On-form Formato dominates PE ProddiesComment on this story
Port Elizabeth - Gary Formato and his Dealer Team Ford Focus ST grabbed all the Class T Production Car championship points on offer at Aldo Scribante on Saturday when he won both races and set the fastest lap in each.
In Class A the wins - and fastest-lap bonus points - were shared between Michael Stephen (Audi S4) and Johan Fourie (BMW 335i).
Stephen had team-mate Simon Moss alongside him on the front row of the grid for the nine-lap sprint race and the pair were never challenged on their way to a one-two finish. The real action was behind them, as Gavin Cronje in the second BMW 335i led the two Audi S4s of Hennie Groenewald and Gennaro Bonafede and his team mate Fourie in a four-way battle for third that saw them often running two or even three abreast.
Unfortunately Groenewald and Cronje made contact in the final corner of the race, opening the door for Bonafede to dive through and claim third, while Fourie outsprinted a recovering Cronje to the line for fourth and Groenewald had to settle for sixth.
Formato was never challenged on his way to the win; Michael van Rooyen (Chevrolet Cruze) was heading for second until he found the oil that Cronje's car had dropped at the final corner. His subsequent off-track excursion allowed Shaun Duminy through for a Focus ST one-two - until the post-race check showed the second 'works' Ford to have exceeded the maximum permissible boost level.
That promoted Graeme Nathan (Volkswagen Golf GTi) to second and Lee Thompson (Mini) to third; Ryan Rhode in the second Mini also found the oil but recovered to finish fifth behind Van Rooyen and Charl Smalberger (Volkswagen Golf GTi) had an uneventful drive to sixth.
The drivers lined up in reverse championship order, which gave Moss pole position with Cronje alongside him - but Moss outbraked himself going into the first turn and dropped to the back of the field, handing the lead to Cronje, who had team-mate Fourie behind and a pack of Audis all over them like a rash.
Fourie took the lead approaching one-third distance and opened up a big gap while Cronje kept the Audis at bay, until Stephen muscled his way past - with Moss following in his wheel tracks - as they approached the half way mark.
Contact between Cronje and Moss put the BMW out of the race while Moss dropped down to fourth behind Bonafede. Stephen did his best to close the gap to Fourie but ran out of laps, eventually crossing the line less than a second behind the BMW, with Bonafede third.
Moss came home fourth in his battered Audi but was later excluded for a boost pressure infringement, while Groenewald's race had come to an early end when mechanical gremlins sidelined his Audi,
Formato made it a double for the day with another comfortable win, this time ahead of rookie Rhode's Mini - but behind the leaders there was a three-way battle for third for much of the race, between Nathan, Van Rooyen and Thompson, until gearbox problems slowed Thompson and he dropped back through the field.
Nathan and Van Rooyen crossed the line separated by less than half a second, but Van Rooyen was later excluded for a boost pressure infringement; Smalberger was eventually classified fourth after Duminy was also excluded for exceeding the maximum allowable boost.
Much as his older brother Kelvin did a couple of years ago, 14-year-old Sheldon van der Linde stole all the limelight in the one-make Polo races.
He dived past a locked-up Dewald Brummer to in Race 1 to grab second behind team-mate Daniel Rowe,
Mathew Hodges was leading the Masters category when his Polo lost power, allowing Trevor Bland past for the class win first, with Juan Gerber second and John Johnstone third, in his best VW Cup result so far result so far.first podium finish in the series.
Van der Linde started from pole and stayed there all the way to become the youngest driver yet to win a National saloon-car race, while Hodges - who is twice his age! - grabbed second overall, way ahead of the rest of the Masters drivers, with Rowe third.
Bland came in fifth overall and second in the Masters category - but there was a real dust-up for seventh between Jano van der Westhuizen, Tasmin Pepper, Adrian Wood and Gerber that saw the drivers trading paint on a number of occasions.
However, it was Van der Westhuizen who was (just) in front when it mattered.
Defending champion Robert Wolk showed a welcome return to form, dominating completely to take pole for both races and going on to win each race as well.
"I've had some bad luck the past few rounds," he said. "I'm happy to get the points here in Port Elizabeth and finally get my championship season going properly."
Nicholas van Weely qualified third but improving on this when it counted most to finish in second in each race, while Wesleigh Orr qualified second but couldn't fend off Van Weely's challenges and slipped to third in each race.
The highlight of the weekend was actually at the back of the field in Race 1. While the serious business of gathering points was happening up front, two back markers racers - Duvall Maritz and Dewald Brummer were battling for track position.
Keegan Campos was the fastest Class A qualifier, grabbing pole position for both races. He went on to win the first race - closing the championship points gap to Scott Temple to just two points.
In Race 2, however, Temple turned the tables on Campos to claim victory in the dying moments of the race, adding a cushion of two extra points to his championship lead.
Graham Hepburn put himself on the podium with two third-place finishes for the day, while the second race saw action between Dean Venter, Eugene Denyssen, Andrew Horne and Bevan Williams as they debated fourth, with Venter taking the honours ahead of Denyssen, Horne and Williams.
Ian Schofield led the pack in qualifying with Rick Morris and Allen Meyer hard on his heels.
Race one went to Schofield with Meyer second and Andreas Petrou third. Morris suffered a misfire in the first race that saw him lose ground on the others with each passing lap.
Race two saw Schofield claim a second with Morris second and Petrou third.