Rory Atkinson (BHIT Polo) trailed Stiaan Kriel (MotorMart/Kalex Polo) by just a single point heading into the seventh round of the 2019 MotorMart VW Challenge Championship that was held at Port Elizabeth’s Aldo Scribante Racetrack on Saturday, 21 September. Two race wins, together with the bonus points for pole position and fastest race laps, have given the defending champion a slender, 2-point advantage at the top of the table with just two rounds of the championship left to run.
Saturday morning’s qualifying session saw Atkinson and Bevin Masters (The CPS Warehouse Polo) fighting for supremacy with Atkinson taking it by just 0.088”. Waldie Meintjes (Allwagen Parts Polo) got the better of Lyle Ramsay (Monroe Racing RSA/Fuchs Lubricants Polo) to claim third with Mohamed Dangor (MotorMart Polo) and JP van der Walt (Platinum Wheels Polo) filling the third row of the grid. Derick Smalberger (Sabertek Polo) and newcomer Simon Need (Photonics Polo) rounded out the top eight.
Kriel was comfortably the quickest of the Class B competitors, taking pole position from Deon Holliday Jnr (Monitor Net Polo) with the Race Technology SA Polos of Elna Croeser and Stuart Mack on the second row after Jacques Smith (Liability Matters Polo), who was originally third quickest, had his time disallowed after a technical infringement. Deon Holiday Snr (Centparts Centurion Polo) lined up fifth next to Charisse van der Merwe (GTR Performance Polo) with Francois van Zyl (Jesus Saves Polo) and Robbie da Silva (MotorMart Polo) in seventh and eighth.
Andy Gossman (Allwagen Parts Polo) was the quickest of the Class C brigade ahead of Dawie van der Merwe (Lee Thompson Polo) Farhaan Basha (Motronix Polo).
In the opening race, it was Masters who grabbed the early lead. He had Atkinson all over the back of his car trying to find a way through, which he did shortly after half-distance. Atkinson was then able to pull away enough to then control things from the front and take the win by almost two seconds from Masters. Gearbox troubles sidelined Meintjes and allowed Ramsay into third, where he stayed for the rest of the race finishing over four seconds ahead of van der Walt, who got past Dangor early on. Dangor then became embroiled in a great mid-field scrap that included Need, Smalberger, Gavin Ross (Norbrake/Metal Used Spares Polo) and Ronaldo Verolini (Polo). Smalberger eventually worked his way through to the front of that group, taking fifth ahead of Need and Verolini. Ross got the better of Dangor to take eighth.
As has happened so often this season, Kriel took an early lead in Class B which he extended almost every lap, going on to take the win by over 10 seconds. Behind Kriel, Mack led the chasing pack in the early stages but Holliday Jnr found a way through at about one-third race distance. While Holliday Jnr was able to pull away from Mack, he wasn’t able to do anything about Kriel and had to settle for second. Mack kept teammate Croeser behind him to take third while Smith worked his way up from the back of the grid to take fifth place ahead of van der Merwe. Van Zyl and Piet Potgieter (Nathan’s Motorsport Polo) rounded out the top eight.
In Class C, Gossman and van der Merwe had a great fight for the win, with Gossman leading until just after half-distance when van der Merwe took the lead. He was able to hang on to take the win despite all of Gossman’s efforts to get back in front. Basha had to settle for third.
Race 2 had hardly got going when the red flags came out to allow the marshals to clear the circuit after Gossman and Basha came together in the esses. When the race restarted, Atkinson grabbed an immediate lead and was never challenged on his way to a comfortable win. Van der Walt held second place in the early stages, but Masters found a way through and opened up a substantial gap by the time the flag came out. Van der Walt took third from Ramsay who had to work his way past Smalberger and then Dangor. Meintjes came from the back of the field with a new gearbox to take seventh ahead of Mike Barbaglia (Litemart Polo).
For a change, Kriel didn’t have things his own way at the front of Class B. Smith forced his way past at the end of the opening lap and went on to take the victory. Kriel was pressured throughout the whole race by Holliday Jnr but was just able to hang on and take second with Holliday Jnr having to settle for third. Croeser emerged on top of the battle between the ladies, taking fourth ahead of van der Merwe who had van Zyl just over half a second behind her. Mack recovered from an early incident that dropped him to the back of the field to take seventh with Potgieter again in eighth.
After the incident on the opening lap that eliminated Gossman and Basha, van der Merwe had no rivals in Class C and was able to cruise to victory.
Two wins gave Atkinson overall victory in Class A with Masters and Ramsay joining him on the podium. Despite his problems in the second race, Kriel’s winning margin in the first was enough to ensure Class B honours on the day with Holliday Jnr and Smith in second and third respectively. In Class C, van der Merwe emerged on top from Gossman and Basha.
The MotorMart VW Challenge drivers now head back to Gauteng for the penultimate round of the 2019 championship which will take place at Zwartkops Raceway, west of Pretoria on Saturday, 19 October.