The third round of the South African National Formula Vee Championship took place at Phakisa Freeway outside Welkom in the Freestate. In the last couple of years, Phakisa has hosted some of the most bunched up races. This race would prove no different, with the top four in the overall classification being split by just 0,7 seconds. That is a difference of less than one second from 1st to 4th after 34 minutes or 18 laps of racing.
On Saturday during qualifying the pace was set by reigning champion Jaco Schriks (Bean Child Coffee/Cubed Coatings Rhema 2) with Lushen Ramchander (TRA Forza) showing that he had different plans for the weekend. Peter Hills (Lube Fusion Rhema 2) and Gert van den Berg (BP Nantes Motors Rhema 2) ended in 3rd and 4th on the grid. Lendl Jansen (Bull Security Forza) was 5th fastest after having resolved the Killarney gearbox issues, with Geoff Tugwell (Solar Utility VMax) continuing the good Killarney pace and ended up 6th. Ross Rugheimer (Rhema 2) and Symm Grobler (Rhema 2) rounded out the top eight, all qualifying in a laptime of under 1 min 50 seconds.
After a race long multi car battle, the first heat was resolved in favour of Peter Hills, ahead of Schriks, Tugwell, Ramchander and Van den Berg. They were followed home closely, by Ross Rugheimer, Lendle Jansen making it 7 cars across the finish within three seconds! Brandon Hills (Lube Fusion Rhema 1.5) struggled home with an underpowered car, while dicing with Ben Pienaar (DOE Parts Rhema 2) all the way. Theodore Vermaak (DOE Parts Vision) completed the top ten and then Fred Rugheimer (Rhema 2) and Travas Rugheimer (Rhema 2) ended in the last points scoring position. Shane Helberg (Shanberg racing Forza was the last finisher after having a spin early in the race, while Symm Grobler had retired from the race, just before half distance.
In the second heat, the battle for the lead was made up of seven cars. However on lap two, Schriks and Van den Berg ran wide through turn one. Van den Berg lost places to a resurgent Brandon Hills and Ross Rugheimer. At turn three, Rugheimer outbraked himself and collided with Hills leaving both stranded, while Van den Berg ran wide and spun on the grass to avoid the collision. This left the lead battle with four cars. All four of the front runners led at one stage or another and the battle was eventually resolved in favour of Ramchander, ahead of Tugwell, Schriks and Peter Hills, with the four of them across the finish line, within 1,238 of a second! They were followed across the line, by Jansen, Van Den Berg, Pienaar, Vermaak, Travas Rugheimer, Fred Rugheimer, Helberg. Brandon Hills rejoined after a lap next to the track and completed the race in twelfth. Ross Rugheimer and Grobler had once again been forced to retire from the race.
The win was the first National formula Vee heat win for Lushen Ramchander, but the days result was so close that he finished fourth overall for the day. The gap to the overall winner was 0,7 seconds after the days racing. This left Jaco Schriks first with Peter Hills and Geoff Tugwell rounding out the podium.
The next round is 2 June at Midvaal and promises to be another close battle.