SAFV: Series Phakisa race report

Steenveld Takes First Win The eighth round of the 2008 Pro Tour South African National Formula Vee Championship, wrote another chapter in the long and illustrious history, of this forty three year old single seater racing category. Run at...

Steenveld Takes First Win

The eighth round of the 2008 Pro Tour South African National Formula Vee Championship, wrote another chapter in the long and illustrious history, of this forty three year old single seater racing category. Run at the Phakisa Freeway, between Welkom and Odendaalsrust, the event saw seventeen year old Courtney Steenveld (Indy Oil NLDTF Rhema 2) become the first Motorsport South Africa, National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund development driver, to win a National Championship Formula Vee race. Steenveld's first victory came in the second heat of the day, when he beat ex Champion and current log leader Dennis Johns (Geyser Attorneys Rhema 2) to the line, by 0.287 of a second. The victory came, after a race long three car battle, which included the other NLDTF development driver, Zaahir Essa (NLDTF Rhema 1), who recorded the best finish of his Formula Vee career, in third place, a mere 0.381 of a second behind Johns. The Phakisa event was also the first time that both development drivers have finished in the top three, together.

Steenveld has come of age, as a driver and in a field, which included four ex Champions, he was the only driver to challenge a rampant Johns, in the first heat. Born and bred in Welkom, Johns knows the Phakisa circuit backwards but he had to fight off an early challenge from the young Fairbairn College Matric Student, who headed Johns across the line, at the end of the second lap. Johns soon, retook the position and although Steenveld hung on for a while, Johns was eventually able to break the tow and start opening a bit of a gap. Behind them, Essa was successfully keeping Trevor Bland (Office Direct Rhema 2) at bay and they where soon joined by ex Champion Trevor Smith, deputizing for Alan Eustice, in the Execuline Rhema 2. Smith would however not go the distance and retired with a loose back wheel, when the studs started pulling out of the hub. Peter Hills (Prolantic Rhema 2) had run with them as well, in the early stages of the race but just over half distance, the car started coughing and spluttering and he dropped back down the field, eventually picking up the final point, for twelfth place, a lap down on the leader.

The other battle of the first heat, involved Johan Gouws (Computer Assemblies Mantis), Ben Pienaar (BJ Pro Welding Rhema 2) and Jannie Geyser Jnr (Geyser Attorneys Rhema 2), who fought a race long battle. In the end, it was however Johns, who stormed home, to secure the victory, by just over five and a half seconds, from Steenveld. Another five seconds behind Steenveld, Essa recorded his first third place finish, after a race long battle with Bland and they were followed home, by Symm Grobler (Auto Mecca Rhema 2), Pienaar, Gouws, Geyser Jnr, Jannie Geyser Snr (Geyser Attorneys Vision), Nico Blignaut (Gilus IT SAP Rhema 2), Hugo Wallendorf, in his new BJ Pro Welding Lantis and Hills, a lap down on the rest of the field, along with James Evans (Gilus IT SAP Tasman and Chandre Kruger (Gilus IT SAP Sting) who would take no further part in the day's proceedings, due to a leaking main oil seal.

The second heat was a much closer affair, with Johns, Steenveld and Essa, locked in battle, at the head of the field and swapping places all around the circuit, lap after lap. This time Johns could not shake them off and just when he thought he would succeed, in doing so, he missed a change to forth gear and followed that up, with a brief off course excursion and put them both, right back in contention again. Behind them, Bland, Grobler and Hills where also locked in battle, for fourth place, while Pienaar, Gouws and Geyser Jnr had resumed their first heat battle and seemed to be virtually inseparable, on the day.

Well out of contention, where Wallendorf and Geyser Snr. Wallendorf had tried to go into Turn 2, with Smith on the first lap but neither he, nor the car, where up to the challenge and he spun, rejoining just in front of the doctors car, which had to wait for him to get going again. Geyser Snr also spun, early on, when he also tried to mix it with company, that was quicker than him. Both of them rejoined, behind Evans who later retired in the closing stages of the race but was still classified as a finisher. Smith was not so lucky and retired with a faulty cut out switch, after only completing two laps of the race.

Out front, the battle for the lead continued unabated. Even Essa led across the line, on a couple of occasions, for the first time in his racing career. Such was the intensity of the battle, that positions where at times, changing from corner to corner but in the end, it was an ecstatic Steenveld who led the field across the line, to claim this historic first Formula Vee victory, ahead of Johns, Essa, Bland, Hills, Grobler, Gouws, Pienaar, Blignaut, Geyser Jnr, who had lost time with spin, late in the race, Geyser Snr and Wallendorf.

After the Phakisa event, Steenveld has now moved up to third, on the National Championship log and may even improve on that, before the season comes to an end!

-credit: safv

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Series Other open wheel