Grobler finishes the year in style
With eight wins, from twenty starts, no retirements and two fourth places, as his worst results for the year, Symm Grobler (Auto Mecca Rhema 2) rounded off the 2004 South African National Formula Vee Championship in style, by winning both heats, of the final round at Phakisa. In a highly competitive category, which produced seven different race winners for the year, some of the credit for this remarkable achievement must also go to Dean Nel, for his immaculate preparation, which ensured Grobler always had not only a quick car but also a one hundred percent reliable car, throughout the year. Having already secured the National Championship Title, at East London two weeks earlier, the pressure was off for the Phakisa race and on the day, everything just fell into place, for Grobler.
Having qualified on pole position, Alan Holm (JBS Laser Sprint Rhema 2) stormed off into the lead, at the start of heat one and soon looked to be heading for an easy victory. Behind him, it was a different story and at the second last corner, of the opening lap, Peter Hills (Vacuform Rhema) was punted into retirement, as teenage ex Karter Trevor Bland (Rhema) sailed past three cars under braking, locked up and collected Hills.
Completing the lap, in second place, was Grobler, followed by Lee Thompson (08X Connect Rhema), Jaco Schricks (JBS Laser Sprint Rhema 2), Jonathan Vilaca (Vision), Bland and Anthony Taylor (Rigidek Rhema 2), with Jorge Pinto, having a one off outing in the Dennis John's Goldco Midas Rhema, making his way through from the back, after starting from the pit lane. Up front things where pretty static, in the early stages but Taylor and Bland where involved in a hectic duel, while the Cartmell brothers, Claude and Kevin (Rand Brake Stings), where being hounded by Bobby Nel (Lantis), with Gareth Jackson (JBS Laser Sprint Sting) closing in on them as well.
Out front Holm appeared to be dominating the race but with just on four laps to go, he was battling to select fourth gear down the back straight. By the end of the lap, Grobler and Thompson where noticeably closer and it was obvious that Holm had a problem. Having lost the use of fourth gear, he was not about to give up and held onto the lead for another couple of laps, revving the engine well beyond normal limits, down the straight. Once Grobler had passed him, he hung on grimly, to finish in second place 0,485 of a second behind Grobler and 0,302 of a second ahead of Thompson. They where followed home by Schriks, Vilaca, Bland, Taylor, Pinto, Kyle Bennett (Rhema) and Claude Cartmell, after Kevin Cartmell had retired, having cooked his motor, with a lap to go.
Nel and Jackson also failed to make it to the line. Under braking for Turn Four, the right front wheel of Jackson's car climbed over the left driveshaft, of Nel's car and lodged it's self between the driveshaft and the trailing arms. Locked together, they both slid off into the gravel trap, while development driver Kearn Francis had also retired earlier on, when the steering column of his Rhema broke!
Heat two produced good close racing up front, with Holm and Grobler locked in battle and swapping places on a regular basis, while not far behind, first Hills and Thompson and then Thompson and Schriks where also locked in battle, the two of them disputing not only the position but third place in the Championship as well, with only one point separating them going into the final race of the year. The battle was even closer, between Taylor and Vilaca, so close that the two of them almost came to grief, under braking for Turn One, just after half distance. Vilaca then lost touch, as Taylor settled into sixth place, behind Holm, Grobler Hills, Schriks and Thompson.
Further back, Bland and Pinto where also locked in battle, as where Claude Cartmell and Jackson. Then almost simultaneously, disaster struck both Holm and Schriks, the latter retiring, after running the bearings of his motor, while Holm had picked up a problem with the rear suspension and the back of the car was dragging on the ground, as he slid back down the field.
Then with just over two laps to go, Hills went straight on, at the final corner of the lap, when the steering wheel came off in his hands! Fortunately, he managed to clip it back on before he reached the tyre wall and came bouncing back across the grass, to rejoin between Taylor and Vilaca. Compounding Holm's problem, during the final lap, was an inability to select any gears and he lost even more positions, as Grobler came home, to win the race 0,441 of a second ahead of Thompson. They where followed home by Taylor, Hills, Vilaca. Bland, Pinto, Bennett, Holm, Claude Cartmell, Jackson and Francis, scoring his first National Championship point.