Veterans secure the Victories, as Youth Shines at WesBank Raceway WesBank Raceway saw the 1997 and 1998 SA National Formula Vee Champion Anthony Taylor (Rigidek Rhema 2), secure his first race victory in more than five years,...
Veterans secure the Victories, as Youth Shines at WesBank Raceway
WesBank Raceway saw the 1997 and 1998 SA National Formula Vee Champion Anthony Taylor (Rigidek Rhema 2), secure his first race victory in more than five years, when he took a narrow victory in the first heat. In the second heat, it was a mix of youth and experience, as sixteen year old Andre Van Der Merwe (Acc Air-conditioning Rhema 2) fought a race long battle, with two of the most experienced veterans of Formula Vee racing in South Africa, Taylor and reigning National Champion Symm Grobler (Auto Mecca Rhema 2). Swapping places lap after lap, victory eventually went to Grobler, consolidating his position at the head of the 2005 Championship log.
An incident filled Friday practice day, saw two cars eliminated from the race, when Cape Town's Chris Danks (Stalcor Rhema 2) suffered brake failure at the end of the main straight and went off into the wall. Then Peter Hills (Vacuform Rhema) hit the wall on the oval. Both cars where too badly damaged to take part in the race, although both drivers fortunately escaped unscathed. Laurent Calkoen was also eliminated on Friday, due to a gearbox problem and after running the bearings of his motor on Friday, Dennis Johns (Goldco Midas Rhema 2) experienced the same problem, with his spare motor, during Saturday morning's qualifying session and also withdrew from the race.
Pole position went to the young Van Der Merwe but he along with Alan Holm (JBS Lasersprint Rhema 2) and Trevor Bland (AC DC Dynamics Rhema), all moved before the lights went out and he fluffed his start. Taylor made a clean start, from second place on the grid and took the lead, from Holm, Grobler and Van Der Merwe. For a couple of laps, Taylor increased his lead, as first Grobler and then Van Der Merwe, fought their way past Holm. Behind them Bland and Kyle Bennett where involved in their own private duel, with a race long three car battle, involving Jannie Geyser (Vision), Kevin Cartmell (Rand Brake Sting) and Hills, in the Association Vision, raging on behind them.
As the race progressed, it was obvious that Grobler was slowly eating away the gap, to Taylor. Approaching Turn Three, for the last time, Taylor still had the advantage of a few car lengths but Grobler was very late on the brakes and got his front wheels, alongside the back wheels of Taylor's car, as they turned into the bend but Taylor had the line and he held on to beat Grobler, by less than three tenths of a second. Jump start penalties then scrambled the order, with third place going to Bennett, ahead of Geyser, Cartmell, Hills, Van Der Merwe, Bland, Bobby Nel (Lantis), Claude Cartmell (Rand Brake Sting), Kearn Francis (Lotto Rhema) and Manie Geldenhuis (Lagus). Francis had taken Geldenhuis, with less than a lap to go, as the back of Geldenhuis' car stepped out at Turn Four and Francis slipped through on the inside, after the two of them had been involved in a race long battle, with JP Nortje (Sting).
Holm's car had cut out, with a couple of laps to go, while Nico Blignaut (SAP Gilus IT Rhema) had retired with a gearbox problem and Gareth Jackson (JBS Lasersprint Sting), had failed to complete a lap, after the water pump belt shredded.
The second heat was awesome, as Van Der Merwe, Taylor and Grobler fought a race long battle, at the head of the field. All three led and swapped positions on a regular basis, throughout the race. For Van Der Merwe, in only his third Formula Vee race, it must have been a learning experience that possibly even surpasses his Formula BMW training courses, at Barcelona and Bahrain. Prior to Michael Schumacher's Grand Prix career, while he was driving for the Sauber Mercedes Benz sports car team, Mercedes motorsport boss, Jochen Neerspasch said of him "He was like a baby. By this I mean that he had a baby's ability to learn. In one year he learned what others did in three or four years". Could young Van Der Merwe be from the same mould?
The battle for the lead was not the only multi car battle of the race and further back, Jackson, Claude Cartmell, Geldenhuis and Nortje, where locked in battle as well. Making their way up through the field, where Holm and Hills, after Holm had an altercation with Benny Phetla (Vacuform Rhema), during qualifying and had failed to set a time for the second heat, forcing him to start from the back of the grid. Into Turn One, for the first time, Geyser broke a rose joint on the gear selector and as those behind had to move over, Holm and Hills touched wheels, lifting the Vision into the air.
Driving up through the field, Holm eventually made it to fourth place, while Hills got involved in a battle for ninth, with Nel, which eventually resolved itself in favor of Nel. Into the closing stages of the race, both Jackson and Nortje retired, with overheating motors, before Grobler came through to take victory, from Van Der Merwe, Taylor, Holm, Bland, Bennett, Cape Town's Doug MacDonald (Rhema), Kevin Cartmell, Nel, Hills, Francis, and Geldenhuis. The honor of setting the new Formula Vee lap record, for the circuit using the elbow, went to Taylor, with a time of 1 min 15,730 secs, set during the final lap of the race.