Drama, Drama And Still More Drama The sixth round of the 2010 Execuline South African National Formula Vee Championship, produced more than it's fair share of drama, at the Phakisa Circuit near Welkom. In the end, it was however Peter...
Drama, Drama And Still More Drama
The sixth round of the 2010 Execuline South African National Formula Vee Championship, produced more than it's fair share of drama, at the Phakisa Circuit near Welkom. In the end, it was however Peter Hills (Renexcon Rhema 2) who came away with his Championship lead intact, despite his closest rival, development driver Zaahir Essa (Reflex Solutions NLDTF Rhema 2) being first across the line, at the end of both heats. Essa was then penalized thirty seconds, for passing under yellow flag conditions in the second race, which could hardly be considered a race at all, with the field spending close to seventy five percent of the race, behind the Safety Car. Nicholas Tennant (Tennant Life Benefits Rhema 2) suffered the same fate, in the first heat, while for the other two Championship hopefuls Symm Grobler (Auto Mecca Rhema 2) and Paul Venter (Nashua Mobile Rhema 1) it was a weekend they would rather forget .
The day's drama started before the first corner, as Essa and Grobler contested the same piece of road, on the approach to Turn One. Grobler's left back wheel, rode over Essa's right front wheel, pitching Grobler into the pit wall and out of the race. The Safety Car was deployed but most of the drivers did not appear to pick up on the information and cars scattered in all directions, as they powered through the final corner of the lap, to find the Safety Car in the middle of the road, ahead of them. Essa went up and over the back wheel, of the Keegan Campos (Campos Transport GP Energy Rhema 2) and landed very heavily on all four wheels. He was however still able to slot back into his position, behind the Safety Car, along with the rest of the field.
The Safety Car was withdrawn, the following lap, with Johan Gouws (Indwe Menlyn Motor Services E-Car Mantis) challenging Hills at the head of the field. Essa was soon up there with them, as well and as the three of them dived into Turn One together Gouws, on the outside, was forced off onto the grass, on the exit of the bend and lost touch. One of the more intriguing battles was the one at the back of the field. 2010 rookies Shaun Van Der Linde (Len Schoen Estates Rhema 1) and Mariaan Brits (Nedbank Women in Motor Sport Rhema 1), along with relative newcomer Mile Stewart (Direction Group Rhema 2), found themselves in the company of veteran double National Champion Dennis Johns, deputizing for Hugo Wallendorf in the BJ Pro Welding Lantis. School was in session, as the rookies picked up valuable lessons, from a driver with a wealth of experience and all of them, posted fastest laps in the race, which where considerably quicker, than their fastest times in qualifying.
Brits stuck to John's tail, for a while and then he let her through, to see how she would do on her own. He then passed her again but she came straight back at him and retook the position, so he settled down to hold Van Der Linde and Stewart at bay. Then Van Der Linde spun, with Stewart right on his tail. Stewart jumped on the brakes and although he avoided contact, he stalled the motor and as Van Der Linde selected first gear and drove off. Stewart was left sitting on the outside of the bend, cranking the motor, until it eventually fired up again and he was able to rejoin the race, behind Venter who had earlier been delayed, by a faulty cut out switch.
Hills had lead for most of the race, when Essa dived down the inside of him at the second last bend. Not realizing that they where on the last lap, Hills did not block the move, thinking he would just slipstream past again, down the back straight. Entering the last corner Hills could not understand why Essa was defending the inside line, so aggressively, until he saw the Checkered Flag awaiting them, a hundred meters down the road. They where followed across the line, by Gouws, Tennant, Nico Blignaut (Gilus IT SAP Nashua Mobile Rhema 2), Campos, struggling along with no clutch, Greg Wilson (Reflex Solutions Rhema 2), Ben Pienaar (BJ Pro Welding Rhema 2), Shelby Can Am driver, Greg Walker, deputizing for Alan Eustice in the Execuline Rhema 2, Henk Swanepoel (Renexcon Rhema 2), Brits, Johns, Van Der Linde, Venter and Stewart, with the thirty second penalty, dropping Tennant to eighth place In the official result..
The second heat got underway, without incident but as the field streamed into the fast sweep, at the end of the back straight, one of the cars got a bit out of shape. Right on his tail, Walker reacted and although the other car made it through, without incident, Walker had the Execuline Rhema 2 sliding side on the traffic, exiting a 180 KM per hour sweep! Two or three made it past unscathed but then Venter slammed into the side of Walker's car, spinning Walker around in the other direction. Venter careered of the circuit, toward the barriers on the inside, in a cloud of dust, without his left front wheel, while Walker ended up in the middle of the road, facing the traffic, as the back markers made their way past on either side.
For the second time in the day, the Safety Car was called into action, for a first lap incident and the race was already at half distance, before the scene of the accident had been cleared. The Safety Car was withdrawn but then had to come straight back out again. Shortly after the green flag, Stewart dived down the inside of Van Der Linde under braking, locked up and went straight on, taking Van Der Linde off with him. Van Der Linde eventually got going again but Stewart's car was well and truly stuck in the gravel trap and in the end, the Safety Car only entered the pit lane, to allow the field to stream through the final corner and take the checkered flag, a couple of hundred meters down the road. Two laps earlier, Gouws had retired, due to a loose gear selector and although Essa led the field across the line, the thirty second penalty, with the field having been bunched up behind the Safety Car, put him behind every one, who took the flag, so Hills won the race, from Campos, Tennant, Grobler, Pienaar, Blignaut, Swanepoel, Johns, Brits, Wilson, Van Der Linde, Essa and Gouws.