Bland Shows The Way
The final round of the 2008 South African National Formula Vee Championship, run at the Pro Tour Investchem Race Day at Kyalami, proved to be the perfect weekend, for Trevor Bland (Office Direct Waxoyl Rhema 2). On Friday afternoon, he qualified on pole position, for the first time in his Formula Vee career and followed that up, with his first win, on Saturday morning. Then for the second heat, the rain came down but even Formula Vee's established rainmeister Peter Hills (Vacuform MLS Brokers Rhema 2), could not prevent Bland, from securing an unblemished, lights to flag victory and first place overall for the day.
In the first heat, Bland had to fight off the challenges, of ex Champion Hills and the newly crowned 2008 National Champion, Dennis Johns (Geyser Attorneys Rhema 2), while toward the back, young Chandre Kruger (Gilus IT SAP Sting) spun at Turn Eleven and got himself stuck in the gravel trap. Some efficient work by the marshals, got him out and on his way again, before the field came through to complete the second lap. Then, during the third lap of the race, small mistakes from both Bland and Hills, saw Johns take both of them in one corner, to take the lead, from Hills and Bland. Soon after that, Johan Gouws (Computer Assemblies Mantis) exited the race in dramatic fashion. Turning into Turn Six, Gouws touched wheels with Symm Grobler (Auto Mecca Rhema 2) and was pitched into the gravel trap, as one of his rear wheels climbed up and over one of Grobler's front wheels.
Already up to fourth place, was the young development driver Courtney Steenveld (Indy Oils NLDTF Rhema 2), who had started from the back of the grid, after missing qualifying due to a matric exam on Friday, which meant that he was only able to fly up from Cape Town, on Friday evening. Ahead of him, Bland was fighting back and passed Hills, just after half distance and then, when Johns picked up a steering problem, Bland moved back into the lead, followed by Hills and Steenveld. A little further back, Ben Pienaar (BJ Pro Welding Rhema 2) was closing in on Grobler, as was Alan Holm (Rhema 1), while a quick spin by Hugo Walendorf (BJ Pro Welding Lantis), at Turn Eleven, saw him rejoin without losing a position. Out front, it was however Bland, in total control, as he soaked up the pressure, from the veteran Hills and he went on to secure his first Formula Vee victory, ahead of Hills and Steenveld. Fourth place, went to the other development driver, Zaahir Essa (NLDTF Rhema 1) and he was followed home, by Johns, Pienaar, Grobler, Holm, Jannie Geyser Snr (Geyser Attorneys Vision), Alan Eustice (Execuline Rhema 2), Walendorf and James Evans (Gilus IT SAP Tasman), after Jannie Geyser Jnr (Geyser Attornies Rhema 2) had disappeared, from ninth place, when he failed to complete the final lap of the race.
The second heat, started in the wet and the rain continued to fall throughout the race. There where a few spins but only Grobler ended his race in the gravel trap, after sliding backwards off the circuit, at Turn Eleven, while running third. Earlier, Gouws had a lucky escape, when he spun coming out of Turn Eleven but managed to keep the car from hitting the pit wall and was able to resume. Pienaar also spun early on and then had a trip through the Turn Eleven gravel trap but kept momentum and was able to rejoin, under his own steam. Out front, Bland was soaking up everything the rainmaister, Hills, could throw at him, looking supremely confident and in total control of the race and the conditions. Earlier in the race, Hills had tried to mount a challenge but could not find a way past. He was being soaked by the spray, coming off the back of Bland's car and then his visor started misting up as well and he was forced to back off a bit.
After his early spin, Gouws set about clawing his way back up through the field, passing car after car and setting the fastest lap of the heat, in the process but had lost too much ground, to pose any sort of a threat to the leaders. Another making good progress, was Essa who had moved up from sixth, at the end of the first lap, to third, while Steenveld was taking a more cautious approach, as he sought to consolidate his trird place, on the Championship log. Another driver on the move, up through the field, was Nico Blignaut (Gilus IT SAP Rhema 2) who had started from the back, after failing to start the first heat and Geyser Jnr followed him through, passing his father in the process. John Lerm (Vision) had a moment, coming into Turn Eleven in the closing stages of the race but the marshals soon had him on his way again and everyone, with the exception of Grobler and Kruger who had pulled in to retire at the end of the first lap, would complete the race.
Out front, Bland still appeared to be totally in control and he romped home, for the second win of his Formula Vee career, as if he had been doing it all his life. Hills, once again, had to be content with a second place finish and he was followed across the line, by Essa, Steenveld, Holm, Gouws, Johns, Blignaut, Geyser Jnr , Geyser Snr, Walendorf and Eustice who in the process, won the 2008 Formula Vee Association Competition, in his debut season.