Zwartkops delivers epic national racing

Clear weather, that clouded a little through a crisp Pretoria autumn’s afternoon, set the backdrop for a most entertaining afternoon of national championship Extreme Festival racing at the Zwartkops Raceway on Saturday. In a meeting set apart by record lap times, Michael Stephen and Daniel Rowe shared GTC wins and Bradley Liebenberg and Keagan Masters swapped GTC2 victories, but for the rest, Tasmin Pepper made the Polo Cup her own, Nicholas van Weely turned Formula 1600 on its head and Charl Arangies took both Extreme Supercars races in the national classes.

Engen Audi duo Michael Stephen and Simon Moss made their Sasol GTC intentions clear in qualifying, when Stephen turned in the fastest ever GTC lap around the Pretoria track in a time of 1 minute 1.889 seconds to snatch pole from his teammate by all of a tenth of a second. Sasol BMW duo Gennaro Bonafede and Robert Wolk were next up from top privateer Michael van Rooyen’s RCS BMW, while Keagan Masters put his Volkswagen Motorsport Golf GTi on GTC2 pole from Bradley Liebenberg’s Ferodo Mini and an impressive Dayne Angel and his Autohaus Angel Honda.

Stephen led his teammate away and set a new Zwartkops GTC lap record of 1m03.235s as he led from lights to flag, with Moss holding station to finish a second adrift his teammate and a similar gap ahead of third man Bonafede. Wolk was some way adrift as he kept van Rooyen behind, while Johan Fourie’s EPS BMW ran into trouble after 8 laps and toured home some distance back with the GTC2 mob snapping at his heels. VW duo, Mathew Hodges stopped on the last lap and Daniel Rowe nursed his troubled Jetta home a lap down. That put Rowe on pole for race 2, which he converted to a second race win in two races, over Bonafede, who kept Stephen behind for second as those two rose back through the field, with Moss fourth from Wolk and van Rooyen.

The GTC2s however put on a show to remember as Liebenberg beat Masters to a 0.3 second race 1 win after an entertaining dice up front. They avoided being lapped, while third-place Charl Smalberger (Sabretek Golf GTI) and the rest of the GTC2 field comprising Devin Robertson’s Mini, Trevor Bland and Adrian Wood’s Golfs, the Angel Honda and Bob Neill’s Focus were passed by overall winner Stephen to all finish a lap down. Masters turned the tables to stage another come from behind race 2 win over Robertson and Liebenberg, with Dayne Angel a fine fourth from Bland, Wood and Smalberger.

If Michael Stephen’s GTC qualifying pace was impressive, then Charl Arangies’ Pirelli Aston Martin was mesmerising as he clocked a 59.743 lap to claim the G&H Transport Extreme Supercars pole by a second from Tato Carello’s Daytona/McLaren SA 650 GT, with Paarl driver Charl Joubert’s Lotus-Honda a close third. Arangies and the Aston Martin then made off, setting a few 59 second laps to establish a 15-second lead by the flag and take an easy win over the duelling Joubert and Carello. Dawie Olivier was fourth in the G&H Transport Baby Beemer from Mark du Toit and Jonathan du Toit’s Trans Africa Ferrari F430, while Darren Winterboer and David Coetzee’s BMWs took Classes B and C. Arangies similarly dominated race 2 over Carello with Dawie Olivier third from Jonathan du Toit after Joubert did not start, while Winterboer and Coetzee took the classes again.

Tasmin Pepper (Electric Life) topped the Engen Polo Cup Superpole after Clinton Bezuidenhout was quickest in qualifying, but a first lap incident eliminated Bezuidenhout, Charl Wilken, Jason Campos and Simon Need and brought out the red flag. Tasmin Pepper drove around the damage to her car to take the restarted race win ahead of championship leader Jeffrey Kruger (Universal Healthcare) with Oates twins Darren (Payen) and Justin (URUP/ SIKA) next up from Jonathan Mogotsi (Volkswagen Motorsport), Daniel Duminy (SMD), Keegan Campos (Campos Transport), top rookie Delon Thompson (A&L), Shaun La Reservee (Alpine) and young Altan Bouw (Champion) with several drivers struggling home with damage from that Turn 1 fracas.

Teams worked hard to have cars damaged in the first race ready for the second, with one of them, Wilken on pole position and Bezuidenhout fifth out of the hat, but Wilken faded and Bezuidenhout’s car was not ready in time, while Kruger was later excluded from race 1 for his involvement in that incident. That left Pepper to romp off to another win from Kruger, Justin ahead of Darren Oates this time, an impressive Delon Thompson and Paulus Franken, both scoring their best Polo finishes yet, while la Reservee, Mogotsi, Keegan Campos and Duminy closed off the top ten.

Alex Gillespie (ERP Trucking) took pole for the opening Investchem Formula 1600 in the absence of Stuart White and Cameron O’Connor who were both on international duty, with Liam Pienaar (Fantastic Racing) second from Nicholas van Weely (Magnificent Paints). Van Weely was a doubtful starter after suffering a pre-race hand injury, but he made the best start to lead from lights to flag. Pienaar, Gillespie and Andrew Schofield (Investchem) were next up from Harmen van Beek (Fantastic) and the impressive Scott Temple in sixth after fighting from the back, while Ian Schofield took Class B in 8th. Van Weely went on to make it a double for the day, once again from Pienaar, Gillespie and Schofield, with class B winner David Jermy sixth from Temple.

Sven Grune held off Graeme van Breda (Stefanutti Stocks) as the duo delivered their usual Class B tussle at the front of the Red Square Kawasaki ZX10 Masters motorcycle mob, while Gareth Bezuidenhout third from Class A rivals Jaco Gous and Michael Smit, while Johan le Roux (Avidan) took Class C and Jonty Collard, Appanna Ganapathy, Teddy Brooke and Andre van Vollenstee rounded off the top ten. Grune repeated his win over van Breda in race 2, with de Vos third from Bezuidenhout, Gous, Smit, Collard, le Roux, Brooke and Ganapathy.

Jonathan du Toit (TAR Civic) beat Brett Garland’s similar AutObarn machine and Chris Davison’s Precision Kadett Superboss to the first AutObarn Superhatch race win, while Zane van Zyl (Credit Guarantee Golf) beat Louis Scholtz (Car Care Civic) and Melanie Spurr (G&H/Wealth Ave Polo) to Class C honours and Floris Stopforth took Class C in his Polo. Louis Scholz (Car Care) made it a Civic 1-2-3 in race 2, while van Zyl beat Spurr and Sandro Godhino (Golf) and Reno van Heerden (KWC Polo) took Class C honours.

Veteran George Bezuidenhout took the Accolade Primera he raced in Touring Cars back in the day to yet another Car Care Clinic 111 first race win over class X winner JP Nortje’ N4 Autocraft Polo, Kevin Miller (Auto Aircon Focus), Lucas Bezuidenhout’s PNT Lexus IS200 and Wouter Roos (Strata Golf). Champion Veritie-Anne Joubert (Honda Spares Balade) beat JP van der Walt (Platinum Polo) to Class B, while Gawie Marais (Titan Polo) took Class C, Craig Botha (Moto West Golf) class D and Andy Gossman (111 Plumbers Polo) Class E. Nortje turned the tables on George Bezuidenhout in race 2 with Roos third from Lucas Bezuidenhout and Miller, van der Walt took Class B, while Marais, Botha and Gossman took the smaller classes again.

Zwartkops’ next Northern Regions Extreme Festival races happen Saturday 9 June, while the national circus heads to East London next on Youth Day 16 June.