Champions by name, champions by nature
Reigning champions Michael Stephen (Class A Engen Audi A4) and Graeme Nathan (Class T Indyoil VW Golf) started their Bridgestone Production Car title defences in the best possible way at Kyalami on February 23, each taking a win, a second, and a third in a trio of races.
Johan Fourie (Afrox BMW) took overall victory in the final event – at 12 laps double the distance of the two previous sprints – and leading Stephen home. The day gave the latter a rich point haul: he received three bonus points for his Superpole performance and another for the fastest lap in Race One. He now has 28 points.
A similar story emerged in class T, with Nathan finishing with a brace of podiums, two points for second in Superpole, plus a fastest lap to leave Kyalami on 27 points.
The final race of the Super Series programme on a scorching Highveld day was a ding-dong affair and while it was Priest who led initially, he slipped into the clutches first of Fourie – who literally breezed past – and then Stephen. The same backward progress became Hennie Groenewald, who seemed to be on track for a dream debut of his Sasol Subaru (he had two seconds in the sprints), but the engine expired at half distance and he limped to the finish. Tschops Sipuka had a troubled outing from pole in the Engen Audi and fell back as a result of a missed gearshift and eventually finished fourth on the road – dropping to 9th overall when slapped with a 30 second penalty for a jumped start.
The race was also interrupted by the appearance of the Safety Car, brought out by the Castrol MINI of Lee Thompson, whose motor blew in the Esses and he spun off on his own oil, causing consternation in the following traffic.
Class T had seen the Fords start well but they couldn’t maintain the pace, and Nathan – wily campaigner that he is – hauled them in. Once again Gavin Cronje in the other Castrol MINI went quietly about his business, and popped up in second place, while Jacques Joubert (Indyoil Golf), who won race two, emerged third after a mature drive which left him well-placed to take advantage of the attrition.
The Bridgestone Production Car circus is looking forward to a three-week break before heading to Killarney in Cape Town, by which stage a number of key competitors will hopefully have sorted their reliability issues, while Ford hope to have their new-generation Focus STs ready.
The top three points position are as follows:
Class A: 1, Stephen (28); 2, Sipuka (18); 3, Fourie (17)
Class T: Nathan (27); Joubert (19), Cronje (19)