Cape Town – It’s always a big deal when National racing comes to Killarney, and Saturday’s Extreme Festival meeting provided plenty of excitement for the large crowd of spectators lining the fence practically all the way round the circuit.
Top billing belonged to the Sasol Global Touring Car brigade, now in its first full season. Not all the cars were ready yet, but the premier class arrived at the coast with eight cars and the promise of some sparkling racing – only to have four of them break down in Race 1, leaving two BMWs, one Audi and one VW Jetta to contest Race 2.
Gennaro Bonafede, however, had no such problems. He dominated practice in the Sasol BMW to claim pole and romped away to win the first GTC race from Simon Moss’ Engen Xtreme Audi and BMW privateer Johan Fourie, with Mathew Hodges (VW Jetta) fourth, while Michael van Rooyen (RSC BMW), Robert Wolk (Sasol BMW), Daniel Rowe (VW Jetta) and Michael Stephen (Engen Xtreme Audi) fell by the wayside.
The four survivors lined up for Race 2, with Bonafede again setting a cracking pace to win by 13 seconds from Moss and Fourie, while Hodges’ Jetta lasted only six laps of the 12 lap race.
The GTC2 class for front-wheel drive cars, run 30 seconds behind the big guns, was much more closely contested. Keagan Masters (VW Motorsport Golf) took a narrow (0.145s!) win in Race 1 from Trevor Bland (TB VW Golf) and Mandla Mdakane (VW Motorsport Golf) after a race-long dice.
Masters and Bland were even closer (0.136s) in Race 2, but Mdakane was disqualified for a technical infringement, promoting Charl Smalberger (Indy Oil VW Golf), fourth on the road, into an unexpected third spot.
Veteran Devin Robertson returned to the one-make Volkswagen Polo arena for an one-off drive – and promptly won Race 1, just 0.188s ahead of current Masters champion Shaun la Reservee, with Juan Gerber third, followed by Clinton Bezuidenhout, Jeffrey Kruger and Tasmin Pepper – even Pepper in sixth was only 3.408s behind the winner.
Robertson made the early running in Race 2, until La Réservée made his move, going down the inside into Turn 1 at the start of lap seven. Pushed wide, Robertson tried to go round the outside, but left his braking just a little too late, understeering off the tar into the dirt, and rejoining way down 10th.
After that it was all about La Réservée, Bezuidenhout and Pepper, who finished in that order within less than a second, with Gerber fourth, 2.518s off the pace, while Robertson fought his way back to eighth by the flag.
Also of note were sterling performances by debutant Benjamin Habig, son of rally legend Jan, who fought back from a DNF in Race 1 to finish fifth, and VW Driver Search winner Jonathan Mogotsi, who finished his first Polo Cup race day ninth overall.
Julian van der Watt and Stuart White were the class of the class in the open-wheeler events, finishing in that order within two seconds of each other in both races, with Alex Gillespie a distant third each time.
Paige Lindenberg, daughter of veteran racer Peter Lindenberg, proved she’s a genuine chip off the old block with two solid mid-field finishes in her first attempt at this specialised form of racing which, unlike tintop racing, is all about precision driving, since banging wheels is likely to end in disaster for both drivers.