Stiaan Kriel (MotorMart/Kalex Polo) and Rory Atkinson (BHIT Polo) have traded positions at the top of the 2019 MotorMart VW Challenge championship log for almost the entire season and it was again the case at Zwartkops Raceway on Saturday, 19 October when the eighth round of the series took place. Headed into the event, Atkinson held a slender, 2-point advantage but he lost ground to Kriel who managed to take both Class B heat wins while Atkinson had to settle for a second and a fourth. Kriel now leads the way in the overall championship by five points with one round left to come.
In Saturday morning’s qualifying session, it was Lee Thompson (Lee Thompson Racing Polo) who led the way at the head of the Class A field. He was just over half a second quicker than Atkinson with Lyle Ramsay (Monroe Racing RSA/Fuchs Lubricants Polo) another half-second back in third. Bevin Masters (The CPS Warehouse Polo) joined Ramsay on the second row of the grid. Waldie Meintjes (Allwagen Parts Polo) and Derick Smalberger (Sabertek Polo) were next up with JP van der Walt (Platinum Wheels Polo) and Mike Barbaglia (Litemart Polo) rounding out the top eight.
There was early drama in the combined Class B & C qualifying session when one of the cars lost its oil cooler and pumped oil around half of the circuit. This brought out the red flags with most of the competitors not having had a chance to show their true potential. Although the Zwartkops marshals did a great job of cleaning the circuit, it remained slippery and most drivers could not improve their times when the session resumed. When the dust settled, it was Jacques Smith (Liability Matters Polo) who emerged on top of the Class B standings, just over a tenth quicker than Farhaan Basha (Motronix Polo) who was out in Class B for the first time. Kriel had to settle for third ahead of Stuart Mack (Race Technology SA Polo). Elna Croeser (Race Technology SA Polo) just got the better of
Deon Holliday Jnr (Monitor Net Polo) to take fifth while Deon Holliday Snr (Sentparts Centurion Polo) and Charisse van der Merwe (GTR Performance Polo) filled the fourth row of the grid.
Championship leader Dawie van der Merwe (Lee Thompson Racing Polo) led the way in Class C from Andy Gossman (Allwagen Parts Polo) with MotorMart Racing’s Mohamed Dangor, out in the car normally driven by Basha after breaking the crank in his Class A car, in third. Greg Gossman (Action Images Polo) claimed fourth ahead of Philip Croeser (ATE Polo) and Adriaan de Beer (Polo).
Ramsay was the early leader in the opening race, opening up a lead of about four car lengths half-way around the first lap. He was able to slowly extend that lead, building it up to over two seconds before relaxing slightly in the final couple of laps. Behind him, Thompson developed a misfire which saw him fall back into the clutches of Atkinson. Thompson tried everything he could to keep the BHIT Polo behind him, but lacking power, he eventually conceded second. He was, however, able to hang on to third place behind Atkinson. Masters finished in fourth while Meintjes, who had a great duel with van der Walt in the early stages of the race, came home in fifth. Van der Walt ended in sixth with Almero van Eck (Polo) managing to hang on to seventh ahead of the fast-closing Barbaglia.
Kriel wasted no time getting to the front of Class B, from where he was able to control things and go on to take the win by over three seconds. Pole-sitter Smith pushed as hard as he could, but had no answer to Kriel’s speed and had to settle for a comfortable second. Behind the leading duo, Mack and Basha put up a spectacular fight for the final podium position with both of them trying to occupy the same piece of tarmac on a number of occasions. Eventually, it was Mack who came out on top with Basha having to be satisfied with fourth. Holliday Jnr led his father home to take fifth with Charisse van der Merwe winning the battle of the ladies. She took seventh ahead of Elna Croeser.
Dawie van der Merwe had a great opening lap, pulling out a 1.5-second gap over Andy Gossman which he was able to manage until the flag to take the Class C win. Gossman ended in second ahead of Dangor and Philip Croeser. Greg Gossman was able to stay ahead of de Beer to take fifth.
Thompson was able to solve the problem that led to the misfire in his car between races and was in a class of his own in the second race. A string of 1’13” laps saw him open up a massive lead on his way to victory. Behind him, however, things were not as clear. Ramsay, Atkinson and Masters were involved in a terrific scrap which saw all of them lead the way at some stage. Ramsay led the trio for most of the race before both Atkinson and Masters got through. Just over a lap later, Atkinson missed a gear coming out of the turn two hairpin which allowed Masters and Ramsay to get in front of him. Masters was then able to hang on until the flag to take second with Ramsay and Atkinson in close attendance. As they did in the first race, Meintjes and van der Walt had a great battle for fifth but this time it was van der Walt who emerged on top. Smalberger and Italian visitor Andrea Furci (Polo) rounded out the top eight.
Kriel again grabbed an early lead in Class B from Smith and went on to take yet another victory, his thirteenth of the season. As in the first race, Smith was the pick of the chasing pack, going on to take second despite Mack closing right up a couple of laps from the flag. Mack spent most of the race fending off the attention of Holliday Jnr but was able to stay ahead and take his second podium of the day. A poor getaway by Basha saw him drop to sixth behind Holliday Snr. While he was able to recover to fifth, he couldn’t make any further progress. Holliday Snr ended sixth with Charisse van der Merwe again managing to get the better of Elna Croeser to take seventh and win the battle of the ladies.
The front of the Class C race was a repeat of the opening heat with Dawie van der Merwe taking the win from Andy Gossman and Dangor. Greg Gossman ended in fourth, hot on Dangor’s heels with Philip Croeser and de Beer in fifth and sixth respectively.
In the day’s overall standings, Thompson took Class A from Ramsay and Atkinson while Kriel claimed Class B from Smith and Mack. Class C went to van der Merwe with Andy Gossman and Dangor joining him on the podium.
With the class titles decided, Atkinson has Class A in the bag, Kriel claiming Class B and Class C going the way of van der Merwe, the attention now shifts to the battle for the overall title. Kriel and Atkinson will fight for supremacy at the final round of the 2019 MotorMart VW Challenge championship at Zwartkops Raceway Saturday, 9 November.