WesBank racers head back to Zwartkop

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IOL mot pic aug22 WesBank Preview Stephen 1

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Audi S4 driver Michael Stephen is holding a tenuous lead in the Production Car championship.

Hostilities will resume at Round 7 of the WesBank Super Series at Zwartkop on Saturday 25 August, with time starting to run out for those who still harbour national championship aspirations.

After the wide open spaces of the Phakisa Freeway in the Free State, competitors will face a different challenge in the tighter confines of Zwartkop, west of Pretoria. Most of the pressure, however, will be on the sharp end of the various disciplines and, more particularly, on those who have faltered a little of late.

It only takes one bad outing to send contenders back to the drawing board. That applies also to those doing the chasing and sets up some interesting make or break scenarios.

The merger between the V8 Supercar and Shelby Can-Am brigades also provides for an interesting scenario. The two categories will be racing together for the second time, and with around 30 big bangers shoehorned into Zwartkops the phrase 'contact sport' springs to mind.

PRODUCTION CARS

Reigning champion Michael Stephen (Audi S4) did enough at Phakisa to give himself A tenuous lead at the top of the Class A championship standings, with a 19-point advantage over former champion Anthony Taylor in the new BMW.

IOL mot pic aug22 WesBank Preview Gildenhuys 2

Greg Gildenhuys and the works BMW will be looking to tighten their grip on the SA Superbike title.

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Phakisa's big loser, Subaru veteran Hennie Groenenwald, is a further five points adrift of Taylor and in turn is five points clear of Etienne van der Linde in the second BMW F30.

The quartet are well clear of Audi S4 rivals Melvill Priest and Tschops Sipuka, who are tied on points and will offer a little cameo performance of their own. The championship looks to be a straight fight between Stephen, Groenewald and the two BMW drivers, who will be looking for further assistance from former champion Leeroy Poulter, in a second guest appearance in a BMW 335i.

The format of two back-to-back sprint races and a 12-lap feature that carries double points offers plenty by way of tactical considerations - and an opportunity for radical shifts in championship standings!

Also of interest in Class A will be the debut of talented youngster Gennaro Bonafede in the ex-Johan Fourie Audi S4. The enthusiastic Bonafede did enough in Class T to suggest a step up in class won't be too much of a problem.

On the Class T front a good recovery at Phakisa after his Durban Street Race woes increased Graeme Nathan's lead over arch-rival Gary Formato to 22 points, but each will be well aware of how quickly that could change. Jacques Joubert (VW Golf GTi) has come along nicely since joining the Class T fray, and with Bonafede gone will ride shotgun for Nathan.

But recent performances indicate the Mini Cooper pair of Lee Thompson and Gavin Cronje could sow a little confusion in the Class T ranks, as could Renault Megane driver Devin Robertson.

V8 SUPERCARS/SHELBY CAN-AM

Ben Morgenrood (Ford Falcon) has a comfortable GT1 V8 Supercar championship lead over fellow veteran, Jaguar driver Franco di Matteo, but the Correia brothers, Jaco and Danie, in their Corvettes, pose a threat along with Larry Wilford (Falcon) while Romano Sartori had a good Welkom outing in his Mustang.

In contrast to Morgenrood's status the GT2 title fight is still a single-point affair. Patrick Seddon (Lumina) and Des Gutzeit (Ford Falcon) are set to butt heads again - and are likely to be hassled by the ageless Willie Hepburn in his potent Chev Corvette.

The Shelby Can-Am title race is also close with Brian Algar's indiscretions at Phakisa costing him valuable points. Algar now leads reigning champion Rui Campos by only six points with Alan Eve and Thomas Reib tied on points, a further 11 adrift.

SA SUPERBIKE/SA SUPERSPORT

Dave McFadden's World Superbike commitments have taken much of the sparkle of the SA Superbike championship events.

'McFlash' and reigning champion Greg Gildenhuys (BMW) have provided most of this season's highlights. McFadden (Kawasaki) is only 10 points behind Gildenhuys in the championship but missing the Zwartkops outing will almost certainly take him out of contention for the championship.

Gildenhuys, unless he goes walkabout, will take advantage of the situation to tighten his hold on a third title. On current form his biggest threat will be Nicolas Grobler (BMW) who looks to have the edge over Chris Leeson's Ducati, Ryan Ottens' BMW and Robert Portman on the Emtek Kawasaki.

A win last time out for Lance Isaacs revived the Cape rider's title hopes, but he is still 48 points shy of works Honda team mate Clint Seller. An interesting championship cameo has developed with Ivan Torlage (Kawasaki) sandwiched between works Honda youngsters Cam Petersen and Brent Harran, and their tussle will be worth watching.

Dean Vos (Kawasaki) will also be in the mix with the likes of Nicholas Kershaw (Kawasaki) and Dylan White (Triumph) capable of upsets.

VW CUP

After a character-building second race at Phakisa teenager Kelvin van der Linde will be keen to get his championship campaign back on an even keel.

A coming-together with Kosie Weyers saw reigning champion Devin Robertson take a big bite out of Van der Linde's championship lead. The gap is still sizeable at 49 points but he cannot afford any more hiccups.

For his part in the Phakisa incident, Weyers will spend the weekend in Cape Town with his slim title chances out of the window. Behind the top three Kyle Barnes and Bryan Morgan (Franke VW Polo) are locked together and a little further back Jeffrey Kruger, Chad van Beurden and Mark Silverwood are covered by just five points.

Interest will also be focussed on Shaun la Reservee after his double win at Phakisa. And, after an impressive debut, former Formula VW star Tasmin Pepper will also attract more than passing interest.

FORMULA VW/FORMULA MIDAS 1600

The Formula VW title chase is a two horse race but matters are much more interesting when the Midas Formula 1600 championship battle is concerned.

Jade Kruger is leading Simon Moss by 17 points in the Formula VW title chase. But since Lawrence Wolk walked away from the championship, to be followed by Tasmin Pepper's decision to join the tintop fraternity, the spice has gone out of the championship.

Kruger and Moss will continue to dominate but the interest now will be on the progress young drivers of young drivers such as Mikey Taylor and Ernie van der Walt during the rest of the season.

Only three points separate reigning champion Matthew Merton (Mygale) and Werner Scholtz (Mygale) in the Formula 1600 standings. The pair exchanged blows at Phakisa without doing any real damage - the gap was a single point before the Free State race - and with Jason Campos (Mygale) and James Temple (Mygale) not yet out of the picture two hard-fought races are in the pipeline.

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