'Works' Porsche for African Six HourComment on this story
When the managing director of Porsche Centre South Africa enters a potent race-spec Porsche GT3 for the inaugural African Six Hour at Phakisa, you know things are getting serious.
Toby Venter, a former SA champion with many seasons of international Porsche Cup racing to his credit, will be partnered in the GT3 by Simon Murray - but they won't be starting as favourites for line honours on February 23, which says something about the quality of the field.
The entry list reads like a who's who of SA Motorsport - especially its more grown-up members, whose racecraft and stamina stand them in good stead in endurance racing - with legendary names such Tony Martin, Robbie Smith, Neil Stephen, Darryn Lobb, Fabienne Lanz, Mike O' Sullivan and Franco Scribante, each a championship winner in his or her own right.
Venter's big-gun 911 brings the entry up to 36 cars in a broad cross-section of Prototype, Sports, GT and Saloon cars, a mix beloved of South African motorsports fan, who still revere the epic endurance races of the 1960s, '70s and '80s.
STATE OF THE ART RACING MACHINES
But race organiser Roger Pearce insists: “This is not a race for historic cars. Some of the latest endurance machines in the world are entered, although we welcome the historic cars that will be competing in their own categories.”
These state-of-the art racing machines include a Pilbeam MP98 entered by motorsport author Greg Mills, who is also the man behind the plan to enter a South African-built LMP2 car for the 2014 Le Mans 24 Hour.
Mills will be out of the country on February 23, so the car will be driven by multiple single-seater and off-road champion Duncan Vos and his brother, vastly experienced historic car racer Graham Vos.
They'll take on no less than five Porsche 911 RS and RSR-type racers, including an entry from German drivers Frank Norhing and Michael Tischer, as well as a Le Mans-spec Panoz GTLM, to be driven by classic-car magazine publisher Fred Phillips and Dave Alhadeff.
They could just get a nasty surprise, however, from a car that almost qualifies as a classic; multiple Shelby Can Am champ Darryn Lobb and his brother Ashley have hauled their very quick TVR Chimera sports car out of retirement, and will be joined by a new name from an old motorsport family.
Top karter Chris Corna is the son of Peter Corna, who ran the famous Cornrights Racing Team in the 1980s and 1990s, and the nephew of Steve Corna, a top runner in an Opel Superboss back in the day. Young Corna has the pedigree and a lot of karting experience, but has never driven a car on a full-size circuit!
Keep an eye on the Chimera - the well-salted Lobb brothers and hot-shot Corna will be a volatile combination. If the TVR is still running at the end, it will be somewhere near the front.
The two Backdraft 4000 Cobras are interesting in that they are powered by four-litre Lexus V8 engines, rather than big, heavy Detroit lumps, which makes them a lot more agile than you'd expect from a 50-year-old design. Driven by Tony Martin, Franco Scribante, Mark Owens and Mike McLaughlin, they're super quick around the MotoGP circuit; one of them was a class winner at Phakisa at the end of the 2012 season.
Aiming for top sedan honours will be two BMW 330Ds, one in the hands of tin-top specialists Robbie Smith and Mike O Sullivan, and the other to be driven by a crew still to be announced.
But they'll have to keep an eye on their mirrors for the giant-killing Stephen Golf from East London; this pocket rocket has a proven pedigree, consistently punching above its weight at its fiercely intimidating home circuit.
Neill and Geoff Stephen will share the driving with 26-year-old Fabienne Lanz, a top international karting racer and part-time glamour model who just happens to be the daughter of former SA saloon car champion Peter Lanz.
If they can get it running right at Goldfields altitude, the MotoGP circuit's twists and multiple turns should be a perfect fit for the little Golf.
Look for them near the top of the saloon-car timesheets at the end of the six hours, when the evening gets going with a fireworks display and a powerhouse performance by top international rock music act Prime Circle.