A full day of nail biting action was expected as almost 50 entries headed to Tarlton Internaional Raceway early Saturday morning for the Bridgestone Tarlton Tar Autocross held by the BMW Car Gauteng and the Porsche Club Central. Hundreds of cones were laid out before sunrise on the crisp morning as scrutineering and registration got underway. The speed and timing equipment was tested and it was time for the compulsory driver’s briefing at 08:30am. Suddenly there were competitors flocking in at the last minute and registrations were done right until the driver’s briefing started. The drivers briefing set out the rules and safety requirements for the day – each competitor would get a total of 3 times runs with all three to count towards the final result with impressive trophies up for grabs for each class. The driver’s briefing closed in prayer by the chairman of the BMW Car Club.
The pack was ready to be shown the track in a Parade style slow speed procession which was done in in the conventional clockwise direction after the final 2016 event ran in the opposite direction to keep things interesting. The pack was led by motoring journalist Mark Jones in the brand new twin turbocharged V12 BMW M760Li. This showed everyone the route from the pits, through the cones of the autocross course, back over the same start line of the drag strip to the end of the quartermile.
It was time to get the first runs of the autocross underway and much to the surprise of the first timers, the course actually started with cars facing the wrong way on the start of the drag strip, away from the Christmas tree lights. Reaction time is ignored, so after being staged, once the green light is given, the front wheels trigger the timers. The drivers keep left for the first left hand hairpin followed by a right hand hairpin past the pit entrance and the longest straight section of the autocross. Hard on the brakes for a 90 degree right turn followed by an easy 180 degree right turn into a 90 degree left. A short straight into a 90 left and then a 180 left followed by two 90 degree right turns to take you past the back of the old fuel station into a 90 degree right then it is basically flat out through a slalom which lines you up straight for the flying quartermile. The total times were split into the autocross time and the flying quartermile time with the terminal speed measured for each run.
The Competitors were ready to go and it seems like some phoned their friends as we had some late comers arriving at about 10:00am. Each competitor was allowed timed runs and the average of these would determine the competitor’s overall time. The variety of competitors was extremely impressive. Hatchbacks included the Toyota Etios RSi, Honda Civic Type R, VW Scirocco, Audi A3 and A1, the fastest Golf 7R in South Africa and of course some BMW 1 Series from the E81 and E87 variations. Sedans included a number of Subarus from different generations and modification specs, a large number of BMW 3 series were also present from the E36 Dolphin shape of the mid 90’s to the current F30 model, much to the delight of some M3 fans! Coupes were a few BMW Z4’s, an Audi RS5, M240i and 135i to name but a few. The Porsches came out in their numbers to display quite an array from 80’s, 90’s, 2000’s and present day examples and they weren’t afraid to drive them, some the Porsches were concourse competitors so they were really putting some serious money on the line by taking part. The track cars always stand out and make a glorious symphony from the naturally aspirated scream of the Lotus Exige through the turbocharged Noble to the roar from the BMW E39 M5 V8. Other cars that stood out were a BMW X6M, the luxurious M760Li, a Nissan GTR-35 and a VW Caddy Bakkie on Semi Slicks.
Some of the competitors came out guns blazing from the start due to average time rule that was set, so they didn’t want their earlier runs to bring down their average. As we were nearing the end of the first runs the lap times were split seconds apart and the discussions and advice were heating up in the stands and pits. Right then as everyone was looking forward to seeing the suited car for the course, The Lotus Exige, do its first run, tragedy struck just as Pieter Zeelie completed the Autocross section, he lost control of the Lotus as he got onto the straightaway and ploughed into the left barrier. As the generation we are in, the video of his crash was shared more than 10 times before paramedics could even get him out of the car. He walked away uninjured and the Lotus was cleared from the track with pretty minor damage from what was expected after seeing the video.
On the very next run, a heavily modified Subaru completed its run and there was a huge puff of smoke as it crossed the finish line. Racing had to be stopped again as it was thought that the car was on fire. Luckily it was just a water hose that wet the track a bit and racing could continue. Competitors were on the track once again and pushing as if there was no incident recorded. Most of the field improved on their runs as the day progressed. Due to excellent marshalling, racing ended early and some stayed behind for the prize giving. Only 3 cones were knocked over, with almost 150 runs done for the day, which was an impressive feat.
The trophies were organised by the Porsche club and were models of a Porsche vented and drilled brake disc and caliper with first place being a yellow caliper for carbon brakes, 2nd prize being a red capiler for upgraded brakes and 3rd place being a black caliper for standard barkes. Prize giving was done with some surprizes in store. The fastest M car being the BMW X6M which was split seconds ahead of the 760Li! The fastest time of the day was a sub 59 second by the GT-R with the fastest terminal speed of 224 km/h by a Porsche Turbo S. We had two ladies on the day too who beat some of the guys!
A huge thank you to Bridgestone for sponsoring the day! The next Bridgestone Tarlton Tar Autocross takes place on Sunday 27 August where we will be going in the anti-clockwise direction for a challenge! Be sure to diarise it so we can see you there!