DOUBLE HOMETOWN DELIGHT FOR MOKOENA AND SIPUKA IN SA ENDURANCE CHAMPIONSHIP
SA ENDURANCE CHAMPIONSHIP – RD 3 AND 4
EAST LONDON GRAND PRIX CIRCUIT – 22 – 23 JULY
The Southern African Endurance series delivered two thrilling SA Endurance Championship races to a large crowd of enthusiastic spectators over a two-day Winter Motorsport Festival in East London this weekend.
Kwanda Mokoena and Tschops Sipuka claimed a popular double victory in rounds three and four of the South African Endurance Championship at the East London Grand Prix Circuit.
The pair, who both hail from the Eastern Cape, powered their Amandla Coal/MJR Motorsport Audi R8 GT4 to close-fought victories, the first for 18-year-old Mokoena, who moves to the top of the championship standings. In round three, they were 40 seconds to the good after four hours of racing, and a narrow 15 seconds ahead when the chequered flag fell in Saturday’s race.
SAE Round 3:
Qualifying saw Jeffrey Kruger and Riaan Botma plant their Auto Investments Ligier JS-53 Evo on pole by 0.037 seconds from Hein and Henk Lategan’s box-fresh BBR Racing Porsche 992 GT3. Mokoena/Sipuka took third, two seconds adrift of the front row but 0.12 seconds ahead of Sun Moodley’s Bigfoot Express Mercedes-AMG.
Steve Clark/Brian Martin headed Class C in their Backdraft Slingshot while Class D saw Mikaeel Pitamber/Kashen Naicker (Creative Ink Alfa Romeo Guilia) sneak ahead of the Kalex Volkswagen Polo of Trevor Bland/Karah Hill.
The Class E Backdraft brigade was headed by the Pple and Adapt car of Phillip Meyer/Mark Harvey/Dean Wolson, followed by the Trevor Graham/Fabienne Lanz/Jagger Robertson machine.
Riaan Botma scampered into the distance, chased by the Lategan Porsche with Mokoena holding a watching brief in third. The first safety car was deployed after17 minutes when a stray dog entered the track. The first major incident occurred after 55 minutes when Mohammed Dangor (Creative Ink BMW 235i) dropped a wheel onto the grass at the ultra-fast Rifle Bend, bounced across the grass back on to the track where he skated off the road and into a bank at Cocabana Corner.
The Ligier pitted shortly after with alternator troubles, rejoining 14 laps behind the last-placed car after losing 79 minutes conducting repairs, leaving Lategan in the lead.
Trouble befell the Porsche when a power steering alarm went off, so Lategan pitted to reset the system, losing the lead in the process. Their final pitstop was slow, costing two laps to Sipuka, who serenely reeled off the laps. Undaunted, Henk nailed the accelerator to the floor, cutting their deficit from 168 seconds to 40 when the clock ticked past the four-hour mark.
Jeffrey Kruger, having set the fastest lap time three seconds quicker than his qualifying lap, retired the Ligier after it ran its bearings, leaving the Auto Investments team to change the engine for the next race.
Third fell to the Morgenrood trio of Benjamin, Crisjan and Ben Sr (Morgenrood Ford and Mazda Backdraft) after a steady drive, taking Class E honours in the process. Trevor Graham, Fabienne Lanz and Jagger Robertson brought their Backdraft home in fourth place, ahead of Harm/Barend Pretorius (Team Pesty Backdraft) who lost two laps during a pitstop due to a stuck refuelling nozzle.
Class D honours went to Trevor Bland/Karah Hill (Kalex Volkswagen Polo) with a fine sixth overall followed by Team Qhubani’s Backdraft driven by Fikile Holomisa/Baphumze Rubuluza and guest driver Miles Downward.
Collin Ellison (Titan Historic F1 Racing Backdraft) was partnered by Arnold Neveling, ending eighth overall after suffering a small fire caused by leaking power steering oil. They beat the Pple and Adapt Backdraft of Phillip Meyer, Mark Harvey and Dean Wolson, who spent 58 minutes in the pits repairing a broken gearbox.
Steve Clark/Brian Martin retired their Backdraft Slingshot after a major mechanical issue, while Mikaeel Pitamber/Kashen Naicker retired their Alfa with a broken gearbox.
SAE Round 4:
The grid was formed based on fastest lap times from the previous race, leaving Kruger/Botma on pole from the Lategan Porsche, Mokoena/Sipuka, Moodley, Clark/Mike McLaughlin and the rest of the pack.
The Ligier team was uncertain if their replacement engine would last and contemplated retiring the car, but Kruger’s out lap convinced the team to continue.
Under a cloudy dawn sky, Kruger took an immediate lead from Lategan’s Porsche. Sipuka slotted into third ahead of the Clark Slingshot. Ellison, partnered by Chris Radloff, took the early Class E lead from the father and son Pretorius Backdraft.
Two laps in, the Morgenrood Backdraft suffered a snapped throttle cable, which cost 11 laps to repair. Later, a lightning fast stop was needed to fix a door that wouldn’t stay shut. The Backdraft dramas continued when the Pple and Adapt car stopped after half an hour with a blown motor; a similar fate befell the Graham/Lanz/Robertson version later in the race.
One hour into the race, Kruger and Lategan were embroiled in a colossal fight for the lead, running less than a second apart as they fought, passing and re-passing each other. 20 minutes later, Henk pitted, leaving Kruger in the lead. It was another slow stop for the BBR Porsche, four minutes elapsed before Hein got going once more, dropping to fourth behind Sipuka and McLaughlin.
After 90 minutes of racing, Botma lead Lategan by 39 seconds, with Mokoena in third, the top three separated by just 45 seconds. The Ligier was ailing and soon Lategan was in the lead, followed by Mokoena, with Botma clinging on to third after Clark also had to pit for repairs.
Kruger went out and brought the car back to the pits with 35 minutes to go, saying it was undriveable. The problem was traced to a loose earth wire, which once fixed, put the car back on song and retain their hard fought podium finish.
The McLaughlin/Clark Slingshot remained in fourth, with Ellison holding onto fifth to claim Class E and Index of performance honours. The Pesty Racing Backdraft was stuck in fifth gear over the last 45 minutes of the race but claimed sixth overall and second in class. Team Qhubani survived a broken fuel tank bracket to take the final Class E podium place and seventh overall ahead of the troubled Morgenrood crew.
Mikaeel Pitamber retired his Stradale Lamborghini Gallardo GT3 with suspected fuel pump issues after several trips to the pits before succumbing for good at the side of the track.
The Winter Motorsport Festival featured a number of firsts for SAES: once racing was complete, the main straight was turned into a Street to Strip drag racing venue, while a show-and-shine and SAES Meet-and-Greet kept the crowd entertained after dark, while a jumping castle arena kept the kids happy.
The early morning start for the second SA Endurance race was another first, mimicking the famous Bathurst 12-hour race, starting in the dark and racing into daylight, a new challenge for the competitors. The SAES Motorsport Festival concept will be refined and improved going forward, giving motorsport fans another family-orientated entertainment option.
Images: David Ledbitters
Issued by Eric Buijs (Media Manager SAES)
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