Title challenge closer than ever after Phakisa

Fields of over 30 cars are common in the MotorMart VW Challenge and that was again the case when the drivers headed to the Free State for the sixth round of the 2018 championship, held at Phakisa Freeway on 15 September. Stiaan Kriel (Pozidrive/Kalex Polo) didn’t get pole position, but he grabbed every other point on offer, winning both races to close the gap to his championship rivals. Jody Robertson is normally busy preparing cars for other drivers at a race track but decided to make an appearance in the JRT Racing Polo which he piloted to both class A wins. Philip Croeser (ATE Polo) got back to winning ways, taking both Class C heats.

Stiaan Kriel leads the Class A field

Stiaan Kriel leads the Class A field

In Saturday morning’s qualifying session, it was Rory Atkinson (BHIT Polo) who led the way at the front of the Class A field, taking pole position from Kriel by less than a tenth of a second. Lyle Ramsay (Monroe Racing RSA/Fuchs Lubricants Polo) headed the second row of the grid with Waldie Meintjes (Dimension Signs Polo) alongside him. Lee Thompson, making a one-off appearance in the Toshiba Tech Polo, was next up ahead of Wayne Masters (Performance Masters Polo). Bevin Masters (The CPS Warehouse Polo) and Quinton Needham (MotorMart Polo) rounded out the top eight.

Stuart Mack, in his newly acquired Race Technology Polo, was the quickest of the Class B runners ahead of Robertson with Jacques Smith (BPM Engineering Polo) and Deon Holliday Snr (Centparts Centurion Polo) filling the row behind them. Elna Croeser (Race Technology Polo), making her first VW Challenge appearance since March, should have headed row three in front of Deon Holliday Jnr (Monitor Net Polo) but her car was found to be underweight at the post-session check, relegating her to the back of the grid. Chris Dale (Blue Belt/Pozidrive Polo) then lined up alongside Holliday Jnr, with Mohamed Dangor (MotorMart VW Polo) and Francois van Zyl (Jesus Saves Polo) in seventh and eighth respectively. Croeser led the way in class C, comfortable ahead of Christiaan de Wet (MotorMart Polo) and newcomer Reeza Goolam (Polo).

In the opening race, Kriel found a way up the inside of Atkinson at the first corner and, despite Atkinson’s best efforts, was able to stay in front and take the win. Thompson found a way past Meintjes and Ramsay in the first couple of laps but Atkinson, despite trying to challenge Kriel in front, was able to hold him off, leaving Thompson to claim the final podium position. Once Thompson had passed them, Ramsay and Meintjes then had a race-long battle with Ramsay just managing to stay ahead at the flag. Wayne Masters was just behind them in sixth ahead of his brother Bevin with JP van der Walt taking eighth in his first outing in his Platinum Wheels Polo.

Stuart Mack took his newly acquired car to two podium finishes

Stuart Mack took his newly acquired car to two podium finishes

Both Robertson and Smith found a way past Mack on the opening lap of the Class B race with the three of them opening a gap to the rest of the chasing pack. Mack got past Smith when the latter started experiencing gear selection problems, but couldn’t find a way past Robertson, crossing the line less than three-tenths adrift. Smith managed to hold on to the final podium spot. Deon Holliday Jnr led his father over the line to take fourth with Roberto Joaquim (Cool Freeze/Auto Aircon Polo) leading Dale and Dangor to the flag.

Philip Croeser was able to slowly open a gap over de Wet to take the Class C win by just over three seconds with Goolam in third.

Having set the quickest lap time in the opening heat, Kriel started race two from pole positions and led from lights to flag although he was pushed all the way by Thompson, who finished just quarter of a second behind. Atkinson came home in third. Meintjes this time got the better of Ramsay to take fourth and when Ramsay ran wide on the penultimate lap it allowed Wayne Masters through to take fifth. Craig Gammie (GTR Performance Polo) claimed seventh with van der Walt again claiming the eighth.

Smith grabbed the early Class B lead in the second race, but a recurrence of the gear selection problems he experienced in the opening heat slowed him, allowing first Robertson and then Mack through. Dale had a much better second race, taking fourth and setting the fastest lap time on the way, with Dangor in fifth. Holliday Jnr, Joaquim and Holliday Snr rounded out the top eight.

Philip Croeser leads Christiaan de Wet

Philip Croeser leads Christiaan de Wet

Croeser had to work hard for his second Class C win of the day. De Wet took the lead from the start, but Croeser found a way through on lap three and managed to stay in front until the flag although de Wet was never more than a couple of car lengths behind. Goolam again took the final podium position.

In the day’s overall standings, Kriel topped Class A from Thompson and Atkinson. Robertson claimed Class B with Mack and Smith joining him on the podium. Two wins gave Croeser Class C ahead of de Wet and Goolam.

With two rounds to go, things are very tight at the top of the championship standings. Atkinson and Smith lead the way with Kriel just four points adrift.

The next outing for the MotorMart VW Challenge takes place at Zwartkops Raceway on Saturday, 20 October.