Home ground advantage at Round 3 of the WesBank Super Series at Aldo Scribante at the weekend was all reigning Production Car champion Michael Stephen needed to rejuvenate his challenge for back-to-back titles.
Stephen went into the meeting lying fourth in the championship behind BMW pair Anthony Taylor and Etienne van der Linde and Subaru driver Hennie Groenewald. Stephen, in an Audi S4, bagged two wins and a second in the three-race format to turn the championship on its head.
The ever consistent Groenewald also had a pretty good day, with two seconds and a third, but it was a disappointing outing for Taylor and Van der Linde. Their only trips to the podium were a single win and a third - with a sting in the tail to come.
Stephen gave a hint of things to come when he romped away with the first of two back-to-back sprint races. The local favourite came in ahead of Groenewald, Taylor and Van der Linde.
CONTROLLING PROCEEDINGS FROM THE FRONT
But it was Van der Linde who spoiled a possible clean sweep for Stephen when he took the second race win ahead of Stephen and Groenewald, setting the scene for a dramatic 14-lap feature race.
The race fizzled out after an explosive run down to the first corner as Stephen controlled proceedings from the front. Groenewald produced another of his steady drives to take second ahead of another hometown hero, Tschops Sipuka, in the second Audi S4.
Then race officials moved into action and Groenewald, former champion Johan Fourie (Audi S4) and Van der Linde were all penalised 30 seconds for running with excessive turbo boost. That elevated Sipuka to second, Melville Priest (Audi S4) to third - and fourth place was an unexpected boost for Taylor.
It was also a profitable day for former Class T champion Graeme Nathan, in a VW Golf 6, who walked away with a full house of wins in the three races. Nathan, however, also needed the intervention of race officials to claim the feature race win which carried double points.
Race winner Michael van Rooyen (Opel Astra OPC) was also penalised 30 seconds for excessive turbo boost. That gave Nathan his clean sweep, moved Gennaro Bonafede (VW Golf 6) up to second and gave Gary Formato (Ford Focus), who led the championship at the start of the day, his only trip to the podium.
Much of the meeting's drama was reserved for the final race of the day. After veteran former champion Ben Morgenrood (Ford Falcon) had turned back the clock with an impressive first-race win, there was high drama after only four laps of race two.
Coming out of the final turn onto the pit straight Marc Auby's Lumina blew its engine in a big way and caught fire. Auby was out of the car in an instant but with the Lumina enveloped in a sheet of flame the race was red-flagged.
It took every fire extinguisher on the circuit to put out the blaze and clerk of the course Wally Pappas then took the decision to declare the race null and void on safety grounds.
Morgenrood's comfortable race one win rolled back the years and ended a string of four Auby family wins in the GT1 category. Former champion Brandon Auby and father Deon were a distant second and third, each in a Ford.
There was another hometown success when Lumina driver Patrick Seddon won the GT2 category in the opening heat. Seddon came in ahead of Des Gutzeit (Ford Falcon) who went into the race leading the championship by a single point.
A double win confirmed that teenager Kelvin Van der Linde is earmarked for stardom. This is not surprising considering that his grandfather, his father and his uncle have between them all won international and national championships at one stage or another.
Young van der Linde chased down Kosie Weyers in Race 1, with Mark Silverwood third. Van der Linde then romped away with a spirited Race 2 run to win easily from Jeffrey Kruger and former champion Matthew Hodges.
FORMULA VW/FORMULA 1600
There was also a double win for James Temple (Mygale) in the Formula 1600 category, with reigning champion Jayde Kruger and local youngster Simon Moss sharing wins in the Formula VW class.
Moss was the villain of the piece when he clashed with Robert Wolk in Race 1 to hand Kruger an easy win ahead of Caleb Williams and Tasmin Pepper in the PG Glass FVW.
The local lad then made amends by winning Race 2 by the proverbial mile. Kruger was a solid second to cement his hold on the championship with Wolk third.
The works Honda Supersport squad (five of them at the last count!) are making a determined effort to dominate the class in 2012 after having to cede the title to a lone Kawasaki rider last year, but instead they seem to be shooting themselves in the foot with distressing regularity.
After skittling each other with gay abandon at Killarney, championship leader Clint Seller and teenager Cam Petersen were penalised for jump starts in Race 1 at Scribante, robbing the team of a podium clean sweep.
Revised results gave veteran Lance Isaacs, on a third works Honda, the win ahead of Kawasaki pair Ivan Torlage and Dean Vos. Isaacs then crashed early in Race 2, leaving it to Seller and Petersen to redeem themselves by finishing first and second ahead of Torlage and Vos.
The premier-class Superbike wins were shared by reigning champion Greg Gildenhuys (BMW S1000 RR) and championship leader Dave 'McFlash' McFadden (Kawasaki ZX-10R), who produced the ride of the day in Race 1.
A little argy-bargy on lap one dropped McFadden from pole position to 12th, and the Capetonian then carved his way through the field to finish third behind Gildenhuys and BMW privateer Nicolas Grobler.
McFadden then stormed away with Race 2, leaving no leeway for the desperately close finishes that have characterised recent Superbike outings. He finished eight second clear of Gildenhuys with the impressive Grobler third.
RESULTS - V8 SUPERCARS
RACE 1 - GT1
1 B Morgenrood (Ford Falcon)
2 B Auby (Ford Falcon)
3 D Auby (Ford Falcon)
1 P Seddon (Lumina)
2 D Gutzeit (Ford Falcon)
Race declared null and void after four laps.
PRODUCTION CARS - RACE 1
1 M Stephen (Audi S4)
2 H Groenewald (Subaru WRX)
3 A Taylor (BMW F30)
1 G Nathan (VW Golf6)
2 J Joubert (VW Golf GTi)
3 M van Rooyen (Opel Astra OPC)
1 E van der Linde (BMW F30)
2 M Stephen (Audi S4)
3 H Groenewald (Subaru WRX).
2 M van Rooyen (Opel Astra OPC)
3 G Bonafede (VW Golf6)
2 T Sipuka (Audi S4)
3 M Priest (Audi S4)
2 G Bonafede (VW Golf6)
3 G Formato (Ford Focus)
VW CUP - RACE 1
1 K van der Linde
2 K Weyers
3 M Silverwood
2 J Kruger
3 M Hodges
FORMULA VW - RACE 1
1 J Kruger
2 C Williams
3 T Pepper
1 S Moss
3 R Wolk
FORMULA 1600 - RACE 1
1 J Temple (Mygale)
2 M Merton (Mygale)
3 W Scholtz (Mygale)
2 W Scholtz (Mygale)
3 M Merton (Mygale)
SA SUPERBIKES - RACE 1
1 G Gildenhuys (BMW)
2 N Grobler (BMW)
3 D McFadden (Kawasaki)
1 D McFadden (Kawasaki)
2 G Gildenhuys (BMW)
3 N Grobler (BMW)
SA SUPERSPORT - RACE 1
1 L Isaacs (Honda)
2 I Torlage (Kawasaki)
3 D Vos (Kawasaki)
1 C Seller (Honda)
2 C Petersen (Honda)
3 I Torlage (Kawasaki)