…by Kevin Jenkins
Most of the regular Hankook SA National Formula Vee Championship competitors, headed to the Killarney Circuit, in Cape Town, for the much anticipated sixth round, of the 2016 SA National Championship season. The regular National competitors were exited, as they would be meeting and racing against the new Southern Regions competitors, for the first time. Southern Regions, where a massive revival of interest in Formula Vee racing, has taken place over the last year or so, put in a considerable effort, to build pre-race excitement, for this North, South clash. Their team, built mini driver profiles and shared various pieces of Formula Vee information, on the South African Formula Vee Facebook platform, prior to the event, which would turn out to be one of the best in years, in terms of numbers.
With an entry of twenty four cars, split roughly 50/50, between inland and coastal competitors, Friday’s open practice sessions were spent acclimatizing to the circuit, where the old hands soon showed their experience by running quick straight out of the blocks. Saturday’s qualifying session made it clear that the racing was going to be very close. The first six cars on the grid being split by 0.558 of a second, with Gert Van Den Berg (BP Nantes Motors Rhema 2) taking pole position from Jaco Schriks (Black Steer Panorama Rhema 2) and Peter Hills (Lube Fusion Rhema 2). The biggest loser was Symm Grobler (Auto Mecca Rhema 2) who had a water pump pulley come loose after he tried to start the car right before qualifying. While Byron Mitchell (Sting) continued to struggle with the gearbox issues, which had kept the Mitchell family up until two in the morning. William Vice (Valley Funerals/Gearbox Exchange Laser) had to withdraw due to an unresolved gearbox issue which had also kept them up for most of the night.
The Vees were the last race for each of the heats and with the program running a little behind schedule. They had to wait until after the Silver Arrows Acrobatic Display which had to take place in the fixed time slot allocated to them by Air Traffic Control at Cape Town International Airport. During the break, a spectator commented to his mates regarding the racing so far, “All they do, is ride around the circuit and no one ever passes one another”. My immediate thought was, just wait mate, you haven’t seen nothing yet!
Run in front of what was by far the biggest crowd that I can ever remember seeing at Killarney, race one was a close fought affair. The lead changing hands continuously between Van Den Berg, Hills, Schriks, Alan Holm (Office Direct Rhema 2) and Anthony Taylor (Solarutility/Vacuform Rhema 2) and the other positions in this lead bunch, were also changing continuously! Then Taylor got past Hills in the final corner of the race to take the checkered flag and the first heat victory! The first in many years for the ex-double champion!
In typical Formula Vee style, the first five cars were across the finish line within 0,632 of a second with the finishing order being Taylor, Hills, Holm, Van Den Berg and Schriks. A little further back, Greg Wilson (Reflex Solutions Forza) had to fight his way back through the field after an issue at the start and finished sixth, while Ben Pienaar (BJ Pro Welding Rhema 2) had a reasonably lonely race and finished in seventh place ahead of Lendl Jansen (Bull Security Rhema 2).
Behind him, various battles where eventually resolved. Brandon Hills (Lube Fusion Rhema 2) had run with Luschen Ramchander (Miami Products and Services Forza) for most of the race until Brandon’s engine ran bearings a couple of laps before the end of the heat! This allowed Ramchander to come home ninth, ahead of Grobler, who had started from the back of the grid before grabbing tenth place from Barry du Plessis (Tri-Star/Airex Lantis) and Richard Carr (Lucky Star Rhema 1), the first of the local entries to finish. He was followed home, by Byron Mitchell (Dolphin Racing Precision Engineering Sting), Nicholas van der Merwe (Arrow), Elroy Vice (Wear Check Lantis) one lap down, after earlier battling it out with du Plessis, Damien White (Lantis) , Mitch Janrjies (Valley Funerals Omega), Claude Saunders (A+ Acounting Rhema 1), Brandon Hills and Dylan Mitchell (Lantis). In total twenty cars, were classified as finishers after Delano Fowler (SuproCom Lantis) and Jason Greyling (Forza) had failed to qualify as finishers.
Race two started just before six pm and the setting sun was pretty bad going through Turns 1, 2 and 5. But the lead battle would once again be a close affair. Into Turn 2, Jansen was taken out by a spinning Carr, while Van Den Berg was caught out by the setting sun and ran off the circuit at Turn 5! A second or two later, Vice also spun at Turn 5 and du Plessis collected him, ripping the right rear wheel out of a pretty fast Lantis. The five front running cars with Wilson joining in the fun this time around, had another hard fought battle. It was however the reigning and five times SA National Formula Vee Champion, Alan Holm, who took the checkered flag with Wilson snatching second place ahead of Peter Hills on the run to the line. The first four were covered by 0,337 of a second, with Taylor finishing 1,442 of a second behind them. Grobler had a lonely recovery ride into sixth place, doing some damage limitation to his Championship aspirations and Van Den Berg came back to finish seventh. Ramchander eighth ahead of Brandon Hills, who had changed the motor during the break between Heats and finished ahead of Pienaar. Carr and Vice completing the points scoring positions after recovering from their earlier incidents. These two, being clearly the fastest of the Cape Town competitors and where followed home by Byron Mitchell, Delano Fowler, Nicholas Van der Merwe, Damien White, Claude Saunders and Dylan Mitchell. This time around, there were eighteen classified finishers, with Jantjies, Jansen, Du Plessis and Greyling, all failing to go the distance.
Jaco Schriks broke the lap record with a lap time of 1:21.701.
Peter Hills returns to the top of the table, ahead of Symm Grobler, Jaco Schricks and Gert Van Den Berg. Only 11 points separate the top 4 with only 2 races left. There are 60 points still available, and anyone can still take it. This is definitely one of the most exciting motor sport contests at the moment!