ASTON MARTIN AND LIGIER SHARE SA ENDURANCE HONOURS AT ALDO SCRIBANTE
Review: SA Championship Rounds 5 AND 6
Aldo Scribante Raceway, Gqeberha, 30 September – 1 October
Kwanda Mokoena and Hein Lategan are still locked in a titanic fight for the SA Endurance Championship following rounds five and six held at Aldo Scribante Raceway in Gqeberha this weekend. Two points separate the two title rivals after six hours of hard racing set to the vibrant beat of Jesse Clegg, GoodLuck and DJ Zain SA who formed part of the SAES Spring Motorsport Festival.
Michael Stephen and Paul Hill made a welcome return to racing in their Kalex Aston Martin Vantage GT3 and dominated round five, while Nick Adcock, Michael Jensen and Mikaeel Pitamber powered their AidCall Ligier-Honda JS 53 to victory in round six which was run in complete darkness.
Practice and Qualifying:
Riaan Botma set the pace in qualifying, planting his Auto Investments Ligier-Honda JS-53 on pole with a lap time of 57.73 seconds, 0.27 seconds quicker than the AidCall 247/RicoBarlowRacing Ligier-Honda JS53 Evo of Nick Adcock, Michael Jensen and Mikaeel Pitamber.
Michael Stephen/Paul Hill took third in their Kalex Aston Martin Vantage GT3 with a time of 58.4 seconds, 0.68 seconds clear of Mike McLoughlin/Steve Clark in their new Backdraft Slingshot.
The third row saw Charl Arangies/Arnold Neveling (Pagid/Stradale Lamborghini Gallardo GT3) head off Hein Lategan/Verissimo Tavares (BBR Porsche 992 GT3 Cup).
The championship leader Kwanda Mokoena partnered once again with his uncle Tschops Sipuka, lined up 7th in their Amandla Coal/MJR Motorsport Audi R8 GT4 with Roelf du Plessis (Ultimate Outlaws Chev Lumina) for company.
The V8 monster was part of a Southern African Endurance Series experiment to test the feasibility of introducing a new SAE V8 class next season.
David/Roberto Franco and Danie van Niekerk headed class D in their Graphix Supply World Volkswagen Polo with Mohamed Dangor/Kishoor Pitamber, entered in a brand new Creative Ink Volkswagen Golf GTi, alongside them.
The Class E Backdraft championship-within-a-championship was led by Team Pesty’s Harm/Barend Pretorius followed by multiple Mobil V8 champion Mackie Adlem/Rudi Barnard. Benjamin and Ben Morgenrood (Morgenrood Motors Group), Collin Ellison/Andrew Horne (Titan Historic F1), Anand Pather/Mario de Sousa, Craig Czank/Les Marshall and Team Qhuabani’s Fikile Holomisa/Baphumze Rubuluza rounded out the grid.
During the practice sessions, the Creative Ink Golf required new engine mountings and an engine swap while Team Qhubani’s Backdraft required a new driveshaft. Team Pesty was forced to replace their gearbox.
Botma led the field during the opening ten minutes, closely followed by Pitamber, the pair of Ligiers quickly opening a gap to the Aston Martin. Pitamber slipped past Botma for the lead but was forced to retire after 12 laps with no fuel pressure.
Shortly after, Botma pitted his Ligier with an electrical problem which ultimately forced their retirement after 69 laps.
Hill took the lead which he and Stephen built up at a frenetic pace, crossing the line four laps ahead of Lategan and Tavares, who once again had a huge fight with Mokoena and Sipuka and Arangies’ Lamborghini.
The new Backdraft Slingshot was also in the thick of the action until the brand new car retired with an engine management issue. With 45 minutes remaining, Arangies suffered a blown engine which caused a lengthy safety car period as the oil was mopped up and leaving Mokoena/Sipuka to cruise to third position overall.
Team Pesty headed the Backdraft fleet for 45 minutes until the car got stuck in fifth gear but the pair soldiered on, adapting their driving style to suit their new circumstances and were rewarded with a stunning fourth overall and Class E honours, ahead of the Roberto brothers’/Van Niekerk Polo.
The Morgenrood father and son team (Crisjan was absent as he was writing exams) ended sixth, ahead of Adlem/Barnard who suffered an electrical issue which caused multiple pitstops. Holomisa/Rubuluza ended eighth overall ahead of De Sousa/Pather’s roadster.
The Creative Ink Golf – with a late call-up for Polo Cup racer Clinton Bezuidenhout to join the squad – retired with a down on power engine.
Ellison/Horne suffered a broken tie-rod end which saw Horne arrive at the hairpin – backwards. The following drivers just managed to squeeze past the stricken Backdraft with Team Pesty taking to the gravel in avoidance.
Czank/Marshall had a failed clutch after a spring worked loose and jammed it, causing another retirement in a race of attrition.
Mokoena/Sipuka took the Index of Performance honours ahead of Lategan and Tavares.
The six-hour race was split in half at the competitor’s request, so the grid lined up as they had crossed the line at the three-hour mark.
Paul Hill was nursing a sore shoulder and elected not to start while the Rico Barlow crew was still frantically finishing the repair job on the Ligier, which was traced to a chafed wire leading to the fuel pump which caused a dead short. The team had to trace the problem, then remove the petrol tank, remove the fuel pump, build a new wiring harness, put it all back together and re-calibrate the sensors.
The job was finished two laps after the start of the race but after 35 minutes of scintillating driving, Pitamber had the Ligier in the lead, which Adcock and Jensen held to the end. They finished one lap ahead of the Mokoena/Sipuka Audi, which had a tyre blowout 10 minutes into the race.
As the race unfolded, Tavares – racing for the first time in the dark – started making mistakes and came in for a driver change and full service including new tyres and a full tank of fuel. Moments later, the repaired Botma/Kruger Ligier blew its motor so the safety car was deployed while the marshals mopped up the oil; Sipuka pitted for a quick splash and dash which gave the Audi duo a clear two lap lead over the Lategan/Tavares Porsche by flag fall.
The never-say-die attitude of the Backdraft team saw the return of the old Backdraft Slingshot for Mike McLoughlin/Steve Clark. The car never ran all weekend and wasn’t set up but the duo drove the machine hard and fourth place was their reward.
Class E saw a huge fight between the Backdrafts of Adlem/Barnard, the Pretorius father and son Pesty pair and the father and son Morgenrood crew.
The Pretorius’ requested to start from the back of the grid for safety reasons as the car was still stuck in fifth gear and they were worried that with slow acceleration they could be rammed from behind while everyone was accelerating off the grid.
Adlem prevailed in spite of a puncture, while the fight for second in class boiled down to a five second gap with the Pretorius pair hanging on to second from the Morgenroods.
David and Roberto Franco survived their first ever night race and with Danie van Niekerk brought their Polo home in a solid eighth and class D win. Pather and De Sousa initially held second place in class E but were forced to nurse the car home with a failing clutch, ending ninth overall and fourth in class.
Ellison/Horne and Czank/Marshall, who made up 13 of their 18 lost laps ended 10th and 11th respectively.
Holomisa/Rubuluza faced their first retirement since they started racing after the oil pressure dropped while Dangor/Pitamber Sr retired with a blown engine.
Harm and Barend Pretorius won the Index of performance from McLaughlin and Clark.
The final round of the SA Endurance Championship is the blue-riband Killarney 9-Hour on 9 and 10 December.
For further information, contact the SAES Media Manager Eric Buijs firstname.lastname@example.org