KYALAMI TOURING CAR CHALLENGE ____________________________________________________________ BMW turned the AA Fleetcare Touring Car Challenge at Kyalami on Saturday into a benefit for themselves, winning both races overall on the day. The two...
KYALAMI TOURING CAR CHALLENGE ____________________________________________________________
BMW turned the AA Fleetcare Touring Car Challenge at Kyalami on Saturday into a benefit for themselves, winning both races overall on the day. The two races of two heats each did, however, produce some spirited performances from the other marques and a heat win for Opel.
Mike Briggs set the pace in practice, claiming pole position in the works Opel Astra from World Touring Car Champion Paul Radisich's Sasol-backed Ford Mondeo by just 0,09 seconds with Mike White in the Minolta Toyota Camry third quickest just 0,16 seconds behind. Tiff Needell in the BP Nissan Sentra was fourth fastest followed by Serge Damseaux in the Castrol Toyota Camry and then the first of the Envirocar BMW 318i's, that of Jo Winkelhock.
Although each driver had a partner, only one had to set the qualifying time for the grid for the first heat.
Damseaux was more than happy with his time having suffered a major fire during unofficial practice when the plastic tank on the Camry pressurised and chafed through. Coming into the pits, petrol started leaking from the tank and caught alight on the exhaust. The Camry made it to the Toyota pit trailing flames down the pit road - fortunately with not too much damage to the car.
Briggs made excellent use of his pole position to power away from the lights into an immediate lead he was to hold to the finish. Radisich set out after Briggs and began to close the gap, looking set to make his move to pass on lap six, but suddenly slowed and pulled the Mondeo off the circuit, the engine seized. This let Winkelhock through to second place ahead of Deon Joubert in the second Envirocar BMW with Anthony Reid in the PG Auto Glass Opel Astra claiming fourth place ahead of Kelvin Burt in the second Sasol Ford Mondeo.
"We've never run these cars in heat like you have in Johannesburg or at this altitude (6 000 feet above sea level)," said Radisich. "We must have been running a bit lean, but our systems are not working and we cannot get an engine or exhaust temperature readout."
Needell made a good start, running second for part of the first lap until he was punted by the charging Radisich, dropping back to eighth place behind the Alfa Romeo 155T of George Fouche and the Camry of Will Hoy. However, the second BP Nissan Sentra driven by Nic de Waal blew an engine on lap three - the seventh engine blowup in the team for the weekend.
As he came out to start heat two John Cleland, now in the Briggs Astra, battled to start the car and barely made the warmup lap before the engine expired in a cloud of smoke.
With the Opel a non-starter the heat was a superb battle between the BMWs of Alex Burgstaller and Shaun van der Linde. Grant McCleery in the PG Auto Glass Opel Astra made the early running, but was penalised 30 seconds for jumping the start. Burgstaller then took over the lead with Hannes Grobler behind him, battling with Van der Linde who managed to get past on lap six to finish second.
Hannes Grobler had a good run to give the surviving BP Nissan Sentra third place ahead of Serge Damseaux in the Castrol Toyota Camry and James Weaver in the Motorplan BMW 318i he was sharing with Anthony Taylor fifth spot ahead of Hilton Cowie (Alfa 155) and Ben Morgenrood (Ford Mondeo).
The hour break between races was extended by the organisers to allow Briggs/Cleland and Radisich/Sarel van der Merwe time to replace engines.
However, the first heat of the second race saw a determined Van der Linde claim the chequered flag. Burgstaller initially led the chase but was neatly passed by Van der Linde on lap three. James Weaver finished third with Briggs fourth ahead of Morgenrood and Van der Merwe in the Ford Mondeos. The Nissan team elected to give Ivan Capelli (who was partnered with Nic de Waal) a drive, but after having blown two engines in practice by moving the sequential shift gear lever the wrong way the Italian's weekend completed itself in a shunt on the first corner with Serge Damseaux and Anthony Reid.
Jo Winkelhock made the second heat of race two all his own, powering the Envirocar BMW away from the line to lead all the way to the finish, despite the best efforts of Radisich in Mondeo who came from the back end of the grid to third in the first lap. Radisich then took three laps to pass Anthony Taylor's Motorplan BMW to claim second place ahead of Deon Joubert (Envirocar BMW), Tiff Needell (BP Nissan Sentra) and Jeff Allam in the Speedy Car Sales Vauxhall Cavalier he shared with Farouk Dangour.
"Kyalami is a great circuit and could be a superb venue for a Touring Car World Championship," said Radisich.
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