A Nail Biting Start to the 2008 Formula Vee Season The opening round of the 2008 Pro Tour South African National Formula Vee Championship produced two thrilling races, which have set the scene for what could be a monumental battle, for the 2008...
A Nail Biting Start to the 2008 Formula Vee Season
The opening round of the 2008 Pro Tour South African National Formula Vee Championship produced two thrilling races, which have set the scene for what could be a monumental battle, for the 2008 title. Starting from pole position, Peter Hills (Vacuform MLS Brokers Rhema 2) took the lead but at Turn Two, Courtney Steenveld (Indy Oils Rhema 1) and Andre Van Der Merwe (Atlas Dry Cleaning Latis) touched. Van Der Merwe was pitched sideways and T boned by Steenveld, with both cars ending up in the gravel trap. The Safety Car was called out and it picked up the field, at the end of the opening lap. Fortunately, the scene of the accident did not take long to clear and racing recommenced, at the end of the second lap.
Alan Holm (Laser Sprint Rhema 2) did not take long, to make his way past Hills and although Hills shadowed him all the way to the line, Holm stayed in control and looked like he would begin 2008, as he did last year, as the dominant driver in the category. Dennis Johns (Geyser Attorneys Goldco Midas Rhema 2) kept them in sight, throughout the race but was never able to put in a challenge and Holm crossed the line 0.632 of a second, ahead of Hills, with Johns a further 1.482 of a second behind. Trevor Bland (Office Direct Rhema 2) and Jaco Schriks (Laser Sprint Rhema 2) had fought a torrid battle, for fourth place but with a couple of laps to go, Bland's clutch plate annihilated itself and he was out of the race, leaving Schriks to finish fourth, ahead of Symm Grobler (Auto Mecca Rhema 2), Johan Gouws (Computer Assembly Mantis), Doug MacDonald (Fantastic Racing Rhema 1), James Leach (Auto Fair Rhema 1), Zaahir Essa (MSA Rhema 1), Gareth Jackson (Laser Sprint Rhema 2) and Jannie Geyser Jnr (Geyser Attorneys Rhema 2), with newcomer Alan Eustice (Execuline Rhema 2) picking up the final National Championship Point, on his debut in the category, after Nico. Blignaut (Gilus IT SAP Rhema 2), was penalized thirty seconds, for a jump start.
The other newcomers Nicholas Tennant (Tennant Benefit Consultants Tasman), Chandre Kruger (Gilus IT SAP Sting) and Andrei Overbeek (Omega) where all classified as finishers, although Overbeek failed to take the flag, after the car cut out, on the final lap, when the cutout switch fell out. After the race, Van Der Merwe's car was returned to the pits but was too badly damaged to take any further part in the day's proceedings and although a lot of work was done on Steenveld's car, between heats and it was ready to go, it cut out on the warm up lap and also failed to make the start.
A lot of work was also done, on both the Hills car and the Johns car, between heats but for Johns, it was all in vain. A new black box was fitted but it turned out to be from a batch, that had been fitted with a rev limiter! He arrived at the grid punching the steering wheel in frustration and at the drop of the flag, raised his hand to indicate to those behind, that he was going to be slow away from the line. I the race he could not do much about it, as car after car passed him but in the end, he did salvage four valuable Championship Points, for a ninth place finish.
At the front it was however a different story, as Hills and Holm fought out a torrid race long battle, swapping places all around the circuit, at every opportunity. On one lap, they entered the Chicane side by side, with smoke pouring off the tyres and earned an ovation from the appreciative crowd, on the slow down lap. Close enough to see what was going on, was Schriks and he must have had some hope, of capitalizing on the situation, should they have taken one another off. A little further back, the battle involving Essa and Gouws was almost as intense, as the one in front, as they two of them fought a no holds barred race long battle.
In the end, it was however Hills who crossed the line 0,477 of a second, ahead of Holm. Third place went to Schriks, ahead of Grobler, Essa, Gouws, Leach, Jackson, a frustrated Johns, an equally frustrated Bland who had made his way up to fourth place, from the back of the grid but was then penalized thirty seconds, for a jump start, Geyser and Blignaut. MacDonald had been looking at another strong points scoring finish but an incident somewhere around the circuit, saw him lose five places, just before half distance. This put him in touch with Eustice and a close encounter between the two of them, saw Eustice fail to finish, after he was forced to go straight on at the Bowl. He kept the car going, through the gravel trap and onto the grass but then rode into an unseen pond, from the previous weeks heavy rains and drowned the engine.
On race wins, Hills and Holm are all square but it was Hills who took the Championship lead, by the single point allocated for the fastest lap, which he set in the final lap, of the second heat. Up until that point, Holm had the first and second fastest laps of the race but his last lap effort, gave the point to Hills by 0.102 of a second!