Julian van der Watt (Investchem / Race Driver SA Mygale) made a successful trip to Zwartkops to take part in the fifth round of the 2017 Investchem Formula Ford Kent regional championship on Saturday, 16 September. The newly crowned Formula 1600 champion used the event to gain some racing experience in a Kent engined car prior to heading to the Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch on 21 and 22 October.
In the morning qualifying session defending champion Andrew Horne (Xena Chamicals / Budd Power van Diemen) was closest to van der Watt but couldn’t prevent the Capetonian from taking pole in his first qualifying session in a Kent car. The pair were separated by just 0.216”. Championship leader Dean Venter (Desco SA / Manitou Group Swift) was next up just ahead of Andrew Schofield who was making his first appearance of the 2017 season in his Investchem Reynard. Dalan Holton (Debella Finance van Diemen) used the time between race meetings to sort out the problem with his engine that spoiled his outing at Dezzi and was able to set the fifth fastest time to head the third row of the grid with Jonathan Nash (Turnfab Engineering Swift) alongside him. Youngster Alex Vos (Ecurie Zoo Swift) and James Reeves (Ray) rounded out the top eight of a nineteen car field.
In the opening race van der Watt took the lead when the lights went out and, although Horne was within striking distance, looked like he was going to have a comfortable win until the safety car came out to allow the marshals to remove Graham Hepburn’s stranded Suburban Panel Beaters van Diemen from the kitty litter at turn 1. Once racing resumed van der Watt had to build a gap all over again, which he did, taking the win by almost two seconds from Horne. Despite not being happy with the performance of his car, Venter managed to lead home Schofield, Jonathan Nash and Vos, the quartet separated by just over a second as they crossed the line. Allen Meyer (van Diemen) and Matt Nash were seventh and eighth respectively.
Horne got a great start in race two, sliding up the inside of van der Watt in the first turn to take the lead but van der Watt managed to get back in front on the second lap. The pair set a blistering pace at the front of the field and opened up a substantial gap over the rest of the field. Despite trying everything he could to get past, Horne eventually had to settle for second, just quarter of a second behind van der Watt although he did have the satisfaction of setting the fastest racing lap time of the day.
Behind the leading duo, Jonathan Nash got the better of his battle with Venter in the early stages of the race, moving into third at the half-distance mark. He was never troubled after that on his way to claiming the final podium position. Venter lost another position on the final lap when Hepburn, who started from the back of the grid after his first race mishap, found a way through to take a hard eared fourth place. Holton took fifth just ahead of Vos and Meyer.
In the day’s overall standings, it was van der Watt on top with Horne in second and Jonathan Nash completing the podium.
Even though Venter did not have the results he was looking for, he still has a substantial lead in the championship standings. He has a 26-point advantage over Horne who has moved back into second place. Jeff Gable and David Jermy both failed to score points at Zwartkops, but remain in third and fourth places on the log.
The penultimate round of the 2017 Investchem Formula Ford Kent championship takes place at Red Star Raceway, outside Delmas on 28 October.