The Agony And The Ecstasy
The final round of the 2010 Execuline South African National Formula Vee Championship, proved to be a dramatic event, as fortunes swung back and fourth. Hopes where dashed, revived and hung in the balance for most of the day but in the end, it was the veteran ex Champion Peter Hills (Renexcon Rhema 2) who took the 2010 title, by a single point, from development driver Zaahir Essa (NLDTF Reflex Solutions Rhema 2).
Starting form pole position, for the first heat, Essa lost the advantage and by Turn Six, the second row of Hills and Symm Grobler (Auto Mecca Rhema 2) had the advantage, over Essa and the 2009 Champion Alan Holm (Lasersprint Office Direct Rhema 2) who had also started from the front row of the grid. The following lap, Essa had passed Grobler and then made short work of Hills, passing him around the outside of Turn Four, during the fourth lap of the race. The top four where still locked together, and then suddenly Hills was gone, having stopped out on the circuit, with a gear selector problem. His hopes of another title had been shattered and he could only watch in despair, as Essa continued to lead, from Holm who had eventually made his way past Grobbler.
Behind the lead pack, Johan Gouws (Indwe Risk Services Menlyn Motor Services E-Car Mantis) held a secure fourth place, ahead of Paul Venter (Nashua Mobile Rhema 1), while behind them, a furious no holds barred battle raged, involving Greg Wilson (Reflex Solutions Rhema 2), Nico Blignaut (Gilus IT SAP Rhema 2), Nick Tennant (Tennant Life Benefits Rhema 2) and Gareth Jackson (Lasersprint Rhema 2), while Henk Swanepoel (Renexcon Rhema 2) had to deal with the close attentions, of Shaun Van Der Linde (Len Schoen Estates Rhema 1). Bringing up the rear, was Mariaan Brits (Nedbank Women in Motorsport Rhema 1), after an early spin had put her out of touch, with the rest of the field,
Into the closing stages of the race, Holm had closed right up onto Essa's tail and was putting him under increasing pressure. Then with just over three laps to go, Holm made a run up the inside, at Turn Five, which Essa defended vigorously, to retain his lead. The following lap, Holm tried again and once again Essa tried to fend him off but the cars touched and as Holm exited the corner, Essa left the circuit backwards, into the gravel trap! He was unable to get going again and walked away in utter despair, as the advantage tilted back in favor of Hills who could not believe his eyes, when Essa did not come past again.
On the final lap Wilson, heading for his best ever finish, had the motor cut out momentarily and spun exiting Turn Five, leaving the two Reflex Solutions Rhema 2s, parked in formation on the outside of the bend and Holm took the victory, from Grobler, Gouws, Venter, Tennant, Blignaut, Jackson, Jannie Geyser (Vision), Swanepoel, Van Der Linde and Ben Pienaar (BJ Pro Welding Rhema 2).
For the second heat, Essa and Hills would both be starting behind Brits, along with Mile Stewart (Direction Group Rhema 2) who had failed to complete a lap, in the first heat. Again Hills got the jump on Essa at the start, as they began the task of threading their way through the traffic. Initially Holm had taken the lead, from pole position but Grobler soon took over, while Van Der Linde took a trip through the Turn One gravel trap, on his first flying lap and Hills, was soon reeling in the Venter, Tennant, Blignaut, Jackson, Wilson bunch. Then Wilson went down the inside of Jackson, into Turn Eight but Wilson could not get the gear he was looking for and hit the Lasersprint Rhema 2 hard enough, to put Jackson out of the race. Soon after that, Swanepoel pulled off the circuit as well, with a mechanical failure.
Out front, Holm and Grobler had swapped the lead again, while Hills had made it through the bunch unscathed but Essa was already into the bunch and only three places behind Hills. Soon, Essa was free of the bunch and did not take long to reel in Hills and pick him off as well, while Grobler had retaken the lead from Holm. Further back Geyser, Van Der Linde, Stewart and Wilson had all made their way past Hugo Wallendorf (BJ Pro Welding Lantis) but then Stewart spun, exiting Turn Two and rejoined behind Wallendorf again but just ahead of Brits.
All eyes, where however on Essa and Hills, as they closed in on Gouws, in third place. Essa dived past and then, as they exited Turn Two, for the last time, the first five where line astern, with Grobler leading, from Holm, Essa, Gouws and Hills. Then Essa dived past Holm and seemed headed for the title, as he crossed the line 0.413 of a second behind Grobler but at the final corner, Holm had run wide, taking Gouws with him, allowing Hills to sweep past on the inside and beat Gouws to the line, by 0.342 of a second, with Holm finishing 0,104 of a second later, in fifth place and they where followed home, by Blignaut, Tennant, Venter, Pienaar, Geyser, Wilson and Van Der Linde.
Fastest lap of the day, went to Essa but it was not enough, he needed just one more point and while a shattered Essa looked on in disbelief, reflecting on what could have been, an ecstatic Hills celebrated what could well be, the biggest get out of jail Championship victory, in the 45 year history of the category, in South Africa.