SA Production Car thriller
The 2012 SA Production Car season got off to an exciting start at Zwartkops Raceway with Class A and T teams battling it out.
PRACTICE AND QUALIFYING
The practice sessions saw three different automaker's separating the Class A teams. During qualifying defending champion Michael Stephen powered his Audi S4 to claim pole position. Etienne van der Linde (BMW 335i) was five-hundredths of a second behind Stephen and three-tenths ahead of Hennie Groenewald (Subaru WRX STI).
Anthony Taylor (BMW 335i) came in fourth, with Tschops Sipuka (Audi S4) hot on his heels in fifth. Richard Pinard (Subaru WRX STI) beat Melvill Priest (Audi S4) while newcomers, Kishoor Pitamber (BMW 335i) and John Mayer (BMW 335i) finished eighth and ninth place respectively.
In the Class T qualifying round, Graeme Nathan (VW GTI) took pole, despite Gennaro Bonafede (VW GTI) topping the time sheets during practice . Gary Formato (Focus ST) qualified second, with Bonafede only managing third. Shaun Duminy (Focus ST) lined up fourth ahead of Michael van Rooyen (Opel Astra OPC). Jacques Joubert (VW GTI) finished in sixth ahead of Devin Robertson (Mini Cooper S) in seventh place during his Production Car debut.
New race regulations state that a Class A driver in pole position may elect whether the race will begin from a standing or rolling start. Stephen elected to have a standing start, the first for the category since 2011.
Stephen’s gamble paid off as he led the race to take the first race win of the season. Groenewald took second ahead of Van der Linde. Taylor claimed fourth ahead of van der Linde, Pinard and Priest. Pitamber was able to stay ahead of Sipuka in seventh, with Mayer floundering in ninth. Sipuka managed to gain three positions but suffered technical issues during the race.
The race was fairly uneventful in Class T, with Nathan racing to victory. Bonafede passed Formato at the start to claim second, while Duminy held on to fourth despite dogged challenge from Van Rooyen and Joubert. The bonnet of Robertson’s Mini ripped open on lap two, forcing him to pit for rapid repairs and creative panel beating. Robertson was able to complete the race, although two laps down.
The top six in each class were inverted for the second grid. This left Priest in pole position. Concerned over a technical issue, however, he decided not to take up position at the front of the field but elected a rolling start. Pinard lead the pack for the first lap, before a very determined Van der Linde took the lead.
Van der Linde went on to win from Taylor, with Groenewald third. Stephen and Priest came in fourth and fifth place respectively. Sipuka finished sixth, ahead of Pitamber and Mayer.
Pinard finished ninth place after pit stop on lap two.
The partially inverted grid left Joubert at the front of the Class T pack. Van Rooyen managed to steal the lead from rookie Joubert, while Formato claimed second and Bonafede third. Race position seemed decided until drama struck during the last lap. Van Rooyen's Opel lost a wheel and he crashed. Formato took the lead, only to lose it a corner later after getting tangled up with Mayer.
This allowed Bonafede the win, with Joubert second for his first Production Car podium.
Formato recovered and finished in third, with Duminy in fourth and Robertson in fifth place. Race one winner, Nathan, suffered technical issues and finished in sixth.
Lap times from race two dictated the grid placement for the third race, which allowed Van der Linde to take pole position. At the end of the first lap, Stephen retired from the race which allowed Taylor to move up to second place. A minor shunt allowed Taylor to seize the lead. Sipuka finished in third, ahead of Groenewald and Priest. Pinard finished sixth, ahead of rookie Pitamber who managed to finish all three races.
Formato raced to victory in Class T. Nathan held onto second place for most of the race, but lost his position due to tyre change. This allowed Duminy to take second place and Robertson to finish in third. Joubert finished two laps down after making a pit stop, whilst Bonafede retired due to boost issues. Van Rooyen only completed one lap after the damage from his race two accident proved too much for his Opel.
The next round of the Super Series will be at Killarney, Cape Town on March 31 2012.
Anthony Taylor 36
Etienne van der linde 34
Hennie Groenewald 25
Michael Stephen 18
Tschops Sipuka 16
Melvill Priest 15
Richared Pinard 10
Kishoor Pitamber 8
John Mayer 1
Gary Formato 27
Graeme Nathan 22
Shaun Duminy 20
Gennaro Bonafede 18
Jacques Joubert 14
Devin Robertson 14
Michael van Rooyen 4