Rory Atkinson (BHIT Polo) and Bevin Masters (The CPS Warehouse Polo) shared the Class A wins in the fifth round of the 2019 MotorMart VW Challenge Championship, held at a cold and windy Red Star Raceway on Saturday, 20 July. Stiaan Kriel (MotorMart/Kalex Polo) was back to his best, taking both Class B heat wins while Dawie van der Merwe (Lee Thompson Racing Polo) had to fight hard for the Class C wins.
Atkinson was comfortably the quickest of the Class A contenders in Saturday morning’s qualifying session, claiming pole with a time over a second quicker than his closest rival Lyle Ramsay (Monroe Racing/Fuchs Lubricants Polo). Waldie Meintjes (Allwagen Parts Polo) headed the second row of the grid with Mohamed Dangor (MotorMart Polo) alongside him. Row 3 was occupied by Masters and JP van der Walt (Platinum Wheels Polo) with Ronaldo Verolini (Polo) and Chris Dale (Blue Belt/Pozidrive Polo) rounding out the top eight.
Like Atkinson did in Class A, Kriel also set a time over a second quicker than his closest challenger to take the Class B pole. Richie Napier (SA Pool Liners/Bodyline/Aquaguard Polo) lined up next to him on the grid with Jacques Smith (Dirt Nurse Polo) and Charisse van der Merwe (GTR Performance Polo) on the second row. Elna Croeser, back in her Race Technology SA Polo after a couple of outings in Class C, was fifth quickest ahead of Piet Potgieter (Nathan’s Motorsport Polo) with Robbie da Silva (MotorMart Polo) and Lindsay Clur (Mirage Leisure Polo) occupying the fourth row.
Dawie van der Merwe (Lee Thompson Racing Polo) was nearly nine-tenths of a second quicker than regular rival Farhaan Basha (Motronix Polo) at the front of Class C. Reno van Heerden (Taurus Polo) got the better of Andy Gossman (Allwagen Parts Polo) to take third with Zaeem Goolam (Dicktator Polo) and newcomer Adriaan de Beer (Polo) on the third row.
There was early drama in the first race when contact between a couple of the Class A cars left Derick Smalberger’s Sabertek Polo spinning down the side of the circuit on the approach to the first corner. Unfortunately, his race was over but, barring a few sideways moments due to cold tyres on a cold track, the rest of the field made it through the first couple of corners. Ramsay got the drop on Atkinson into the first corner but, by the end of the opening lap, Atkinson had retaken the lead which he never relinquished on his way to a comfortable win. Masters was quickly up to third and set about closing the gap to Ramsay, which he managed to do but he just couldn’t find a way past and had to settle for third. Once Meintjes had dealt with van der Walt, he had a relatively untroubled run to fourth. Van der Walt’s race came to a premature end a couple of laps from full distance which left Dangor in fifth ahead of Verolini and Mike Barbaglia (Litemart Polo).
The Class B competitors had no answer to Kriel’s pace, with the championship leader pulling away at the front to take the win by over nine seconds from Napier. Smith looked to be headed for third place until the penultimate lap when both Charisse van der Merwe and Croeser got past him leaving him in fifth at the flag. Da Silva, Potgieter and Clur rounded out the top eight.
In Class C an early three-way battle for the lead between Dawie van der Merwe, Basha and van Heerden became a two-way fight after van Heerden dropped back. The leaders were never more than a couple of car lengths apart, but van der Merwe managed to stay in front and take the win. Gossman and van Heerden battled it out for the final podium position, with Gossman taking it by just over half a second. Goolam and de Beer completed the top six.
The second race had hardly got underway when the safety car was deployed after contact left Charisse van der Merwe and Croeser stranded on the side of the track. Once the safety car returned to the pits an enthralling four-way battle between Masters, Ramsay, Meintjes and Atkinson kept the Red Star crowd entertained. After swapping positions with Ramsay, Masters was eventually able to pull away slightly and took the win by almost three seconds. Ramsay finished in second just ahead of Atkinson, who got past Meintjes with just over a lap to go. Behind the leading quartet, Dangor took his second fifth place of the day with Verolini again in sixth. Smalberger and Barbaglia finished in seventh and eighth respectively.
Kriel again ran away at the front of Class B with Napier the best of the rest. Potgieter and Smith crossed the line in third and fourth but a technical infringement by Potgieter saw him excluded while Smith received a driving standards penalty that saw him drop to sixth place. This left Francois van Zyl (Jesus Saves Polo) in third, some consolation after a difficult qualifying and first race. Clur took fourth ahead of da Silva with Sohel Patel (Polo) behind Smith in seventh. Nicholas Cleary (Sovereign Foods Polo) took the final points-paying position.
Class C again ended up with two pairs battling it out, van der Merwe and Basha for the win and Gossman and van Heerden for the final podium place. Van der Merwe was again able to hold off Basha to take the win with Gossman crossing the line just ahead of van Heerden. A post-race check on the cars revealed a technical infringement on Basha’s car resulting in him being excluded and promoting Gossman and van Heerden to second and third respectively. Goolam and de Beer ended the heat in fourth and fifth.
A win and a third place were good enough to give Atkinson the overall victory in Class A with Masters and Ramsay in second and third. Kriel took Class B with Napier and Smith joining him on the podium while van der Merwe took Class C from Gossman and van Heerden.
The next outing for the MotorMart VW Challenge is at Zwartkops Raceway, which will play host to the sixth round of the championship on Saturday, 17 August.