Zwartkops produces a real thriller.
The seventh round of the South African National Formula Vee Challenge, produced two thrilling multi car battles, at the Zwartkops Raceway. It did however, prove to be a difficult debut for the new development drivers, with Kearn Francis (Rhema), forced to retire from the first heat, with an electrical problem but he came back, to finish seventeenth, in heat two. Dayview Mogane (Alley), finished twentieth in the first heat but tangled with Claude Cartmell (Rand Brake Sting), in the closing stages of the second heat and both of them ended up in the gravel trap, at Turn Two.
With the 2001 Formula Vee Champion, Lee Thompson (Rhema), being one of five cars relegated to the back of the grid, for being underweight in qualifying, it was Championship log leader David Veringa (Sabat Rhema) and closest rival, Alan Holm (Johannesburg Bright Steels Rhema), that led the field away from the line, at the start of the first heat. By the end of the opening lap, Anthony Taylor (Vacuform Rhema 2), Symm Grobler (Auto Mecca Rhema 2), Peter Hills (Peter Hills Auto Clinic Sting), Dennis Johns (Goldco Midas Rhema 2) and Jody Robertson (PS23 Lubrioil Rhema), were still right up there with them, in what would evolve into a thrilling seven car race long battle, at the head of the field.
Starting from sixth place on the grid, Johns gradually worked his way through the bunch, before challenging Holm for the lead. Into turn eight, they came up to lap a backmarker. Johns chose the outside, while Holm took a tighter line, in order to slip inside the backmarker as they exited the bend. This meant that Holm could not get the power down as early as he would have liked but Johns was out on the dirt, as they raced past the pits side by side and it was Johns who eventually had to back off, in order to regain the circuit. Up the back straight, Johns made his move again, pulling out of the slipstream and getting alongside Holm, into the high speed Turn Four and this time. it was Holm that had to give way, as Johns slipped through into the lead.
Johns then held on and won the race, from Holm, Veringa, Grobler, Hills, Taylor, Robertson, Wayne Bennett (Lafarge Readymix Rhema 2), Jaco Schriks (Johannesburg Bright Steels Sting), Thompson, Ben Pienaar (BJ Pro Welding Rhema) and Kevin Cartmell (Rand Brake Sting).
Would the second heat live up the first, the answer proved to be a resounding yes and with Thompson joining in, the battle that ensued, surpassed the one in the first race by a considerable margin. It was a credit, to the skill of all involved, that so many cars ran as close as they did, constantly swapping places and still completed both races, without incident
Initially, it was an eight car battle but Hills was clearly struggling and eventually fell off the back of the bunch. He had made a number of changes to the car, between races and something had obviously not produced the desired affect. The rest continued to battle it out, to the bitter end and commencing the final lap, were as close, if not closer, than they had been all race! Robertson then spun at the final corner but in the end, the victory went to Holm, as he led Grobler, Taylor, Johns, Veringa, Thompson, Bennett, Hills, Robertson, Schriks, Pienaar and Cartmell across the line. Taylor and Bennett were however penalised, for passing under a yellow flag and the revised race order gave Holm the victory, ahead of Grobler, Johns, Taylor, Veringa, Thompson, Hills, Bennett, Robertson, Schriks, Pienaar and Cartmell.