Grobler Still On Top
Reigning South African National Formula Vee Champion Symm Grobler (Auto Mecca Rhema 2), started the 2005 season in much the same way as he started the 2004 season and he left round one, run at Zwartkops Raceway on the 19th February, at the head of the Championship log. This time around, it was Dennis Johns (Goldco Midas Rhema 2) who drove to victory in heat one but a clash with Jaco Schriks (JBS Lasersprint Rhema 2), early in the second heat, saw him fail to score any further points for the day. A year ago, a mistake by Johns had seen him fail to score points in the first heat, before going on to win the second, so it was not quite a carbon copy of last year.
Starting the first heat from pole position, Johns led all the way, although Schriks who had made a daemon start from fourth place on the grid, got up alongside down the back straight and Johns was forced to defend the inside line, into Turn Four. For a number of laps, Schriks shadowed the race leader but as the race progressed, his car started to develop a misfire and he was forced to surrender the position to those behind. Grobler then took up the chase, while behind him Peter Hills (Vacuform Rhema) was forced to surrender his position, to a hard charging Alan Holm (JBS Lasersprint Rhema 2).
JP Nortje left the circuit, at the high speed Turn Four but was able to motor through the gravel trap and eventually rejoin the circuit, well behind the rest of the field but otherwise unscathed. As the race progressed, Schiks slipped even further back, as the misfire got worse and he could do nothing about it when teenage Karter Andre Van Der Merwe (ACC Air-conditioning Rhema 2), making his National Championship Formula Vee debut, loomed up in his mirrors and slipped by into fifth place. Further back, ex Karter Trevor Bland (AC DC Dynamics Rhema) was also struggling with a bad misfire and eventually pitted, to join Jaco Greying (Rhema) who had retired early in the race with a slipping clutch.
Out front there where no such problems for Johns who went on to claim the victory, from Grobler, Holm, Hills, Van Der Merwe and Schriks. Behind them, a race long battle resolved itself, in favor of Cape Town's Doug MacDonald (Rhema), Jannie Geyser (Vision) and another teenage Karter making his Formula Vee racing debut, Laurent Calkoen (Vision). The three of them, where followed across the line by another Capetonian, Chris Danks (Stalcor Rhema 2), development driver Benny Phetla (Vacuform Rhema) and Claude Cartmell (Rand Brake Sting).
Greyling would not be starting the second heat, along with Kevin Cartmell (Rand Brake Sting), who had blown a motor during qualifying and battled with a slipping clutch, throughout heat one. A suspect battery, was thought to be the cause of Schriks' problem, while cam timing turned out to be the problem with Bland's car.
At the start of heat two, it was Grobler who had the inside line into Turn Two and he took the lead from Johns, Schriks and Hills. By the top of the hill, Hills had picked up a place but Schriks was having none of that and came back down the inside under bracking, only to run into the back of Johns, taking the right back wheel off of Johns' car and eliminating both Johns and himself from the race. Hills and Holm then took up the challenge, pushing Grobler hard, all the way to the line.
Further back there where other good battles as well. Pushed hard by Alan Kernick (Tasman) and Claude Cartmell and battling to select third gear, Calkoen spun at Turn Two and lost a lot of time, getting going again just as the leaders bore down to lap him. MacDonald then tried to out brake two cars, down the inside into Turn Two, locked up and spun and Bland had a big moment, when the throttle jammed open and he almost went into the tyre wall, on the exit of the bend. Development driver Kearn Francis (Lotto Rhema) and Manie Geldenhuis (Lagus) where involved in their own private duel, until the Lagus cut out and Geldenhuis was forced to park it at the side of the track.
Pushed hard, by both Hills and Holm, Grobler held on to take the victory, in heat two, ahead of Hills, Holm, Van Der Merwe, Geyser, Danks, Nortje, Kernick, Claude Cartmell, yet another Formula Vee debutant, Ronald Knight (Vision), Francis and Phetla who claimed the final Championship point before pulling off the circuit, just beyond the line, having run the bearings of his motor.