Round 4 of the Bridgestone SA Production Car Series was indeed a welcome homecoming for Team Afrox BMW and they certainly looked ready for racing at Zwartkops after Friday practice.
The best part of the four-week break was spent ensuring that the cars would be more competitive, especially with Audi’s strong showing in the first part of the season.
Sean Duminy’s seat was left vacant after the injuries he sustained in Port Elizabeth. There was however support for Gary Formato as Ford entered both the older cars, as well with Nieyaaz Modack and Garth Waberski both making a return to the series.
Ettiene van der Linde in the Team Afrox BMW made his intentions very clear by taking pole ahead of Hennie Groenewald in the SasolRacing Subaru WRX. The latter however blew his engine during qualifying which led to teammate Richard Pinard sacrificing his day to allow Groenewald a chance to capitalise on his grid position. This didn’t help much though as Groenewald was soon involved in an incident with the Team Afrox BMW of Johan Fourie and the Ferodo racing Audi of Gennaro Bonafede. Both Fourie and Bonafede had to call it a day while Groenewald soldiered on for another seven laps before inevitably retiring.
Van der Linde stayed cleared of all the trouble behind him and led from start to finish to take the victory ahead of the Engen Xtreme Audi of championship leader Michael Stephen and the VMP Motorsport Audi of Melvill Priest.
The start of race 2 was delayed due to protests over grid positions and when it finally did start, it didn’t take long for the red flag to come out after an accident in Class T. The restart saw an entertaining three way Audi battle between Priest, Stephen and his teammate Tschops Sipuka. Stephen came out on top to secure the victory ahead of Priest. Van der Linde drove well to snatch third ahead of Sipuka. Unlike Groenewald, Fourie and Bonafede made it to the start with Fourie finishing while Bonafede retired after six laps due to overheating – related to damages sustained in race 1.
With the sun setting, the third race got underway and race distance being decreased to 14 laps. Van der Linde drove a solid race for his second victory of the day ahead of Priest and Stephen. Ferodo racing worked hard to give Bonafede a car which would be reliable for the entire race thereby allowing him to end off a torrid day with a fourth place finish.
Fourie and Sipuka got involved in action again at the end, with Sipuka retiring and Fourie having to make a pit stop for a new left rear tire.
Lee Thompson in the Castrol Min Cooper secured pole and went on to secure a win in race 1. This didn’t come without it’s share of good fortune though: Graeme Nathan in the Indy Oil VW Golf made a rare mistake at the final turn while contesting for the lead which allowed his team mate Jacques Joubert through to take second ahead of Gary Formato in the Castrol Ford Focus. Nathan got back onto the circuit to take fourth ahead of Gavin Cronje in the Castrol Mini Cooper – giving it his all despite gearbox problems.
As mentioned in the Class A review, the second race was stopped quite quickly due to an accident in Class T. Devin Robertson in the Liqui Moly Renault Megane and were both eliminated from the race and the Zwartkops marshals had to work against the clock to remove the stricken Ford. More drama followed at the restart with Nathan and Thompson coming together with the Mini driver retiring with intercooler damage.
Cronje emerged as the winner throughout all of this with Nathan beating his age old rival Formato to take second. Michael van Rooyen in the Williams Hunt Chevrolet Cruze started at pole and had to be content with fourth ahead of Waberski.
By the time race 3 got started it was very much a case of “Who’s still standing and who’s still got the legs for it.”
Van Rooyen retired early on with Thompson being forced to make a pit stop. With four laps completed Nathan limped home into retirement and Robertson made it as far as lap 13. Up front however there was a fascinating battle developing between Cronje and Formato.
Cronje emerged the winner making it a Mini clean sweep. Formato finished second ahead of Joubert with Waberski finishing a solid return to the circuit with a fourth place.
Written by: Reynard Gelderblom
Photo by: David Ledbitter
Copyright © SABEEMER 2019