Nelson Mandela Bay 500 Races – Murray & Cronje scorch to Aldo 500 victory

A chilly Aldo Scribante Racetrack played host to the South African Endurance Championship Nelson Mandela Bay 500 and an entertaining day’s local car racing as Simon Murray and Gavin Cronje rewrote the record books en route to main race victory aboard their indecently quick Corvette-powered Ginetta. Cronje set an all-time 56.3 second Aldo Scribante lap record en route to that 500 win, while Port Elizabeth race fans were treated to an entertaining day of racing with mixed classes dicing on track.

Cronje qualified the Ginetta on pole position and led initially, before dropping back to fifth after 30 laps, but Murray popped up in the lead at mid distance and drove away to win ahead of Nick Adcock and Dane Michael Jensen’s AidCall 24 Ligier-Honda 9 laps adrift and GT winners Charl Arangies and Michael Pitamber’s Stradale Ferrari 458 GT3.

Adcock started fourth and he and Jensen worked their way up the pack to lead by mid distance, before slipping back to third. They then picked up second when the Angel Ferrari was delayed at two thirds distance to consolidate their overall SA Endurance Championship lead. Arangies and Pitamber qualified the Ferrari second and took the lead after the Ginetta pitted at 30 laps and leading to mid-distance before tumbling down to fifth. The duo then fought back to third and that GT win.

Craig Jarvis, Stephen Young and Stuart White ended up fourth after their Fantastic Racing Formula Renaults started at the back and had a steady climb up the field in the early laps to eventually pick up fourth when the Angel Ferrari slowed. Father and son Marcel and Dayne Angel’s Autohaus Angel Ferrari 458 GT3 ran competitively as ever early on and even led at a point, but they hit trouble at three-quarter distance and then slowed toward the end although they managed to hold on to fifth and second GT car home.

The ever-consistent Fritz Kleynhans’ and James Forbes’ Liguer-Honda enjoyed a steady run to fifth and just failed to catch the ailing Angel Ferrari in the end. They were well clear of Bradley Scorer and Theo van Vuuren, who enjoyed an easy run to tin-top victory in the Arnold Chatz Alfa Romeo Giulietta, while Trevor Graham and Brian Martin’s Backdraft Cobra was the first GT5 car home next up ahead of Eric Salomon and Dave Sinclair’s ELF-Toyota and Class V winners Peter Schmidt-Loffler and Beningfield’s Nash-Volkswagen.

Mike Schmidt and Bruce Avern-Taplin retired their Backdraft Cobra with clutch failure after two hours, shortly after Mike Mcloughlin and Chassen Bright’s similar car stopped, while Hennie Trollip and Clinton Thorne’s Lotus 7 was another casualty.

In local support race action, the EP Sports & GTs were honoured by the presence of a few national runners as Murray guided the Ginetta-Corvette he would later drive to the endurance race win to three easy victories. He beat Franco Scribante’s Chevron-Suzuki and Fritz Kleynhans’ Ligier to the first race win with Kean Barnard best of the locals in his Lotus 7 ahead of Jeandre Marais (VW) and Dean Ball (BMW). Murray beat locals Ball and Marais to the second race win with Barnard and Tanya Watts’ Subaru next up from Troy Marais Harper. Murray closed off with the final win ahead of Ball, Watts, Jeandre Marais, Barnard and Gary Marais’ Nardini-Volkswagen.

The Eastern Province Saloons were joined by a handful of GT race cars to spice up the action in those three races as Craig Jarvis drove his Ferrari F430 to race 1 victory over regular EP duo Nick Davidson and Celso Scribante’s Audis, which held Sun Moodley’s Porsche 911 at bay with Aldo Scribante’s third Audi S4 all over his behind. Ian Riddle’s BMW meanwhile held Harry Arangies’ Ferrari off and Deon Slabbert had great pleasure in keeping his VW Polo ahead of Kishoor Pitamber’s Ferrari with James Mattison tenth in his BMW.

The top four came home in the same order in race 2, with Riddle fifth from Pitamber, Arangies, Kevin Kelly’s Mitsubishi Lancer Evo, Slabbert and Mattison. That top five was again repeated in the final, with Slabbert and Mattison next up from VW Polo trio Gordon Nolan, Rufus Neethling and Johan Nel as Jarvis took the day. Davison and Scribante were next up to top EP saloons Class A as Riddle took Class B from Slabbert; Mattison beat Nolan to Class C, Neethling took Class X, George van Baalen (Polo) Class D and BMW men Stephan Aucamp and Derik Gouws took Classes E and F. Arangies meanwhile took the IPC GT4 class win.

The AMSC Coastal Challenge likewise delivered three great, close races as consistent duo Deon Gouws (Kadett GTE) took the overall win over Ian Thompson (Rekord), race 3 winner Neil Van Eyk (Escort) and Eddie Banks. Alistair Mew (Mazda) ended up fifth overall from Gordon Bennett (Rekord), Paul Griffin (Alfasud) Tom Flynn (Cortina) and Alfa Romeo duo, Mark Schulpfort and Ari Bezuidenhout rounding off the top ten. Race 1 and 2 winners Rane Berry (Skyline) and Shaun Rudolph (Escort) both hit trouble in the final.

Last but not least, the Street & Fine Cars brought their regular variety and entertainment as Gordon Nicholsen (Nissan GT-R) made best of the three races on the day to take the overall win from final race winner Duncan Lethbridge (BMW M5), Francois Wium (BMW) and Dave Thorn (Alfasud). Andrew Greenland (Datsun 1200) was fifth from Riaan Van Huyssteen, race 2 winner Jeff Guscott, Stephan Aucamp, Tertius Wium and race 1 winner Robin Venter (Toyota).