Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit played host to rounds three and four of the Bridgestone Production Car Class T championship on Saturday 3 March.
Taking place just days after the previous championship round in Durban, the MINI Motorsport team worked around the clock to prepare the two MINI Cooper S race cars of Garth Waberski (Castrol MINI) and Robert Wolk (Afinta Parts MINI) in time for the Kyalami event.
In the end, the hard work resulted in the team scoring two podium places, one in each of the day's respective races. However there remains some concern over the huge power differntial that exists between the competitors in Class T.
"We initially realised there was a problem at the Durban race," explains Danie Human, MINI Motorsport team manager. "The VW Golf GTIs appear to have a much greater power-to-weight ratio than they did last year, which has created some concern for the class. The difference is so big that we're giving away 10km/h down Kyalami's very short main straight. However in spite of the big advantage they have, Garth and Robert put in consistent performances throughout the weekend and managed to pick up some valuable points along the way."
With the first heat taking place over just six laps Garth Waberski had little time to make up ground following his fourth place qualifying position. "It was very frustrating to only qualify in fourth place," said Waberski. "I qualified faster than I have ever done before at Kyalami but it wasn't fast enough."
Things didn't fair better in the race as Waberski brought his Castrol MINI home in fifth place. "I didn't have any problems during the race - we are just struggling to hang on to the more powerful turbo-charged cars," he added.
Robert Wolk was able to make some progress in the race though and took third place at the chequered flag. "I managed to get past my teammate as well as Iain Pepper during the course of the six laps and hung on to take third."
The longer eighteen lap format for Race 2 allowed the drivers to take a more tactical approach to the race. Waberski used this to his advantage as he went on to take second place behind Graeme Nathan, winner of both heats in a VW Golf GTI.
"It was great to make some head way in the second heat. Unfortunately we were never able to challenge for the win but its great to have the points in the bag. I had absolutely no problems with the car this weekend and I?d like to thank the team for all their hard work preparing the cars in such a short space of time," he said.
Robert Wolk finished fourth after battling it out with Iain Pepper (VW Golf) and team mate Waberski for most of the race.
"The three of us had a great battle in the opening laps however this allowed Iain to get between myself and Garth and Garth was then able to extend the gap. I am pretty happy with the way things went as I am still learning the car and of course the ins and outs of Production Car Racing," commented the former single seater racer. "I'm learning all the time and I hope that we will be challenging for victories in the very near future."
"Overall we are happy with the performances of both MINI drivers," concludes Human. "They were consistent throughout the weekend and actually set the fastest times we?ve ever managed at Kyalami.
It seems as though the officials are aware of the problem that exists in Class T and we hope that by the time we arrive at Killarney on 31 March they will have found a solution to level the playing field."