Super Series back on track at PhakisaComment on this story
After a sortie through the streets of Durban it will be back to more conventional surroundings for Round 6 of the WesBank Super Series at Welkom's Phakisa Raceway on Saturday (4 August).
The Phakisa meeting will also sees a return to action for the V8 Supercar and motorcycle brigades, who missed the Durban outing. They last raced on 26 May 26 at Zwartkop and the Welkom trip will have a 'new season' flavour for them - especially for the two-wheelers, who always enjoy an outing on a pukka Grand Prix circuit.
Another novelty will be the Super Series debut of the Shelby Can-Am racers, who will run alongside the V8 Supercars for the rest of the season.
After the Durban outing just two points separate reigning champion Michael Stephen (Audi S4) and Hennie Groenewald (Subaru), who recently became a father for the first time, at the top of the Class A championship.
That sets up a tasty confrontation in what is rapidly turning into a two-horse race. Only Anthony Taylor and Etienne van der Linde, in the BMW F30 entries, have a realistic chance of catching Stephen (140) and Groenewald (138).
Taylor and van der Linde trail Groenewald by 29 points - they can't afford to let Stephen and Groenewald widen any further.
Then there is a further gap of 38 points to Melvill Priest in another Audi S4, with Tschops Sipuka a further four points adrift of Priest in the second works Audi; Stephen will be looking to a heavy measure of help from his team mate.
The format of two back-to-back, six-lap races and a feature event over 12 laps poses some interesting tactical considerations. One certainty is that all three races will be loaded with action.
Durban provided for a miserable outing for Graeme Nathan (VW Golf6), who did not score any points, and he now leads the Class T championship by only nine points from arch-rival Gary Formato's Ford Focus. That also sets up an interesting confrontation with no love lost between the combatants.
Each will be hoping from help from team mates with the ever-improving Jaques Joubert (VW Golf GTi) and Shaun Duminy, in the second factory Focus, in the hot seats. Only five points separate Joubert and Duminy in the championship, with Gennaro Baonafede (VW Golf6) a further nine points in arrears.
Making their Super Series debuts will be a Chevrolet Cruze in the hands of Michael van Rooyen, and a Renault Megane to be driven by Devin Robertson, who will join the Mini Coopers of Lee Thompson and Gavin Cronje in what is now a good mix of manufacturers in Class T.
V8 SUPERCARS/SHELBY CAN-AM
The 'joint venture' between the V8 Supercars and Shelby Can-Am championships will provide for a big field and add a new flavour to both categories.
Since the withdrawal of the Auby family from the V8 Supercar series veteran Ben Morgenrood (Ford Falcon) has built up a comfortable 26-point lead over Welkom-based Corvette Driver Jaco Correia in the GT1 category. Correia, however, is just two points clear of another veteran, Franco di Matteo (Jaguar) with Larry Wilford a further five points adrift in a Ford Falcon.
Correia and brother Danie, in a second Corvette, will be looking for good performances on home turf, and Morgenrood and company could find themselves under the cosh.
The GT2 battle is a cliff-hanger with only one point separating Patrick Seddon (Lumina) and former champion Des Gutzeit in a Ford Falcon. The pair are well clear of Ray Wilford (Chev Corvette) and former champion Roelf du Plessis in a Jaguar.
On the Shelby Can-Am front Brian Algar takes to Welkom a 14-point lead over reigning champion Rui Campos, who in turn is only four points clear of veteran Alan Eve and Thomas Reib with Andre Strike a further eight points in arrears.
The SA Superbike championship has turned into a two-horse race and one rider has broken clear in the SA Supersport series - yet both categories are loaded with potential on a circuit that demands both skill and courage.
In the Superbike stakes reigning champion Greg Gildenhuys (BMW) has a narrow 10 point advantage over Kawasaki hotshot Dave 'McFlash' McFadden. McFlash, however, has scored five wins to Gildenhuys' three by Gildenhuys and is fresh from a top-five finish in the World Superstock 1000 round at Brno in Czechoslovakia.
The pair are well clear of Nicolas Grobler (BMW), Chris Leeson (Ducati), Ryan Ottens (BMW) and Robert Portman (Kawasaki) and have produced some terrific battles this season. More of the same is on the cards at Welkom and the two Superbike races alone will be worth a trip to Phakisa.
Supersport series leader Clint Seller (Honda) has built up a 40 point advantage over Kawasaki rookie - and Phakisa local - Ivan Torlage, who scored a maiden win at Killarney earlier in the season and has no less than three works Honda riders chasing him in the standings.
Only 21 points separate Torlage from youngster Cam Petersen, veteran Lance Isaacs and Brent Harran. Next up are Dean Vos and Nicholas Kershaw, also on Kawasakis and, as is the case among the Superbike brigade, the scene is set for a couple of hugely competitive races.
Teenager Kelvin van der Linde looks to be on course to emulate his grandfather and father by winning a South African championship.
Young Van der Linde is 65 points clear of his nearest title challenger and, at this stage, has a tight grip on the silverware, as time runs out for reigning champion Devin Robertson and Cape-based Kosie Weyers.
Weyers is 12 points behind Robertson but is 34 points clear of Bryan Morgan which suggests that van der Linde is in the box seats. Robertson and Weyers will have their work cut out catching Van der Linde, and maximum points are a must for both drivers at Welkom.
The other talking point sees talented driver Tasmin Pepper turn her back on the Formula VW series and join younger brother Jordan in the VW Polo ranks. Since making her national debut in a Formula Ford six years ago, Miss Pepper has been at the sharp end of single-seater championships and will be making her saloon car debut.
Father Iain was a tough competitor in the same series in his day and his offspring is a chip off the old block. She has never been intimidated by male drivers and will give as good as she gets.
FORMULA VW/FORMULA 1600
With Tasmin Pepper moving to the VW Polo ranks and Robert Wolk withdrawing from the series the Formula VW ranks look a bit thin on the ground.
Wolk was lying third in the championship and Pepper fourth. Their disappearance leaves the title fight a straight contest between Jayde Kruger and Simon Moss; only nine points separate the ever-consistent Kruger and Moss with Ernie van der Walt inheriting third place in the championship - albeit 40 points behind Moss.
The Formula Midas fight is intense with a single point separating Werner Scholtz and reigning champion Matthew Merton. Jason Temple is only seven points behind Merton and Jason Campos is also in the championship mix - and they're all driving similar Mygales.
The Formula Midas brigade has consistently produced some of the best racing of the season, and two crackerjack heats are in the offing.