In the last 3 weeks I have visited Zwartkops twice. During the same time period, Joburg seems to have got its summer under full swing. Yet on both visits to Zwartkops, I have wondered if I hadn’t in fact travelled to the North Pole and not Northern Gauteng!
Sorry guys, I can plan everything but not the weather. While it may have been cold in pit lane, the action on circuit was nothing short of an inferno. After the first practice session times came in I was blown away. Some guys had even gone as much as 3 seconds quicker than their last time out! Suddenly the cold was forgotten as we got down to our race day.
Kris Budnik brought along his new V8 M3 GTR which we have all been waiting to see in action, after some technical trouble at Kyalami. He quickly stamped his authority on the day taking pole position away from Paul Munro. They had a hard fought race but in the first heat it was ultimately Paul that kept him at bay to cross the line first, but only two tenths ahead. The reverse grid in race 2 was definitely going to make things interesting.
Gianni has found some lost pace in Class A and ran away from the rest of the pack, breaking his old lap time barrier of 1.07 by 4 tenths. We may have to check if there is a V8 under that bonnet… Jonathan Araujo pulled one out the bag this weekend by out qualifying the rest of Class B, a position he kept all the way to the end of the race. In Class C, yet again Mark Jones was untouchable by all of Class C and Class B. On track, he had immense battles with Thouca Mechanicos which provided huge entertainment value for the spectators. In Class X, the show was all about Leon Loubser who returned to the series after a long wait for his GTR to be prepared.
The grid inversion in race 2 always brings plenty overtaking maneuvers and lots of action. This one didn’t disappoint either… Kris made a brilliant start from 4th on the grid into the lead by the first corner, leaving Paul stuck behind the slower Class T traffic. Leon tried to make his way round Evert Serfontein at the exit of turn 3, ran onto the grass and spun the car in the most spectacular way. The car pirouetted several times for the entire length of the straight between turn 3 and 4 at speeds of close to 160 km/h. The car finally came to a gentle stop in the kitty litter and luckily he wasn’t hit by anyone behind him. As he came past the pit straight again, the crowd cheered him on; thrilled by his miraculous recovery from the biggest spin I have seen on a track anywhere this year.
Not two minutes later, the red flag was waving on all corners. A car had gone into the wall at full speed just before turn 2, and as I heard the car number on the marshal radio I wanted to burst into tears. Car number 155. Don Salt. Damn… Anyone who has followed our series over the last few years will know that the words bad luck and Don Salt always seem to find themselves in the same sentence. Don thankfully was fine but the car is now only good for the scrap heap.
After the restart, you would have thought things would calm down but the action was even more frantic. Paul and Kris had another ding-dong fight to the end with Kris just pipping Paul at the post. Gianni was once again unchallenged but had a fairly close battle with Manny Ribeiro. Behind them, Evert Serfontein and Ricky Giannoccaro fought tooth and nail at every turn and on every straight, delighting the crowds with some spectacular driving and clean racing.
Jonathan Araujo once again cleaned up in Class B but Mark Jones didn’t have such a good time of it. A failing clutch meant he was being caught up by Justin Robertson throughout the lap, ultimately passing him just before the end of the race. Just down the road, a teutonic battle raged on between Riaan Woest, Dino Fameliaris and Joel Silva with some paint being swopped in the process too, culminating in a synchronized spin into turn 8. Joel and Dino recovered but could not catch Riaan again who took valuable championship points for his class battle. Dale Penney took the Class X victory away from the recovering Leon Loubser.
This event also saw the debut of Marco Viera’s long awaited E92 M3 Turbo. The car looks magnificent on track and we were all expecting some very quick lap times. It wasn’t to be as not long after he had started; the head gasket blew which meant it would spend the rest of the day back on the trailer. The Judge also made its return under the new ownership and team colours of MBS Carriers.
One of my personal highlights was our involvement in a community outreach program. Together with day sponsors Bridgestone we hosted the Mackenzie family whose two younger sons suffer from a terminal disease. Their wish was a ride in a Bugatti Veyron, but we had a better idea for them… Throughout the day, our supportive time trial and race series drivers took the two boys out on track for some hot laps. They got to ride shotgun in many BMW track and road cars, a very rare Audi R8 V10 GT, Porsche 997 Turbo and a few other exotics. With the kind help of the Giannoccaro family, the boys were treated to laps in a Ferrari F430 and 458 Italia during the lunch break. Half an hour on track alone in these two thoroughbred supercars with the crowd making a fuss of them put smiles on their faces and warmed the hearts of those that were there to witness it. Uncle Jimmy then spoilt the two of them with a stunning Ferrari hamper. We wish the family all the best for the future and I want to thank them for letting us be a part of this memorable day.
Thanks again to our sponsors Bridgestone without whom we would not have been able to host the event. And a very big thanks to the club and race committee who were a massive help to me on the day.
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