A steady drizzle which eventually left the track drenched and windscreens foggy set the scene for a 17-lap feature race for Bridgestone Super Production Cars at Zwartkops on March 1, and also made for an incident-filled event.
Charl Smalberger in the Golf 5 GTi didn’t make it past the first corner, losing control, then hitting the tyre barrier on the inside of the corner – which flipped the car into a double-roll, and brought out the red flag. You can see a clip of the entire incident here.
The event was restarted after a long delay to clean up the debris, the polesitter – Gavin Cronje in the BMW 335i – pitting immediately with an overheating engine – which effectively gave the front row to the black Audis. Moss led briefly but his vastly more experienced team-mate Michael Stephen soon took over, and quickly opened a gap to the chasing pack. Moss wasn’t able to delay Gennaro Bonafede for long and the Audi steamed past, followed soon after by the similar car of Hennie Groenewald.
And that was how it stayed for the duration, Stephen controlling the game from the front, keeping it need and tidy (slow in fast out as he put it) to come home a second ahead of Bonafede – driving with a maturity which belied his years – with Groenewald and Moss chipping in to make it an Audi one-two-three-four. It was a disastrous day for the BMWs and as well as Cronje’s troubles, Johan Fourie was forced to pit with a foggy windscreen, eventually soldiering to the finish two laps down while Cronje was only credited with nine laps and was declared a non-finisher.
Class T was a more exciting affair, and the Mini Cooper S of Lee Thompson methodically hunted down the Ford Focus of Gary Formato, finding a way past at half-distance and slowly pulling away.
Earlier, Duminy in the second Ford had outbraked himself and used Graeme Nathan to slow down, the incident adversely affecting the handling of both cars, neither able to do anything other than circulate and wait for the final flag to wave.
One of the more impressive competitors was Ryan Cooper in the Golf 6 GTI, who used his experience as a motorcycle racer to manage the conditions, eventually changing gear at just 4 000 r/min to maintain traction. It paid handsome dividends and he circulated steadily in third place, coming under some pressure from the very fast Chevrolet Cruze of Michael van Rooyen. There was contact between the two as Van Rooyen attempted to pass around the outside coming onto the main straight on lap eight, and after a lurid spin came to a standstill in the middle of the track, much to the consternation of Nathan, who took evasive action on the grass…
Such was the handling of Nathan’s car that Van Rooyen managed to catch and repass him and was eventually classified third, easily the fastest class T car on the track and a likely winner if he hadn’t have spun.
The bad luck award has to go to Lee Thompson, whose Mini experienced a brake hose failure in the closing stages, various heart-stopping moments following as he tumbled down the order to be classified sixth – just ahead of his safe and steady team mate, Ryan Rhode. Duminy was classified seventh but yet again – the third time in the course of the weekend – his Focus was found to exceed the turbo boost limit and he was excluded from the rankings.
The upside for the team was a comfortable win for Formato, racing with a driveshaft borrowed from a spectator’s Focus ST.
In the 10-lapper run earlier he had been a non-finisher, the class T victory going to Nathan from van Rooyen and Thompson, less than three seconds covering them. In class A it had been Groenewald from Bonafede, with Stephen third some way off the pace.
Overall victory for the day went to Bonafede– richly deserved after two well-paced drives – and in class T it was Graeme Nathan from Michael van Rooyen – less than four-hundredths of a second separating them! As far as points go, Nathan also has a single point advantage over Van Rooyen while in A it is Bonafede who leads Stephen by one point with Groenewald a further two points adrift. But it is early days, and with a further seven rounds to go, a lot can and no doubt will change.