A trio of Class A Production Car competitors fought out an enthralling do-or-die battle for the duration of the 14-lap finale of the penultimate round at Killarney on Saturday 5 October - all in a bid to secure second place.
While this was going on, Melvill Priest was disappearing into the distance in his Audi S4, leading from start to finish. When the chequered flag came out he had stretched his advantage to almost seven seconds.
The battle for second was eventually resolved in Etienne van der Linde's favour, the BMW driver holding off a race-long challenge from reigning champion Michael Stephen's Audi S4, in turn harried by the similar car of Gennaro Bonafede. The trio was seldom separated by more than a car's length in a duel that kept the spectators on their toes.
Never far behind, ready to take advantage of the slightest error by any of the leaders, was BMW 3351 pilot Johan Fourie, who was unable to challenge the trio ahead with any conviction. In the early laps young Roman de Beer had a grandstand view of some enthralling action, before retiring with a gearbox problem on his previous-generation BMW 335i. Post-race, he was reprimanded for a first lap incident which punted the Audi of Tschops Sipuka into a spin - the culmination of another sub-optimal day for the Port Elizabeth racer.
The turbo cars served up a four-way battle, with two Minis up against two Golfs for 14 laps of nail-biting action. It eventually went the way of Graeme Nathan's VW Golf GTI, keeping his nose ahead of championship rival Gavin Cronje in a Mini Cooper, though it was initially the similar car of Lee Thompson who made the running, having already won both seven-lap sprint races.
In what is almost becoming routine for his Mini, it blew its engine on the penultimate lap, gifting Jacques Joubert in the second VW Golf a podium. Other casualties included the Chev Cruze of Michael van Rooyen, who ran as high as fourth, his car still showing an appetite for overtaxing its tyres, and the Renault of Devin Robertson, still bedevilled by electrical problems.
When the flag came out the positions had all settled down but it was still a case of any slip being a costly one. Bonafede was adamant he could've been out front if he'd grabbed the opportunity that came his way earlier, but rivals such as Van der Linde and Stephen seldom make mistakes.
DOWN TO THE WIRE
The end result was that the Class A championship will go to the final round on 2 November with Stephen's advantage trimmed slightly, although he is still odds-on favourite for his third consecutive title. Should that happen the runner-up spot is certain to be a BMW pilot, though whether it is Van der Linde (who came away with a trio of silver medals for the day) or Fourie is still not entirely clear.
Matters are no quite so clear-cut in class T. The outcome of the day was turned on its head when the Nathan's Golf was excluded for a technical infringement, which elevated Cronje to first - a development which has significant repercussions for the championship. However, Nathan's team has protested the exclusion and whether the original results stand will be decided by the stewards of the meeting; their decision will be announced on Wednesday October 9.
If Nathan retains his points for the day he will go to Kyalami more than 20 points to the good, but if not, Cronje will suddenly inherit a lead of a similar amount - the outcome is awaited with bated breath.
Pole-sitter Johan Fourie controlled the rolling start to perfection, rocketing into an immediate lead and leaving team mate Etienne van der Linde to fend off the Subaru of Hennie Groenewald, using the big BMW's straight-line speed advantage on the circuit's two long straights.
A little bit further back, reigning champion Michael Stephen waited in the wings, leading a slightly depleted Audi contingent, as Melvill Priest's S4 needed an engine change after qualifying and missed the first sprint as a result.
With half the seven laps done the Subaru was already heading towards the pits, a terminal engine malady the cause, moving Stephen on tol the podium and promoting Bonafede to fourth.
Nathan's second place in Class T brought the Golf GTI driver a step closer to a successful title defence, assisted by Gavin Cronje finishing a disappointing sixth, struggling with a Mini Cooper S that was misbehaving thanks to fuel spilling onto the rear tyres. That left Lee Thompson to uphold Mini pride, which he did with a strong performance that saw him move up from third to first, first taking the Chevrolet Cruze of Michael van Rooyen with a neat move, and a little later moving into the lead when Nathan made a mistake.
With the reverse grid rule it was teenager Roman de Beer who found himself on pole for the second sprint. He did an excellent job of staying ahead, until he slid backwards into the clutches of Michael Stephen, who went on to win with an impressive drive. Second was Van der Linde, with Bonafede third after capitalising on Fourie's brake problems.
Thompson made it a double in Class T, a perfect drive from the back of the field making the second win especially sweet. Peering at the Mini's rear window again was Nathan, reasonably happy with second given that arch-rival Cronje finished third after losing third gear. Ryan Cooper was well pleased with a sixth to add to his fifth earlier, his Golf5 GTI running like clockwork.
The fastest man on the circuit, however, was Melvill Priest, whose team finished the engine swop to get him out midway through the race. With a clear track Priest was able to set the fastest lap - which earned him pole position for the 14-lap feature race.
Kosie Weyers claimed the 2013 series title on his home circuit, racking up his first national circuit championship.
With one meeting remaining he’ll contest the final round without the pressure of having to calculate the points situation - a win and a second at Killarney clinched the deal, no matter where he finishes in the final round.
The fight does, however, continue for second with Mathew Hodges and Dewald Brummer separated by just six points. The Killarney results proved this fight is far from over with Brummer finishing ahead of Hodges in each of the two races at the Cape circuit.
With another 50 points available neither can afford to give the other any potential advantage when they meet on track again at Kyalami for the final round in November.
The Masters category is also still up for grabs with the fight between Eddie Rodrigues and Ettiene du Toit going right down to the wire. Rodrigues has led the Masters thrpughout the season but was overtaken by Du Toit on Saturday.
Nevertheless, Du Toit’s advantage is a scant four points and either can stamp their name on this category.
Weyers was first across the line in Race 1, followed by Brummer and Hodges while the second race saw Brummer win, followed by Weyers with Hodges taking up third spot. Driver of the day for the event was Jano van der Westhuizen who sliced through the field from 12th on the grid to finish fourth in Race 1 and sixth in the second race.
A close contender for the award was Bryan Morgan - 14th on the grid - who finished sixth in Race 1 and eighth in Race 2.