to ensure he remains in second spot.
Lady racers Lindi Dhlamini and Joy Monarang will be in action too. Let us not forget, that these two ladies are perhaps the only woman circuit racing drivers of colour in the world, and always receive fantastic support from the crowds.
Someone who is used to going to the top of the pile, and staying there, is multiple motorcycle champion Russell Wood. At the start of the season there were those who felt the Autopage Cellular Yamaha team leader, now not too far off 40, might struggle to stay ahead of the younger guns.
Wood has responded with some commanding performances – that have been the product of skill and race craft - and goes to Zwartkops with a commanding championship lead. One almost feels that for those chasing Wood in the championship, the Zwartkops outing is a final throw of the dice.
Certainly Zimbabwean Shaun Whyte and team-mate Arushen Moodley, on the First Technology Yamahas, cannot afford to let Wood add to his championship lead. The Cell C Suzuki quartet of former champions Stewart Macleod, Trevor Crookes, Noel Haarhof and rising star Hudson Kennaugh have blown hot and cold this season, and there are those among them who will feel they have under achieved this season.
With so many riders in the championship capable of winning, and you can include among them the Natalian’s tem-mate, Greg Dreyer, it is testimony to Wood’s ability and mental strength that he is stamping his authority on proceedings. Another good haul of points could be all that Wood needs to seal yet another title, and he is probably starting to lose count of those.
The Vodacom Power Tour has had tremendous support from crowds around the country this season, and the house full signs are likely to go up at Zwartkops. Racing is scheduled to start at 10h00 and gate entry is R 40 per adult with children under 14 free.