Serves us right. We moaned about the cold at Zwartkops and Mother Nature rewarded us with one of the hottest days we have experienced this year. A sweltering pit lane greeted those that made the trip down on the Friday for what has to be my favourite event of our club calendar. Even in the ‘Hot’ Lap Vehicle with the aircon going full blast, I could not escape the intense heat.
Nonetheless, the Friday practice session was reasonably quiet so those that took advantage had more track time than they knew what to do with. Our social braai in the evening was a real hit with all drivers, friends and family. Des and I got to know our photographers Paul and Stella Blackburn a little better and we socialised with some new faces in the form of the Auto Alpina Motorrad customers. They were down with us as for the first time as we wanted to try and combine a session for bikes in our time trials. We limited entries to just S1000RR and HP4 bikes as it is a BMW day after all, and we wanted to keep the speed differential similar. It worked, all the riders posted times pretty much within 2 seconds of each other. It also added a different highlight for our spectators to see these beautiful superbikes together in a group on track.
Roll on race day... The tension that comes in any race series as the championship draws to a close was evident. All drivers were quite keen to have their best drive yet to hopefully relieve some pressure for the final round. The heat would require a different type of race craft where preservation and consistency would win the day. Lee Thompson brought ‘Boris the Animal’ out to play with us again, and even though it was the quickest car on the day it was still 3 seconds shy of its previous best qualifying lap at Phakisa. The usual contenders somehow though were pretty much on the same pace as the August round, evidence of their determination for a good result.
Race 1 got off to a less than pleasant start. Lee Thompson made a perfect example of how a rolling start should work by holding the pack at a constant speed until the lights went out. In the mid pack though, it seems drivers were expecting to round the last turn and give it horns but after being greeted by a slow pack of cars, chaos ensued. 5 cars collided with each other with Dino Fameliaris suffering terminal damage forcing him to retire. Once the race settled down again, the class battles unfolded. Lee Thompson in Class T may as well have been in a different race altogether, disappearing down the road, lighting up his rear tyres through corners and giving an almighty bang out the exhaust on gear changes. Even though he sped away and may have had a boring race, this car still amazes spectators. Paul Munro to his credit though did not give up and continued to chase, knowing that a mistake or mechanical issue is always possible and could hand him the race win at any stage.
In Class A, Kris Budnik in the flame spitting V8 M3 GTR had a decent tussle with Paul for a few laps and easily took class honours ahead of Gianni. Class B belonged to Jonathan Araujo after the demise of Dino but the rest of the Class C pack chased him down and gave him something to fight for. Class C was dominated by the return of Mish Sing in his E30 325is, once again showing his ability to drive a car beyond its limit for a full race distance. Class X belonged to Mike McLoughlin, one of our BMW Car Club KZN members in his mental Backdraft Cobra Turbo. I have never seen a car come onto the back straight at full opposite lock while the throttle stays buried. This was a real treat to watch.
The race 2 inverted grid always has a few surprises, but before we even got that far the race was red flagged because of a botched start. Paul was on pole and eager to drag Lee to the first corner, too eager in fact which brought everyone back to start again. The race from there was pretty similar to race 1, barring the Class C battle. With a few drivers now on their second yellow card for contact, nerves were on edge as one more bump would mean exclusion from the final round. The drivers behaved impeccably and yet even so, put on one of the best races we have seen all year. Mark Jones singled himself out yet again as a top-class race driver, fighting his way from the very back of the field through all of Class C and B, with is final move on Justin Robertson taking place only 2 corners from the end of the race. He finished just 3 seconds behind Dino Fameliaris who started the race 12 positions ahead of him. Another sterling effort which delighted the crowds and gave Mark a very well deserved Driver of the Day trophy.
Our track day season has now sadly come to an end. The race series will have their final round at Kyalami on the 2nd of November and will form part of the Super Series categories on the day. We want as much support from club members and all BMW owners/drivers/fans as our boys once again go to play with the big dogs so make sure you are there. Entry is just R20 per car and R10 per bike and access to the grandstands and pit areas is unrestricted. In 2014, plans are underway to change the format of our track days to encourage greater participation both on and off the track. Details will follow early next year.
Thank you once again to the following sponsors and people who made the day possible and gave their kind assistance:
Bridgestone South Africa
Park Motors Welkom
Auto Alpina Motorrad
Big Boss Auto
Colin Van Son
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