End of era at Kyalami

So long Sarel -- end of an era at Vodacom Power Tour finale Sarel van der Merwe's final circuit racing appearance at Round 12 of the Vodacom Power Tour at AA Kyalami on November 23, brings a touch of sadness and nostalgia to a meeting that is ...

So long Sarel -- end of an era at Vodacom Power Tour finale

Sarel van der Merwe's final circuit racing appearance at Round 12 of the Vodacom Power Tour at AA Kyalami on November 23, brings a touch of sadness and nostalgia to a meeting that is otherwise set to provide for high drama.

A host of championship battles -- some of them desperately close -- have gone all the way to the wire and will finally be settled at the final meeting of the season. On top of that history is in the offing with Philip Kekana and Tschops Sipuka set to become the first Black drivers to clinch national track racing championships.

In among all the tension of a series of High Noon shootouts the legendary Supervan, at the age of 56, will bring the curtain down on a 30 year career that signals the end of an era. Over the last three decades Sarel Daniel van der Merwe the fourth has more often than not been regarded as the stormy petrel of South African motorsport but, love him or hate him, Supervan has carved his name in stone.

Van der Merwe's record in saloon cars, rally cars, sports cars and off-road machinery is testimony to perhaps the most gifted and talented all-round driver ever produced in South Africa. Eleven South African Rally Championships, SA Group 1 champion in 1977, three South African Modified Saloon Car Championships and Daytona 24 Hour winner give a hint that van der Merwe could drive a bit.

Throw in four victories in the Camel IMSA Sports Car Championship in the United States, an impressive Le Mans 24 Hour record including a factory drive for Porsche and the picture emerges of a driver for all seasons. Only the fact that he is too tall to squeeze into a singleseater perhaps prevented van der Merwe from scaling the heights in Formula One.

Throughout his career van der Merwe attracted controversy, and much of it was of his own making. But even those who don't number themselves among his legions of fans, will surely have a lump in their throats when Supervan takes his final chequered flag.

The build-up to what has the potential to be an explosive meeting starts on November 21 with free pratice for all categories. This will be followed on November 22 by official practice and qualifying sessions, with the action set to start at 10h30 on November 23.

Gate entry is R35 per adult with children under 12 free. In a special tribute to van der Merwe there will also be free entry to the circuit for anyone with the surname van der Merwe -- and a special gate and a self catering facility at the old pit complex have been set aside for the van der Merwe clan.

Wesbank V8 Championship

Sarel van der Merwe's final appearance in the Wesbank V8 series, could overshadow protege Johan Fourie's attempt at putting the finishing touches to a title race that has seen the Cape Town youngster dominate the latter half of the season.

Van der Merwe and Fourie will be out in the Sasol Supervan Racing Opel Astras with Fourie holding a 31 point lead over Ben Morgenrood in the Auto Trader Ford Mustang. Given the way the form book has gone over the latter part of the season that should be enough to see the talented Fourie home.

Van der Merwe's role is likely to be one of seeing that Fourie does not do anything silly. A win for Supervan in the final race of his career would be memorable -- but that sort of thing is reserved for comic books.

Championship positions:
1 J Fourie 288; 2 B Morgenrood 257; 3 L Wilford 228; 4 R du Plessis 207; 5 F de Matteo 161.

SA Production Car Championship

Only two drivers have so far clinched SA Production Car Championship titles with old hands Shaun van der Linde, in Class A, and Charl Wilken (Class B) already home and dry.

That sets up a whole series of title confrontations in the other classes and in the South African Junior Drivers Championship, with van der Linde and Wilken the only contenders in the SA Saloon Car drivers Championship. On this front, however, van der Linde (Castrol Van der Linde Racing BMW) needs only two points and Wilken (Team Castrol Toyota Corolla) will need a large dollop of divine intervention to deny the former Touring Car champion back to back titles.

In the Junior Drivers Championship it could not be tighter with only four points separating Jody Powell (Opel Corsa), Kekana (Sasol Toyota Tazz) and Dave Compton in the Johan Coetzee Racing Toyota Tazz. All three are also involved in tense class battles, and face tests of character.

There will also be test of character for Honda Ballade rivals Ian Long and Lawrence Boshoff in Class C. Just two points separate drivers in a north versus south battle that will be worth closely scrutiny.

In Class D a good November 2 outing at AA Kyalami lifted Kekana 12 points clear of Miguel Pasqualli (Honda Ballade). That gives Kekana a decided edge, but down in Class E the advantage is a lot more tenuous for Powell who is just four points clear of Compton.

Championship positions:
SA Saloon Car Drivers Championship -- 1 S van der Linde 149; 2 C Wilken 130; 3 I Long 103; 4 L Boshoff 101; 5 M Steyn 99.

