Van der Merwe rises to the Kyalami challenge

Dawie van der Merwe
Dawie van der Merwe on his way to victory in Race 2

In just his second Class A outing Dawie van der Merwe powered his Lee Thompson Racing Polo to the overall win in the final MotorMart VW Challenge outing of 2019, held at the Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit on 22 & 23 November. The Hoёrskool Nelspruit student was joined on the overall podium by Wayne Masters (Performance Masters Polo) and Bevin Masters (The CPS Warehouse Polo).

In Class B, Graeme Nathan (Nathan’s Motorsport Polo) took the overall win from Jacques Smith (Liability Matters/Dirt Nurse Polo) and Stuart Mack (Race Technology SA Polo).

After two practice sessions on Friday morning that gave the drivers a chance to acquaint themselves with the demanding 4.5km circuit, it was Rory Atkinson (BHIT Polo) who emerged at the head of the field with van der Merwe not far behind. Lyle Ramsay (Polo) and Bevin Masters were next up with Mohamed Dangor (MotorMart Polo) and Wayne Masters in fifth and sixth. Derick Smalberger (Sabertek Polo) and Andy Gossman (Allwagen Part Beetle) rounded out the top eight.

Devon Piazza Musso (Leader Tread Polo), making his return to racing after an absence of a couple of years, led the way in Class B, just under a quarter of a second quicker than Smith. Farhaan Basha (Motronix Polo) was just over half a second further back with Mack in fourth. Nathan was less than a tenth behind Mack with Charisse van der Merwe (Polo) outdoing Robyn Kriel (MotorMart/Creative Ink/Kalex Polo) to take sixth. Deon Holliday Jnr (MotorMart/Creative Ink Polo) ended the session in eighth.

Lyle Ramsay
First race winner Lyle Ramsay

In the opening race, run in the late afternoon, Atkinson was the early leader with both of the Masters brothers getting past van der Merwe and Ramsay to slot into second and third. Ramsay slowly started working his way back towards the front of the field, but his progress was interrupted when contact between two of the Class B competitors brought out the safety car. Once the circuit had been cleared, Ramsay continued his pursuit of Atkinson. He eventually caught him and, on the last lap on a track that was rapidly getting very wet as the storm that arrived on the penultimate lap gathered intensity, lunged up the inside to take the lead which he held until the flag. Van der Merwe worked his way back past the Masters brothers to take third with Bevin finishing ahead of Wayne. Andrea Furci (Polo) ended in a somewhat lonely sixth while Smalberger just got the better of Gavin Ross (Norbrake/Metal Used Spares Polo) to claim seventh.

Graeme Nathan and Devon Piazza Musso fight for the Class B lead
Graeme Nathan and Devon Piazza Musso fight for the Class B lead

Piazza Musso, Nathan and Smith produced a thriller at the front of Class B. Smith was the early leader but positions swapped regularly throughout the race. In the latter stages of the race, Piazza Musso and Nathan were able to open a slight gap over Smith, with Piazza Musso in front when it counted. Smith had to settle for third while Basha ended the race in fourth ahead of Mack and Kriel. Andre Needham (Allwagen Parts Polo) and Simon Need (Polo) completed the top eight.

The second race was also interrupted by a red flag, this time before half a lap had been completed when Piazza Musso ended up on his roof in the gravel trap at the exit of Turn 5 after a multiple vehicle collision. Once the debris had been removed, it was again Ramsay and Atkinson fighting it out at the front. Initially, Ramsay led the way from Atkinson and van der Merwe with the Masters brothers in fourth and fifth. Ramsay stayed in front until the early in the final lap, when Atkinson found a way through. Half a lap later it was all over for both of them. Contact as they negotiated Leeukop for the final time left both of them unable to continue and allowed van der Merwe, who had been in their wheel tracks the entire race, through to take his first Class A win. He was followed over the line by Wayne Masters with Smalberger in third. Ross took fourth ahead of Iain Stevenson (Comsol Polo), who was another making a return to the VW Challenge field after a long absence. Mike Barbaglia (Polo) Bevin Masters and Gossman rounded out the top eight.

Jacques Smith and Graeme Nathan
Jacques Smith holds off Graeme Nathan

With first race winner Piazza Musso and fourth-placed man Basha out of the Class B running after the first lap incident, it was left to Smith and Nathan to fight it out for the win. Nathan led the way in the early stages while Smith worked his way through the field. Smith made steady progress and took the lead in the closing stages. He was able to pull away slightly in the final couple of laps to take the win by just under two seconds. Mack got the better of a race-long dice with Kriel to take third with Needham not far behind. Holliday, who had to start from the back of the grid after his car let him down in the opening heat, worked his way up to sixth ahead of Need and Lindsay Clur (Mirage Leisure Polo).

The VW Challenge is scheduled to return to the track at Zwartkops Raceway for the first round of the 2020 championship on Saturday, 22 February.

In addition to the support received from regular partners Norbrake Distributors, ATE, Dicktator Engine Management Systems, BPM Engineering, Yaskawa and Digital Forensics, the VW Challenge would like to acknowledge the additional support from Blue Belt/ Pozzidrive which made participation in this event possible.