The final round of the 2018 Hankook SA National Formula Vee Championship could justifiably have been billed, as a race of Champions. It would decide the outcome of the 2018 Hankook SA National Formula Vee Championship title, between the 2016 SA National Champion Gert Van Den Berg (BP Nantes Motors Rhema 2) and the reigning three times SA National Formula Vee Champion Jaco Schriks (Bean Child Coffee Merchants Rhema 2). In addition to them, the field included a number of other ex-National Formula Vee Champions, like three times SA National Champion Peter Hills (Lubefusion Rhema 2), two times SA National Formula Vee Champion Anthony Taylor (Vacuform Rhema 2) and ex-National Champion Symm Grobler (Rhema 2), with ex-Formula GTi Champion Lushen Ramchander (TRA/D&B Industrial Forza), in the mix as well. With a 14 point advantage, going into the event, Schriks was the favourite to secure the 2018 title, but in motorsport, anything can happen. Van den Berg needed to win both heats and hope that a couple of other drivers, come in between him and Schriks, in order to limit Schriks’ points and be able to go into the second heat, with a slightly easier task, at hand.
In qualifying, Van den Berg pushed to get the extra point on offer for pole position but spun and brought out the red flag. He then had to sit out the last 6min of qualifying, but his fastest lap put him in third on the grid. Ramchander managed to secure the single pole position point with veteran Grobler in second. Van den Berg and Schriks filled the second row to set up a straight fight for the championship.
In the first heat, Van den Berg managed to pass Grobler and Ramchander when they were fighting for the lead. He kept his head and managed to secure the win from Schriks who fought his way up to second. Ramchander’s challenge faded as his car’s gearbox had trouble and got stuck in third gear. The first heat was won by Van den Berg, from Schriks, only narrowing the gap by three points and leaving Van den Berg with a much more difficult task, in the second heat. Following them home, where Grobler, Lendl Jansen (Bull Security Forza), Peter Hills, Ross Rugheimer, Brandon Hills (Lubefusion Rhema 2), Lushen Ramchander, Ben Pienaar (DOE Quality Parts Rhema 2), Geoff Tugwell, Travis Rugheimer and Fred Rugheimer. Shane Helberg (Shanberg Racing) had a lonely race after going off at turn four and newcomers Roy Douglas (Forza) and Dave Austin (Rhema 2) managed to improve their lap times, while Anthony Taylor and Theo Vermaak retired with problems.
The second heat, saw Van den Berg, take the lead again but this time Symm Grobler had found a way past Schriks, into second place, raising Van den Berg’s hopes of snatching the title, from under Schriks’ nose. This lead battle continued unabated, with very few cars being completely on their own, all the way down the field.
On the penultimate lap, Grobler dived up the inside of Van den Berg going to turn 5 and forces him wide. Schriks passed both and Grobler and Van den Berg ran side by side through turn 6 and seven. Grobler then drifted wide pushing Van den Berg onto the grass. A resurgent Ramchander and Hills passed Van den Berg as he rejoined in sixth. The lead also changed hands as Grobler then passed Schriks to win the final race of the season. Ramchander was third, Van den Berg fourth and then Peter Hills. Initially, Lendl Jansen was with this battle, but he faltered as his car also had gearbox issues towards the end. At the back end, Helberg and Travas Rugheimer tangled into turn 6 leaving Helberg next to the road and out of the race.
So the championship showdown did reach the final heat of the season and was won by Jaco Schriks, making him the second most successful South African Formula Vee driver. He now has four titles sewn up and would hope to continue in this fashion.
The 2019 national Formula Vee season should be a great year with some youngsters stepping up and the challenge to Schriks will be more ferocious. We have Van den Berg, Ramchander and Jansen as immediate challengers and then we have the likes of Peter Hills and Brandon Hills that can easily upset the applecart. There is also two new cars in the making which will leave the Formula Vee grid stronger than the last couple of years and we can expect only the best racing from this class.
Next up is the Annual Prizegiving on 16 November with the shooting of season 2 of Racing with Celebs taking place in January 2019.