TRIUMPH AT KILLARNEY: Graeme Nathan smiles after clinching another Class T title behind the wheel of his VW Golf GTI. Image: Paul Bedford
KILLARNEY, Cape Town - The premier Bridgestone Production Car series had an action-packed afternoon at Cape Town’s Killarney circuit on September 27, as both Johan Fourie and reigning champion Michael Stephen realised that the championship would go down to the wire.
Roll on Zwartkops on November 1… Can Stephen make it an unprecedented four-in-a-row or can Fourie finally wrestle the title away from the Port Elizabeth engineer?
CLINCHING THE CLASS T TITLE
Graeme Nathan was feeling content, too, though it was harder work – at least off the circuit.
A gearbox change was required to get his VW Golf GTI back on the grid after a dominant sprint race win from pole position. As the log leader he started the 12 lap feature race from the back of the grid.
He fought through from the fourth row after a thrilling battle with Ford’s Shaun Duminy (and others) to eventually finish second, despite an uncharacteristic off-road excursion at the end of the main straight.
That was enough to clinch yet another Class T title for the towering 45-year-old – and richly-deserved it was. You need to get up very early to beat Nathan and his band of merry men based at a busy little workshop in the shadow of Kyalami’s control tower…
Fourie, immensely popular with his home crowd, won the sprint race at a canter and had a car which barely needed touching between races. As the log leader he also started from the back of the grid in the feature race.
CLASS A THRILLER
Class A was also a thriller with cars three abreast at times as a half-dozen top racers in SA duked it out. There was some paint swopped along the way and once again Fourie’s main adversary as he progressed through the field was Simon Moss (Audi S4), whose reputation as a tough competitor was firmly cemented after less than a season in the category.
Needless to say, the only driver who gave Fourie easy passage was Gavin Cronje in the second BMW 335i, also playing hard but fair as he denied Stephen an easy ride to the front.
He too ended second (three seconds behind Stephen) and will head to Zwartkops in November 2014 with an 11-point advantage.
The feature race was nothing like Fourie’s easy progress in the earlier seven-lap sprint, as a result of a first corner action which happened behind his BMW 335i.
STEPHEN, GROENEWALD CRASH
Stephen and the Hennie Groenewald (Audi S4) attempted to share the same piece of track. By the time they had got themselves disentangled Fourie was untouchable.
Nathan lead the charge with Michael van Rooyen slotting in behind. Or that’s how it was supposed to be but all hell broke loose when Charl Smalberger punted Van Rooyen as he turned into Hoals Hoek, the Chevrolet Cruze heading outside of the track and onto a piece of tarmac occupied by the luckless Lee Thompson (Mini).
He was eliminated on the spot, while the Chevrolet limped to the pits and then re-joined, eventually classified sixth. The second green and red Mini of Mandla Mdakane had a quiet race by his recent standards, and he was fifth.
A post-meeting review of the incident between Groenewald and Stephen saw their positions reversed, Groenewald demoted to third and Stephen moved to second.
It was the culmination of a tough weekend for the Sasolracing outfit, the highlight of which was a front-row start for Groenewald, who had plugged away on his set-up on Friday (September 26) to have the car perfect for Saturday morning’s qualifying session.
The second car blue and yellow Audi, piloted by Gennaro Bonafede, had his qualifying compromised by clutch issues , and the rest of the day was just not quite there – though the youngster was always in the thick of the action. Groenewald experienced a gearbox niggle in the feature race to be classified last in class.
Click here for full race result