INTO AFRICA RACING DOMINATE ZWARTKOPS SA ENDURANCE 4-HOUR CLIFFHANGER
Review: SA Endurance National Championship – Rd 4
Zwartkops Raceway, 21st October
Xolile Letlaka and Stuart White dominated the fourth round of the SA Endurance National Championship held in sweltering conditions at Zwartkops Raceway in Pretoria to take a seven-point lead in the championship with 100 more available from the final round at Kyalami in December.
Stuart White planted the Into Africa Lamborghini Huracan GT3 onto pole with a 57.547 second lap, 1.5 seconds faster than their nearest title challenger Charl Arangies who had to withdraw citing a family emergency. It was later confirmed by a team representative at the circuit on Saturday that because the last round is a double header, it was decided to carry the current 2nd place drop points towards the championship table and drop the Zwartkops round.
White took the lead from the green light and cranked out consistent laps in the 59 second bracket as he built an unassailable lead, in spite of numerous safety car interventions early on in the race.
Once Letlaka got behind the wheel, he maintained the pace until with minutes remaining, he was forced to pit for a splash and dash fuel stop. He made it out of the pits with seconds to spare before the pit lane red light came on, but agonizingly the Lamborghini slowed and virtually stopped at the end of the main straight with just two minutes remaining on the clock.
Letlaka frantically tried to get the Lambo back to life and managed to coax his machine into a semblance of life and crawled around the track, one more time to take the chequered flag in an agonizing time of three minutes 37 seconds!
“My heart was in my mouth for the last two laps”, said the delighted race winner. “It was a close call getting out of the pits in time and then the car gave me a low fuel warning. I’m looking forward to ending the championship at Kyalami. I’m grateful to Stuart and the guys in the workshop.”
Stuart White was also ecstatic to take the championship lead: “I’m over the moon with our win this weekend, keeping our championship dreams alive! Nerve rackingly, a wire caused an electrical fault five minutes before the end that nearly ended our race! Thank you to the incredible Into Africa Racing team and Xolile for the trust and great drive over the weekend. On to the season finale at Kyalami on the 15th – 16th of December!”
Second overall was the Backdraft Slingshot of Steve Clark and Mike McLoughlin who drove a solid race after McLoughlin spun into the gravel on lap 68, almost taking out the Bucketlist Racing VW of Christopher and Anthony Pretorius who was following closely behind. The VW just clipped the Backdraft’s right rear wheel but didn’t cause any lasting damage. The 7-litre-Chevvy-powered monster also delivered a third place in the Index of Performance.
A spectacular third overall and class D win went to the factory Volkswagen Motorsport Polo GTi of Daniel Rowe and Mobil 1 Porsche Cup racer Keagan Masters. Their only issue was a delaminated tyre late in the race with just over half an hour to go.
Fourth overall, second in class D and second in the Index of Performance was the reward for a trouble-free run for the Pretorius brothers and their well-prepared VW Polo GTi.
Fifth overall was Franco di Matteo and newly crowned Mobil V8 Champion Julian Familiaris won Class E and the overall Index of Performance in their di Matteo Racing Backdraft-Lexus after a clean run, leading home the Team Pesty Backdraft of Harm and Barend Pretorius. The Pesty car had gearbox and clutch master cylinder issues in the first 20 minutes of the race, so jammed the car in fourth gear and completed the next three hours and forty minutes with only that gear at their disposal.
There was a heart-stopping moment for the reigning Class E and Index Champions when Barend spun exiting turn eight as the team also had no rear brakes over the final hour, but sixth overall gave the team the lead in the Class E Championship by a single point over Jean-Paul Briner and Anthony Hoare.
The Tradecor Steel Backdraft pair, who were without their third driver brought their car home seventh overall and retain their lead in the overall Index of Performance National Championship.
Fikile Holomisa and Bapi Rubuluza brought their Team Qhubani Backdraft home in eighth position overall, putting aside their troubled season to enjoy a clean run.
Not enjoying a clean run was the Morgenrood trio of Ben Sr, Benjamin and Crisjan, who all had turns at spinning into the gravel. The first happened in the open two dozen laps which forced the closely following Tradecor car to hit the gravel in avoidance.
Crisjan had a spin on lap 80 and another on lap 134 which was later traced to a cracked rim. Ben Senior had a spin in turn two and pitted with 28 minutes remaining to top up his car with water which leaked out of a cracked radiator. The ever-ingenious team used a curry powder mix to block the leak, filled it up with water and nursed the car to the finish.
