Johns Takes 2008 National Title
The penultimate round of the 2008 South African National Formula Vee Championship, saw Dennis Johns (Geyser Attorneys Rhema 2) secure his second National Title, in style, taking both wins on the day. It was however, no walk in the park for the 2000 title holder, with development drivers Courtney Steenveld (Indy Oil NLDTF Rhema 2) and Zaahir Essa (NLDTF Rhema 1), all over him, in the early stages of the first heat. By the end of the first lap, Johns was in third place, as Steenveld led Essa across the line and it was not until the third lap, that Johns took the lead for the first time. With Johns and Steenveld trading the lead, at every opportunity, they not only allowed Essa to hang on but also allowed Peter Hills (Prolantic MLS Brokers Rhema 2), Symm Grobler (Auto Mecca Rhema 2) and Trevor Bland (Office Direct Waxoyl Rhema 2), to join the party as well.
The battle for the lead, was not the only one and further back, a number of other battles raged. One of these, involved Jannie Geyser Snr (Geyser Attorneys Vision), Doug MacDonald (Fantastic Racing Rhema 1) and Nico Blignaut (Gilus IT SAP Rhema 2), while a little further back Stan Alford (Castle Graphics Rhema 1) and Alan Eustice (Execuline Glasfit Rhema 2) where engaged in their own private duel. Already out of the race, were reining National Champion Alan Holm (Office Direct Rhema 1) who had run out of brakes at Turn Five and gone off into the gravel trap and Andrei Overbeek (Omega), who had retired at the end of the first lap, with a bad misfire.
Having started from the back of the grid, Jannie Geyser Jnr (Geyser Attorneys Rhema 2) had worked his way up, to the battle between his father and MacDonald but then spun at Turn Six, rejoining behind Alford and Eustice. The following lap, it was dad's turn, when Association Chairman Geyser Snr experienced a brake problem and spun at Turn Five beaching the car at the side of the circuit, on the exit of the bend. This brought out the Safety Car and with it, pandemonium. The six cars at the head of the field, where still locked in battle and Johns was the first to respond to the Safety Car Board. Steenveld pulled out to pass him, but was alerted to the board as well and braked hard, to avoid passing Johns. Right on Steenveld's tail, Essa slammed into the back of him, putting both cars out of the race. Others where also affected, to a lesser degree, with a couple missing the Safety Car Board and incurring ten second penalties, for their trouble.
The Safety Car was only out for a lap and at the restart, Johns caught everyone napping and went on to win the heat, from Hills, Bland, Grobler, MacDonald, Geyser Jnr, Blignaut, Alford, Eustice, Ben Pienaar (BJ Pro Welding Rhema 2), Hugo Wallendorf (BJ Pro Welding Lantis) and James Evans (Gilus IT SAP Tasman), with John Lerm (Vision) just missing out on a point, on his return to the category, after a long lay off.
The second heat saw Johns lead from start to finish, taking the win and the 2008 National Title. Missing from the line up, for the second heat, was Overbeek who had traced his problem to a cracked float in the carburetor but was unable to find a spare. Chandre Kruger (Gilus IT SAP Sting), who missed the first heat, was starting from the back of the grid, along with Holm, Geyser Snr, Essa and Steenveld.
With the first three positions, remaining static throughout the race, it was up to the midfield to provide the action and there was a lot of good close multicar action, with the quicker cars coming through from the back, mixing it up with them as well. Geyser Jnr had another spin and a couple of laps later, Alford had a bump and a spin as well, while Wallendorf retired just on half distance. Having started near the back, Steenveld had made good progress through the field, to move up to fourth place before half distance but that was as high as he would get and in the end, it was Johns who took the victory and his second National Championship Title, ahead of Hills, Bland, Steenveld, Grobler, Essa, Pienaar, Holm, Geyser Snr, Blignaut, Geyser Jnr and MacDonald.