By Colin Windell
Nissan scored a brace of 1-2 victories in a dream finish to what was not only the final rounds of the 2000 Bankfin Touring Car Championship, but was also the last event in the eight-year history of the formula in South Africa.
BP Nissan Dealer Team's Giniel de Villiers, the 2000 champion, and Duncan Vos each scored a win in their Primeras while Marco da Cunha won his first Procar Challenge for privateers in his BP Nissan Dealer Team Primera from team-mate and outgoing champion George Bezuidenhout.
Giniel de Villiers (BP Nissan Dealer Team Primera) took full advantage of his pole position to lead the penultimate race of the series from lights to flag and record his 10th win of the year.
Team-mates Duncan Vos and Mark Peters held second and third places ahead of Silvio Scribante (Petronas Syntium Opel Vectra) for the first two-thirds of the race before Peters and Scribante clashed in Continental corner on lap 11. While Vos went on to finish a comfortable second, Peters dropped to the back of the field and then crashed out of the race when a front tyre blew in the fast Sabat sweep on lap 13. Scribante finished sixth.
Deon Joubert was third in his works Opel Vectra after getting the best of a four-car battle for fifth during the early part of the race, involving the Opel of team-mate Shaun Watson-Smith, Shaun van der Linde's BMW 318i and Terry Moss's Engen Audi A4.
Watson-Smith dropped out on lap 14 with a blown engine, while Van der Linde and Moss clashed in the banked Vodacom corner on lap 12, leaving Moss in a secure fourth place and dropping the BMW driver to fifth at the finish. He was passed by brother Etienne in the second works BMW as he recovered from his incident with Moss, but repassed Etienne when he spun in Continental corner on the final lap.
Moss was later penalised five seconds for his part in the incident with Van der Linde, dropping him to fifth behind the BMW driver. Anthony Taylor retired his works Audi on lap two after experiencing gearbox problems.
Richard Sorensen (Safeline BMW 320i) recorded his second Procar win of the season when he led the privateer class throughout the race to finish eighth overall. Marco da Cunha (BP Nissan Dealer Team Primera) increased his championship lead over team-mate and defending champion George Bezuidenhout to 10 points after finishing second.
Bezuidenhout, carrying 50 kg of 'success' weight as a result of his win in the last round in East London and hampered by an engine misfire, fought off a determined challenge from Brian Martin (Caltex Havoline Toyota Corolla) to finish third.
Irshad Jaffer (Vodacom/Bankfin Nissan Primera) ran a strong second for the first five laps before dropping back with a gearbox problem and eventually retiring on lap 10.
The final race in the eight-year history of the South African touring car championship was a fitting triumph for the all-conquering works Nissans, with Vos taking his first victory of the season ahead of a charitable De Villiers. Shaun van der Linde was a distant third to give BMW its first podium finish in 12 races.
Da Cunha won the Procar category to secure the privateer championship ahead of outgoing champion Bezuidenhout, who battled throughout the final race with a broken front suspension.
It was not a pretty finale to the Bankfin Touring Car Championship. An incident in the first corner of the first lap caused a chain reaction that involved at least five cars and resulted in the safety car leading the field for two laps from lap four, extending the race distance to 17 laps.
All three works Opels visited the pits after first lap incidents and others affected by the mayhem were Taylor (whose Audi suffered an unscheduled wheel alignment adjustment) and the Nissan of Peters.
While De Villiers and Vos led the field from a comfortable distance, swopping the lead on several occasions before Vos finally prevailed, Shaun van der Linde found himself in a lonely third ahead of a spirited battle between Moss (Audi) and Etienne van der Linde in the second BMW. Moss was fourth and Van der Linde fifth as they started the final lap, but they clashed in the first corner and finally finished sixth and seventh respectively.
Taylor soldiered on to finish a creditable fourth ahead of Da Cunha in the first Procar. Jaffer was second in the privateer category despite battling with the handling of his Primera, and John Craig was third in his Nissan Sentra.
Watson-Smith was 11th and a lap down in the highest-placed Opel, with team-mates Joubert and Scribante 13th and 14th respectively, two laps and four laps down.
<pre> SOUTH AFRICAN TOURING CAR CHAMPIONSHIP, ROUNDS 19 & 20, KILLARNEY (ZA), 2 x 15 LAPS, 98 KM, OCT 28,
Race 1 1 Giniel de Villiers (Nissan) 19m 41,28s; 2 Duncan Vos (Nissan) 19m 48,42s; 3 Deon Joubert (Opel) 19m 52,99s; 4 Shaun van der Linde (BMW) 20m 00,04s; 5 Terry Moss (Audi) 20m 00,47s; 6 Silvio Scribante (Opel) 20m 03,64s; 7 Etienne van der Linde (BMW) 20m 09,55s; 8 Richard Sorensen (BMW) 20, 01,41s; 9 Marco da Cunha (Nissan) 20m 06,03s; 10 George Bezuidenhout (Nissan) 20m 08,19s. Fastest lap: De Villiers, 1 min 17,71 sec.
Race 2 1 Duncan Vos (Nissan) 24m 18,41s; 2 Giniel De Villiers (Nissan) 24m 18,72s; 3 Shaun van der Linde (BMW) 24m 25,63s; 4 Anthony Taylor (Audi) 25m 26,05s; 5 Marco Da Cunha (Nissan) 25m 56,02s; 6 Terry Moss (Audi) 16 laps; 7 Etienne van der Linde (BMW) 16 laps; 8 Irshad Jaffer (Nissan) 16 laps; 9 John Craig (Nissan) 16 laps; 10 Richard Sorensen (BMW) 16 laps; 11 Shaun Watson-Smith (Opel) 16 laps; 12 George Bezuidenhout (Nissan) 16 laps; 13 Deon Joubert (Opel) 15 laps; 14 Silvio Scribante (Opel) 13 laps. Peters (Nissan) and Martin (Toyota) were not classified as finishers, completing nine and two laps respectively. Fastest lap: Vos, 1m 17,98s.
FINAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS (after 20 rounds)
1 Giniel de Villiers (Nissan Primera) 262; 2 Shaun Watson-Smith (Opel Vectra) 182; 3 Duncan Vos (Nissan Primera) 157; 4 Deon Joubert (Opel Vectra) 155; 5 Anthony Taylor (Audi A4) 121; 6 Mark Peters (Nissan Primera) 117; 7 Shaun van der Linde (BMW 318i) 108; 8 Terry Moss (Audi A4) 86; 9 Marco dos Santos (BMW 318i) 40; 10 Marco da Cunha (Nissan Primera) 34; 11 Silvio Scribante (Opel Vectra) 28; 12 Neil Stephen (Audi A4) and George Bezuidenhout (Nissan Primera) 20; 14 Gary Formato (Nissan Primera) 18; 15 Richard Sorensen (BMW 320i) 16; 16 Etienne van de Linde (BMW 318i) 15; 17 Colin Hastie (Nissan Primera) 14; 18 Irshad Jaffer (Nissan Primera) 6.
1 Nissan 588; 2 Opel 338; 3 Audi 220; 4 BMW 171.
1 Marco da Cunha (Nissan Primera) 268; 2 George Bezuidenhout (Nissan Primera) 249; 3 Richard Sorensen (BMW 320i) 138; 4 Irshad Jaffer (Nissan Primera) 101; 5 Brian Martin (Toyota Corolla) 87; 6 AJ Taylor (Nissan Sentra) 83; 7 Colin Hastie (Nissan Primera) 75.