GIVING CHASE: Gennaro Bonafede and Hennie Groenewald in the Audi S4s try to overtake Gavin Cronje in his BMW 335i during Round 6 of the Bridgestone Production Cars championship at Zwartkops on August 30. Image: Paul Bedford
ZWARTKOPS, Gauteng – Round 6 of the South Africa Production Car championship at Zwartkops on August 30 gave an enthusiastic crowd some first-class racing.
By the end of the day the advantage of Class A log leader Johan Fourie (BMW 335i) had been eroded somewhat, while in Class T a series of events saw frontrunner Graeme Nathan (Golf GTI) leave Zwartkops with his points lead also reduced – but not by a significant amount.
In the first race a well-judged start by pole-starter Michael Stephen (Audi S4) gave him a head start from which he never looked back. Behind him a thrilling duel developed between Gavin Cronje (BMW 335i), Gennaro Bonafede and Hennie Groenewald (Audi S4s), with Simon Moss (Audi S4) and Johan Fourie in a second BMW dicing a little further back.
Bonafede was in determined form but fell back as his engine lost power when an air intake was crushed as he ran into the back of Cronje; Moss – proving as hard to overtake as his father was 20-odd years ago – quit with an engine problem.
Groenewald scraped past Cronje, with Fourie closing in on his team mate, glad to have seen Moss exit. Cronje was slowing with a puncture and Fourie easily passed the similar red car, setting the fastest lap of the race in the process. By the time the flag came out Stephen was seven seconds ahead and could have been second forr Groenewald became fifth when he was penalised 30 seconds for overtaking under a yellow flag.
Fourie inherited second and, with a bonus point for fastest lap, Stephen only closed the deficit in the overall standings by three points.
The Class T action started through the very first turn. Nathan and Michael van Rooyen (Chevrolet Cruze) clashed and Nathan slid into the kitty litter. However, it was a thin Class T field, with both Minis missing: Lee Thompson crashed his car irreparably on Friday and Mandla Mdakane's gearbox developed a serious leak en route to the grid…
Van Rooyen thus led the T-pack, Focus STs of Gary Formato and Shaun Duminy in pursuit., Nathan joined at the back but his Chev was battling with braking issues and remarkably, Nathan recovered to regain the lead on Lap 8, while Formato was back up to second by the flag as Van Rooyen slipped down the order, just managing to hold off Duminy.
Race two started with Groenewald determining the pace. This time around he was in no mood to be denied and turned up the wick from early on to make his escape. Once again a tight, no-holds-barred dice developed behind him with Cronje now holding off Bonafede and Stephen.
Slightly further back Moss and Fourie were going at it again but Moss eventually out-braked himself, leaving Fourie – complaining of poor traction – to try to close on the trio ahead.
Along the way plenty of paint was swopped, with Bonafede extremely unhappy at the way Stephen took third from him with a controversial out-braking manoeuvre into the final corner of the lap.
Stephen’s bronze became silver when Cronje suffered an ABS malady, going off the circuit at the hairpin and eventually stopping and resetting the system – which cured the problem. He rejoined to finish last in class… what should’ve been two second places became a lean day indeed.
Class T wasn’t short of action either, with Mdakane grabbing an early lead in his Mini, getting past Duminy on Lap 2. It didn’t last long though and Formato soon took charge, leaving Duminy to fend off Nathan’s best efforts.
Once ahead Nathan set off after his arch-rival, the youngster in the Mini and the veteran in the Golf already having something of a chequered history. This time round it didn’t end controversially and Nathan was forced to slow – having passed the Mini cleanly - when the left front tyre gave up the ghost after 12 hard laps.
Mdakane re-took second, though his car was trailing smoke.
They finished in that order, well behind Formato. Nathan was however promoted to second when Mdakane’s car was found to have exceeded its maximum allowable boost by some margin, his exclusion promoting Van Rooyen to third and Duminy to fourth.