SA Junior Drivers Championship: 1 J Powell 91; 2 P Kekana 90; 3 D Compton 87; 4 M Pasqualli and D Murphy 78; 5 D de Villiers 67.

Class A -- 1 S van der Linde 146; 2 M Briggs 81; 3 E van der Linde 56.

Class B -- 1 C Wilken 130; 2 M Steyn 89; 3 M Cronje 89.

Class C -- 1 I Long 103; 2 L Boshoff 101; 3 C Alchin 67.

Class D -- 1 P Kekana 90; 2 M Pasqualli 78; 3 D de Villiers 67.

Class E -- 1 J Powell 91; 2 D Compton 87; 3 D Murphy 78.

Formula Ford

The Formula Ford championship is the one other title issue that has already been settled, and Morne Jurgens (Jurgens Truck Mygale) can take time out to smell the roses and enjoy himself.

The battle for the runners-up slot, however, is wide open with Brett Mayberry (Mygale) now only five points ahead of Mark du Toit in the Big Z Van Diemen. Du Toit picked up two wins last time out of AA Kyalami and his confidence will be at a peak, but both he and Mayberry will be looking over their shoulders at Stephen Morris in another Mygale.

A big accident on November 2 cost Morris valuable points, but he is not yet out of the picture when it comes to who will finish second to Jurgens in the championship. Young drivers like Michael Atkins (Mygale) and the talented Gavin Cronje (Van Diemen) could also make life a little interesting for Mayberry and company.

Championship positions:
1 M Jurgens 130; 2 B Mayberry 75; 3 M du Toit 70; 4 S Morris 64; 5 G Cronje 38.

Engen VW Cup

Transkei driver Tschops Sipuka and Soweto raised Philip Kekana are on the verge of history, but before they can write their names in the record books the pair have a little work to do.

Like Kekana in Class D in the SA Production Car Championship, Sipuka goes into the final round of the Engen VW Cup with a handy lead over his nearest challenger. In Sipuka's case he leads Silvio Scribante by 14 points, but in former Modified Saloon Car and Touring Car champion Terry Moss the Transkeian has a mentor who will remind him of the thin line in motor racing between triumph and despair.

Those 14 points should be enough to see Sipuka to the title, but Scribante is highly experienced and will be hoping the occasion gets to Sipuka. One feels, however, that the Moss influence will calm down Sipuka and that tactically he will do all the right things.

Championship positions:
1 T Sipuka 210; 2 S Scribante 196; 3 G Nathan 169; 4 M Stephen 92; 5 F Scribante 75.

Vodacom Sports Cars

A protest over the results of the Vodacom Sports Car outing at AA Kyalami on November 2 has left the championship situation a little murky.

Whatever the outcome of the protest, it would appear that Bernard Tilanus will go into the final race of the season with a slight lead over Neil Lobb. Like Sarel van der Merwe it is likely to be 59-year-old Tilanus's final fling and he looks in good shape to annex another South African championship 28 years after winning the Formula Ford title.

"Fast Fanus" is also a former South African Drivers Champion and has all the experience to deal with a tight championship situation. There is no doubt Tilanus will have all the permutations worked out, and it will be up to Lobb to take the title away from him.

Championship positions (unofficial -- prior to November 2):
1 B Tilanus 231; 2 N Lobb 212; 3 D Roscoe 207; 4 G Ferreira 171; 5 A Eve 168.

SA Superbikes

When it comes to winning South African motorcycle championships Russell Wood is something of an expert on the matter.

He already has 11 of them to his name, and is poised to add a 12th to his tally. Wood, the Vodacom Nashua Yamaha team leader, has a 35 point lead over fellow KwaZulu-Natalian Trevor Crookes (UUNET Ducati) and barring the unforeseen looks home and dry.

Crookes will try and push Wood all the way and the likes of Stewart Macleod (Cell C Suzuki), the First Technology Honda trio of Shaun Whyte, Arushen Moodley and Alex Laenarts, leading privateer Noel Haarhof (Dewalt Suzuki) and Graeme van Breda on the MercesCura Suzuki would all loved to end the season on a high note. It adds up to a frenetic finale -- as one would expect from a category of racing that never disappoints -- but it is Wood who holds most of the aces and who probably has some extra cards hidden away in his leathers.

Championship positions:
1 R Wood 331; 2 T Crookes 296; 3 S Macleod 266; 4 N Haarhof 188; 5 A Moodley 179.

Privateer -- 1 N Haarhof 356; 2 G Ramsay 275; 3 R Cragg 230; 4 G Norris 219; 5 J Barson 163.

-aa racing-

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About this article
Series General
Drivers Sarel van der Merwe , Gavin Cronje