Defending SA Production Car driver's champion Anthony Taylor was set to win the 2006 championship war at Gauteng's Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit on Saturday after winning the first battle of the day.
After a very short first race - which Taylor easily took from pole-sitter and then championship leader Leeroy Poulter (Nissan) - all the BMW 330i pilot had to do was win the second heat while staying two positions ahead of his main rival to take title honours.
But when the field crossed the finish line with headlights beaming at the end of the long second race, which was eventually run well after sunset,
Taylor was walking back to the pits after a puff of smoke signalled the end of his car's engine - and his 2006 championship hopes.
"That's racing," was the sportsmanlike comment from the man who battled with Poulter all season long, but took his defeat a-la technical problems on the chin.
Four out of six wins at Kyalami for the 2006 season were not enough to elevate him to his fourth consecutive championship in the BMW Van der Linde Racing 330i, which went to Poulter who, in the second race of the day, inherited the lead, eventual win and 2006 driver's championship thanks to the demise of Taylor.
Race 1 (6 laps):
The new Production Car Championship format of a much shorter first race followed by a much longer second race, saw the opening Bridgestone Production Car race reduced to a comical six laps & later further reduced to a ridiculous five laps, after a comedy of errors by race marshals, who started the race three times without a warm-up lap.
Poulter, after increasing his lead by taking pole during qualifying, was pipped to the front by Taylor who had a quick start and took the lead for the remainder of the race, earning him maximum points and reducing the points deficit, albeit by a small margin.
Poulter kept his championship lead by finishing second ahead of Shaun Watson-Smith (Audi), Reghardt Roets (Nissan Junior Team 350Z), Gary Formato (Sasol Nissan 350Z) and Etienne van der Linde in the second BMW Van der Linde Racing 330i who finished 6th.
"I had to start from the back of the field after being penalised for a racing incident in the previous event, but the BMW is much quicker than most of the rest and I managed to move up to 6th in just five laps," said Van der Linde.
Race 2 (14 laps):
The second race of the day was all or nothing for Taylor, who couldn't do better than another win, but this time he had to hope for Poulter to finish third or worse?
But it was not to be. Taylor, who again started behind Poulter on pole, battled with the Nissan for the first four laps and took the lead on lap 5.
"Leeroy stayed behind, and all I could hope for was that my team-mates could beat him to the flag," said Taylor.
Apart from Van der Linde, regular Audi pilot Johan Fourie, whose car was badly damaged after hitting a tyre wall at Killarney, was invited to take the wheel of a third BMW works entry with the aim of getting ahead of Poulter.
Putting a huge amount of pressure on Poulter, Fourie got past him on the same lap that Taylor took the lead, going side by side through the awesome Superbowl corner. But then Poulter's Nissan team-mates Gary Formato and Reghardt Roets replied by passing Fourie, allowing Poulter back into second.
Four laps later the unforgiving pressure took its toll when Taylor's engine went up in smoke, effectively handing the championship to Poulter uncontested, who went on to win the second race without any competition.
"It was a disappointing day for us, but Anthony drove like the true champion he is - fighting hard without playing dirty all season long," said BMW Motorsport manager Danie Human.
"Congratulations to Leeroy and Nissan on their championship success," he said.