Gavin Rooke and Mark Owens lost loads of time in the pits conducting CV repairs ending their race in tenth overall.
11th after running consistently in the top five, was the Dolphin Racing entry of Byron Mitchell and Peter van der Spuy, who had an incident-filled race not of their own doing. At their first routine pitstop, the car refused to fire up so was wheeled into the pits to trace the issue.
Worse was to come for when Barend Pretorius spun his Backdraft, it was right in front of Mitchell, who spun in avoidance and clipped the pit wall hard enough to bend the left rear suspension. With smoke pouring off the car, Mitchell headed to the pits and after running repairs, managed to limp home for valuable championship points.
The Angolan pairing of Marcos Rodrigues and Bruno Campos started the weekend on the back foot after their car was late arriving at the circuit, missing most of the Friday free practice sessions. Once on track, the Korridas Racing VW Golf showed good pace but was plagued by a variety of technical issues.
Another welcome entry from SA’s norther border was the Stylin Auto Racing Volkswagen Polo GTi of Darren Winterboer and his 17-year old teammate Dylan Pragji from Zimbabwe. The team had a solid race until a fire broke out at the rear of the car as a result of fuel leaking through a breather pipe and wisely retired their car.
Fabienne Lanz and Reghardt van Zyl retired their VW Golf after a troubled weekend plagued with technical issues, while Philip Meyer and Mark Harvey retired their PPLE/Adapt Backdraft in a cloud of steam caused by a suspected blown head gasket.
The Kalex VW Polo entry of Karah Hill and Jurie Swart also endured a tough weekend on Friday and were forced to retire their car with electrical issues.
SAGT NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP
Zwartkops delivered one of the most exciting SAGT Races of the season when the championship leader Michael Stephen came under enormous pressure from the defending champion Silvio Scribante and his bright yellow Cemza Cement Lamborghini Huracan GT3.
While Stephen, chasing his 19th National Championship blasted his Ultimate Outlaws Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo around the 2.4km circuit in a time of 59.16 seconds to claim pole position, the writing was on the wall for he was showed every inch of the way by Scribante who was a shade slower with a time of 59.342 seconds or 0.18 seconds behind the champion designate.
Aldo Scribante slotted his sister Scribante Concrete Lamborghini Huracan GT3 into third ahead of Sun Moodley’s Bigfoot Express Mercedes-AMG GT3, running in the ProAm class.
With one race cancelled due to force majeure, the single SA GT race started and ran with the first hour of the SA Endurance race, making for a very busy track for the leaders to pick their way past the slower machinery.
Silvio muscled his way past Stephen who had the hole shot off the line and held off the Audi driver until the wily multiple champion found his way past. An early safety car allowed Silvio to close right up on Stephen and it was game on as the fighting pair went door-to-door as they fought for the lead. The two dueling cars used all the road and more with the gap at 0.6 seconds with 15 laps remaining.
Silvio got his elbows out and barged past Stephen in a bold move under braking into turn two and led the Audi but three corners later, as the Silvio exited turn six, Stephen tagged the Lamborghini and spun Silvio around, settling the duel in one fell swoop. The incident was deemed a racing incident so Stephen took maximum points from Silvio, with Aldo Scribante trailing home in third (but was entered in the SAE One-Hour Dash, giving Moodley the Pro-Am win and third overall.
SAES was proud to host the all-new Volkswagen Rookie Cup and Silvercup 2.0 as part of their entertaining race programme.
Dhivyen Naidoo took the first race in his Polo Vivo Gt from seasoned factory driver Jonathan Mogotsi and Brad Liebenberg, the latter two first and second in the GTC SupaCup Championship.
Kyle Visser took line honours in race two from Naidoo and Mogotsi with Visser repeating his win in the third race from Naidoo and Bjorn Bertholdt.
In the Silvercup 2.0 races, Marius Jacobs took the first win in his Opel Tigra from Karen Stols’ ear-splitting Mazda RX7. Jacobs made it two wins in the second race followed by Giulio Airaga and Shaun Lamprecht.
The final round of the SA Endurance National Championship is the SAES: Nine Hours of Kyalami takes place at Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit on 15 and 16 December. The final two rounds of the SA GT National Champion will settle the title at the same event, while several support classes have been confirmed for the SAES’ season-ending grand finale.