KZN teen wins Formula BMW Asia Cup

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IOL mot pic dec10 Matthew Swanepoel

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Matthew Swanepoel, right and fellow South African Shayur Harpal celebrate after Swanepoel won the 2013 Formula BMW Asia Cup.

When KwaZulu-Natal teenager Matthew Swanepoel finished writing his matric exams last week he still had one more test to face - the final week of the 2013 Formula BMW Asia Cup in Malaysia.

Swanepoel had started the international series with a disaster, when a technical problem forced him to retire from the first round. That put him on the back foot for the rest of the season, playing catch-up to fellow South African Shayur Harpal, who won that season-opening race, and remained at the top of the points standings going into the final week of the championship.

It's called Super Six week - a true test of mental and physical stamina, with one short practice session, qualifying and six races, all in five hectic high-pressure days. And, as if that wasn't enough, the weather gods spiced up some of the week's racing with torrential rain.

ONE RACE AT A TIME

The first three races produced a win, a second and a third, dicing all the way with another South African, 2012 champion Aston Hare, who won the second and third races. That moved Swanepoel into contention for the title, dialling up the pressure at the sharp end of the championship.

But Swanepoel stuck with his strategy of taking it one race at a time, retreating deep within himself to keep his driving precision perfect, trying to ignore the bigger picture.

And it paid off as he won the next two races and slipped into the championship lead. Now it was down to the last race. Going for a win would be foolhardy; he had to consolidate his position to take the title.

UNEXPECTED CONTACT

Swanepoel was running in a strong third, when he an unexpected contact spun him off the circuit. He was able to keep the engine running and re-joined way down in eleventh.

Was this how it was going to end? Not if Mrs Swanepoel's little boy had anything to do with it. He set off after the leading group, passing four drivers in the closing stages of the race to finish seventh - but was that enough to take the title?

It was: when all the shouting was done and the numbers had been crunched Matthew Swanepoel was the 2013 Formula BMW Asia Cup Champion.

"I thought for sure seventh in the last race wasn't enough."

"I never factored where the others finished,” he grinned.

"I've learnt so much this season. I started on the back foot, but with some hard work and focus I got back into contention.

"I really have to thank my father Gordon for everything he has done for me. Without his help and belief in me, this would not have been possible."


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