South African Formula Vee 2004 preview

Formula Vee proves it's worth. It would seem, that by securing the 2003 National Formula Vee title and his subsequent impressive debut in the Zetec Formula Ford category, at the final race of the year, twenty year old David Veringa (Sabat ...

Formula Vee proves it's worth.

It would seem, that by securing the 2003 National Formula Vee title and his subsequent impressive debut in the Zetec Formula Ford category, at the final race of the year, twenty year old David Veringa (Sabat Rhema), has once again focused attention on Formula Vee, as an ideal entry level circuit racing category. This, along with the reinstatement of the category's National Championship Status, by MSA, sees no less than five teenagers hoping to make their senior racing debuts, in the category, this year. After a couple of outings, in Formula Libre, seventeen year old Paul Venter makes his Formula Vee debut in 2004, driving the ex Jorge Pinto Laser, while sixteen year old Jonathan Vilaca, will be moving up from Karting, with the Vision in which Lee Thompson claimed the National title in 2001. Also moving up from Karting, will be Kyle Bennett, in the ex Veringa Rhema. His debut in the category, will however be delayed until mid April, when he turns fifteen and becomes eligible for a circuit racing license, based on his previous Karting experience. Another Karter, due to make his Formula Vee debut in 2004, is Andre Van Der Merwe, who recently represented South Africa, at the Junior Max Challenge in Egypt and it is believed that Dean Nel will be constructing a brand new Rhema 2 chassis, for Van Der Merwe. The other teenager due to make his Formula Vee debut this year, is sixteen year old Jade Whitehouse, in a converted Ray Formula GTi chassis.

Like Veringa and many before him, the current crop of youngsters are using the category, to launch what they hope will become highly successful circuit racing careers. With close, competitive racing, in cars that are difficult to drive, the category has the credentials to fulfill their aspirations. Over the years, ex Formula Vee drivers have gone on to claim, seven SA Motor Racing Drivers Championships, four SA Drivers Championships, eight SA Formula Ford Championships, six SA Formula GTi Championships, an SA Vodacom Sports Prototype Championship, an SA Touring Car Class B Championship, an SA Group 1/Group A Championship and an SA Junior Production Car Championship, along with a number of Regional Championships, Class Championships and numerous race wins. Some have even competed with success, internationally, claiming two European EFDA Championships, two British Formula Ford 2000 Championships, two German Golden Lion Formula Ford Championships and the Dutch and Benelux Formula Ford Championships. In addition to that, the only three SA National circuit racing Championships, that have been won by women, where secured by two of the ladies, that started their circuit racing careers in Formula Vee. One of them went on, to become the first woman in the World, to win a race in a Formula One Car and also won World Championship Sports Car races, sharing the driving of the de Cadenet Ford, with Alain de Cadenet.

The progress, of the current crop of Formula Vee "Young Guns", will be followed with interest, while at the other end of the scale, fifty six year old Formula Vee veteran Gawie Gouws, makes a welcome return to the category. With an unprecedented three National Formula Vee Championships to his name, the 1978, 1984 and 1996 Champion, has his sites firmly set on improving this impressive record. This time, he will however be up against incredible odds. The 2004 Formula Vee field, has to be one of the strongest ever assembled in this country. In addition to the influx of the "Young Guns", the field is studded with an impressive array, of ex Champions and highly experienced veterans of Formula Vee racing. Although some of them are still in their twenties, they already have four to ten years of Formula Vee racing experience and a number of them, have to be considered serious contenders for the 2004 National Championship title. These include the 2000 Formula Vee title holder, Dennis Johns (Goldco Midas Rhema 2), who has been virtually unbeatable, since he debuted the new car, in May last year. Veteran Symm Grobler (Auto Mecca Rhema 2) has two Northern Regions titles to his name and would dearly love to add a National title as well and by the end of 2003, he was consistently the best of the rest, behind Johns.

Still one of Veringa's strongest challengers, by the middle of 2003, Alan Holm's title aspirations faded during the second half of year but with a brand new Johannesburg Bright Steels Rhema 2, for 2004, he should once again be a serious contender for the title. Switching his Sting, for a Rhema, toward the end of the year, the 1999 Champion Peter Hills, suffered a number of teething problems with the car but a good rebuild, during the off season, could see his Vacuform Rhema right back in the hunt. Another driver capable of upsetting the apple cart, is the 2001 title holder Lee Thomson, who returned to the category in the middle of 2003, with the 2002 Championship winning Rhema. At this stage, it is still not certain whether eighteen year old Jody Robertson, will be starting his fourth year in the category. He has an option to race Polo Cup this year and was also looking at the possibility, of going overseas and getting a job as a gofer, with a race team in the UK. If he does continue in Formula Vee, he must also be considered as a contender for the 2004 National Championship title.

During the course of the 2003 season, the category produced six different race winners and being as competitive as it is, should come close to that again, in 2004. One driver who missed out on a win in 2003 but showed that he still has what it takes, is the 1997 and 1998 National Formula Vee Champion Anthony Taylor (Vacuform Rhema 2) but with his son due to have his first year in Karting, in the GP Junior category and with his additional commitments, as MSA's Financial Director, Taylor's own racing may have to take a back seat, during 2004.

Returning to the category in the middle of 2003, Benny Phetla had a highly competitive season but once again finds himself a doubtful starter for 2004, as he searches for the financial backing, required to cover his running costs for the year. With assistance from the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, the Formula Vee Association launched their official Development Program, in 2003 and Kearn Francis and Dayview Mogane, joined Phetla in the category. They will both be competing again, in 2004 and the Association are currently looking for additional funding, to ensure the continued success of the program.

The 2004 Formula Vee season, will get underway at the Zwartkops Raceway in Pretoria West, on the 21st February.

-safv-

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