Clean Sweep for Fourie in East LondonComment on this story
East London - Johan Fourie (BMW 335i) put together a perfect race weekend in Round 4 of the 2014 SA Production Car Championship at the historic Grand Prix Circuit, taking pole position in Friday's qualifying session, winning both races and claiming the bonus points available for fastest lap in each race.
Fourie's perfect haul of 35 points gave him a slender two point advantage at the top of the Class A table over defending champion Michael Stephen (Audi S4) at the half-way point of the season.
In Class T, Graeme Nathan (VW Golf GTi) extended his championship lead, despite being involved in an crash that brought a premature end to the day's feature race.
The eight-lap sprint race got off to a dramatic start after a collision at Cocabana brought out the safety car. The Audi S4 of Hennie Groenewald and Class T pole-sitter Michael van Rooyen's Chevrolet Cruze would take no further part in proceedings and, once the debris had been cleared the drivers were left with a four-lap dash to the flag.
Fourie had an easy run to the line, taking the win by just over two seconds from team-mate Gavin Cronje who had to fight off the attentions of Stephen for the entire race. Simon Moss (Audi S4) came home fourth with a recovering Gennaro Bonafede (Audi S4) in fifth.
With Van Rooyen eliminated the Class T battle was fought between Lee Thompson (Mini), Gary Formato (Ford Focus ST) and Nathan. They crossed the finish line in that order followed by Charl Smalberger (VW Golf GTi), series newcomer Mandla Mdakane (Mini) and Shaun Duminy (Ford Focus ST).
Cronje headed the grid for the 12-lap feature race with team-mate Fourie in fourth, but it was only a lap until the two BMWs were in formation at the head of the field. A couple of laps later Fourie got past Cronje and went on to a comfortable win. Cronje was left to deal with the attentions of Stephen in a repeat of the first race.
Despite Stephen trying everything he could, the speed of the BMW on the straights gave Cronje enough of an advantage to stay in front of the Audi and he eventually crossed the line just seven hundredths of a second in front to give BMW its second 1-2 of the day.
In Class T Mdakane led the field away, holding off challenges from Nathan and Smalberger until Formato finally forced his way past and headed off into the middle distance, leaving Nathan to battle with Mdakane.
A brave move by Nathan saw him get past the Mini around the outside of Potter's Pass, but contact between the two a few moments later saw Nathan roll into the Eastern cape shrubbery. The race was red flagged when the hot Golf GTi set the grass around it alight.
Even then thec drama wasn't over as Formato was excluded for a boost pressure infringement. With the results credited as at the end of the last completed lap before the red flags came out, the win went to Mdakane with Nathan second. Michael van Rooyen's team did an incredible job between races to get his car back on the track and he rewarded them with third ahead of Duminy in fourth.
Masters competitor Mathew Hodges set the pace in East London, showing the younger racers how it should be done - and that being a Master is not just about age, but also about racecraft.
With overall victory on the day, Hodges left the Grand Prix Circuit with the lead in the Masters category and moved up to fourth place overall in the championship
Round four was all about close battles and fierce competition as the contenders battled it out over two races and 16 laps, with Hodges the strongest competitor in Race 1, albeit under constant pressure from Daniel Rowe and Dewald Brummer.
Brummer had posted the fastest time in qualifying and Rowe started from pole when luck favoured him in the top-six draw.
Contact between this pair shifted the advantage to Hodges, who was not about to give up his advantage - and then the red flags stopped the race two laps early after an miscalculation saw Noel Greyling do significant damage to his race car.
Brummer was not about to let advantage pass him by a second time, crossing the line for first at the end of the 10 lap race. Teen prodigy Sheldon van der Linde took second - posting the fastest lap of the race - a blistering 1m36.895s - in the process.
Hodges came home third, taking his second podium result of the day and moving to the top of the day's overall results - and the top spot in the Masters' points standings.
With Brummer finishing ahead of Rowe overall, it also saw a change in the championship standings. Rowe retained the lead with team-mate Van der Linde second but Brummer moved up one place to third.
An improved race day performance saw Adrian Wood take the Drive of the Day award, thanks to a well-earned a sixth in Race 2.
Another driver who stood out on the day was Tasmin Pepper, who started Race 2 from pole, only to over-rev her engine into limp mode, leaving her at the back of the field. She reset the car's ECU and set about catching the field - catching and passing all but the top seven by the end of the 10-lap race.
Arriving in East London, it was Robert Wolk at the head of the field but after the event it was Nicholas van Weely who held a strong lead.
Wolk arrived at Round 4 nursing an injury to his foot which, at best, made driving uncomfortable. This did not slow him down in qualifying where he featured at the top of the timesheets.
But a blown engine on lap four of Race 1 ruled him out for the day, leaving with only the two bonus points for pole position, while Van Weely romped home to win both races and take over the series lead , despite the deployment of the safety car in Race 2 while the marshals tidied up after an altercation between series newcomer Matthew Swanepoel and Jason Campos.
Werner Scholtz took second overall for the day - moving up into third in the championship and relegating Campos to fourth by the narrowest of margins.
Scott Temple and Keegan Campos fought it out neck-and-neck throughout the day, with constant challenges and defensive maneouvres as they fought for position.
Graham Hepburn finished each of the races in third, ahead of a pitched battle for fourth between Dean Venter, Bevan Williams and Andrew Horne. Numerous position changes later, it was Venter who took fourth from Horne, while Williams broke his gear lever in the heat of battle and had to settle for 11th.
Class B saw Rick Morris and Ian Schofield fighting it out, as they had at every round so far this season, creating much excitement and nail-biting moments as each seems determined to push that little bit harder to get ahead.
The next round of the Super Series will be run at Phakisa Freeway in the Free State on 2 August.