Debut event held at Port Elizabeth

Chequer for Morgenrood in Sascar opener A bit of history was made in Port Elizabeth on Saturday when Ben Morgenrood (Hillbank/Ford Credit) won the first SASCAR (Southern African Stock Car Auto Racing) race in appallingly windy conditions to a ...

Chequer for Morgenrood in Sascar opener

A bit of history was made in Port Elizabeth on Saturday when Ben Morgenrood (Hillbank/Ford Credit) won the first SASCAR (Southern African Stock Car Auto Racing) race in appallingly windy conditions to a record crowd at the Aldo Scribante race circuit.

Without exception, the drivers of the inaugural series which will ultimately see the cars race on both ovals and road circuits, were impressed with the V8 5,4-litre cars and sheer racing experience which was described as 'awesome' by most and 'like racing a car on a gravel road', by Morgenrood.

The Hi-Q / Goodyear race was designed to get the cars ready at a circuit close to Port Elizabeth's Hi-Tech Auto factory, which built the cars under license to Chas Howe in the USA. The drivers earned points, but they will not count towards the inaugural 2000 series, giving the field an opportunity to get used to the new cars.

Ben Morgenrood had a faultless first race, holding the lead ahead of a field of 13 drivers for the full 15 laps. The scene behind him, however, was not so controlled. In the first lap, George Fouche (Fasfit) did a faultless 360-degree spin at the Firestone Sweep, which pushed him back from second place on the grid behind Morgenrood to midfield, letting Kosie Swanepoel (PS 23 Lubrioil) in to second place. Then Martinus Briers (National Car Rental), who had just stepped out of his Polo Cup car after the earlier race, spun out from fifth position in his green machine, knocking him far back to the tail end.

Deon Auby (Tyco Trucking International) came in on the second lap, and did not return. His crew discovered that the prop-shaft had hit a pipe, and they sorted it out for the next race.

The pace car went out in the third lap, which saw the cars bunch up, and Martinus Briers grabbed the opportunity to catch up to the end of the short tail. The Ford Credit pace car shot off the track, and Morgenrood resumed his lead chased by Kosie, who clocked the fastest lap time at the time on 1 minute 5,623 seconds as he quickly learned the ropes of handling the challenging, twitchy SASCARS which proved a hit with the drivers.

The pace resumed unrestrained, with aerobatics pilot Zane Pearce flying down the main straight with two wheels on the grass as he fought for his mid-field position in his first V8 race.

Swanepoel spun off coming out of the Firestone Sweep, and nearly took out two cars as he returned to the field. Meanwhile Fouche fought his way though the field, catching up to second place. SA Formula 1 powerboat champion and SASCAR's managing director Peter Lindenberg dropped back from fifth place to seventh with gearbox problems, while his team-mate Kosie Swanepoel was side-sliding on the corners in his attempt to catch up, but he only managed to make 12th place.

It was colder and windier, for the start of the second race and Morgenrood roared off again, with George Fouche giving a heated chase. While Morgenrood was chased by Fouche and Grant van Schalkwyk (Hi-Q), the pace car came out for the first time to bunch up the field. This gave Briers a chance to catch his breath for two laps.

Neville Rossouw, who was lying fourth at one stage, went off with Peter Lindenberg at the Radio Algoa hairpin. Not much could be seen for the dust, but both emerged back onto the track, albeit a little wounded, and Rossouw - who had a number 9 sprayed onto his yellow and red-coloured hair - retired. Moments later Deon Auby (Tyco Trucking International) went farming flat-out at the Goodyear corner.

Jean-Jac Maree (RCS Auto Card), in the meantime, went into the bushes after a great performance that saw him in fourth place at one stage.

The pace car returned to the track, leaving the field going flat-out for the final two laps which saw Morgenrood chased home by Fouche, van Schalkwyk and Kosie Swanepoel, who was so thrilled that he did several wheelies down the main straight.

Colin Windell colin@autonews.co.za

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Series Stock car
Drivers George Fouche , Peter Li