The Chevy Cruze in action - picture courtesy of David Ledbitter

Aldo Scribante, PE – 3 May 14

Home town proves to be a little slippery!

Home town proves to be a little slippery!After a short break in the calendar the Bridgestone Production Car Championship headed to the friendly city, Port Elizabeth, the home town of General Motors South Africa. Michael van Rooyen and the entire team were looking forward to a great “Home Town” success.

The week end started off really well with van Rooyen only one 100th of a second of Gary Formato in the first practice session. However, due to the fact that each car gets only 6 tyres for a race week end and taking into account the extremely abrasive surface that drivers have to contend with at Aldo Scribante, Van Rooyen and the team decided to sit the second session out and preserve tyres for the qualifying and two races. Considering the tyre wear issues in the mother city at round 3 and 4, this was a wise decision. In the third free practice Michael went out to bed the brakes and check the set up, after two quick laps, it was plain to see the Chevy could produce something special on the week end.

Qualifying was split as is customary in BPCC and due to the tyre concerns Class A were run a lot quicker than expected and as the Class T cars rolled out no one quite knew how long their rivals were going to be out for in their attempts to get the points for Pole position. The Williams Hunt Team had a game plan and after two laps Michael had secured 2nd on the grid for race one. Race two would be based on the championship standings after the Cape Town leg which meant Van Rooyen would start second last along side championship leader Graeme Nathan.

“I want to say something dirty but just on the wrong side of a very close qualifying, but a good position to be in for the race, “ was what Van Rooyen felt after the tough task of trying to be fastest and still preserve rubber.

Race One:

The Chevy Cruze in action - picture courtesy of David Ledbitter

The Chevy Cruze in action – picture courtesy of David Ledbitter

Race one was an 8 lap sprint and with the times so close it was going to be another epic struggle on the tarmac. It was certainly not going to be easy for drivers to get the upmost out of their cars. The battle was for third initially as Formato seemed to have sacrificed something in order to give his car the small margin it was able to pull out of the rest of Class T. Van Rooyen also was able to keep third, fourth and fifth cars at bay and things looked good for a second step on the podium until the last lap incident between two Class A competitors in the last corner of the lap, saw Gavin Cronje go off through Chevy Sweep and tried to avoid Simon Moss as he returned back onto the black stuff. The two cars collided and Cronje then proceeded to dump his entire engine’s oil all over the racing line.

Change of surface flags were waving and teams were trying to let their drivers know what was to be expected upon arriving at Dunlop corner, but as Class T arrived, Formato, was the luckiest and managed to avoid being caught out finishing first. As Van Rooyen turned in he found his car heading off the track into the grassed area on the outside of the turn. Thomson and Nathan were caught out allowing Shaun Duminy to sneak through to steal second. Thompson and Nathan also returned in time to finish 3 and 4 with a disappointed Van Rooyen managing to hang on for 5th place.

“It’s a terrible way to end the race even though I went in cautiously, it was unavoidable. What can we do, we will just have to fight again in race 2.” said Van Rooyen.

Results of race 1:
1. Gary Formato
2. Lee Thompson
3. Graeme Nathan
4. Michael van Rooyen
5. Charl Smalberger
6. Ryan Rhode
DQ Shaun Duminy (Excluded for over boost)

Race Two:

The Chevy Cruze in action - picture courtesy of David Ledbitter

The Chevy Cruze in action – picture courtesy of David Ledbitter

“17 laps on tyres that are made for about 10 good laps and on a circuit that rips up any rubber.” was the thoughts of championship leader Graeme Nathan so it would be Team tactics and mind games that would need to be brought into the race plans. Van Rooyen had already shown that he had a fresher set of rubber available; having sat out FP2, so was this going to give him the advantage he had hoped for.

The team was hoping that the battle for Class A would not become a factor as it had in race 1. Good starts from both classes and cautious driving from most saw things settle down for the first few laps. We did say “most”, once again Simon Moss was in the thick of it and drove himself off in turn one trying too hard. He then fell right to the back of Class T and had to work his way through. Both Van Rooyen and Nathan used this to their advantage and caught Smalberger and Duminy out as they followed the Audi through to get past them. Duminy was being cautious after over boosting in the first race. Formato had once again hit the front and was looking good for another win, with Rhode fending off his team mate, Thompson and eventually Nathan and Van Rooyen when they got to him. The flag dropped and Formato completed the perfect week ends racing for his team. The rookie Rhode hung on to fend off a late race charge from the championship leader, Nathan and Van Rooyen, who would both finish third and fourth respectively.

Parc Ferme was then a hive of activity as the BPCC technical team went to work to check that all the cars were in fact legal and after checking the Chevrolet Cruze, found it to be faulty due to the fact that the boost logger would not read. Van Rooyen and Duminy were excluded, but have both protested the decision so will await the outcome at the next round in East London on the 5th of July.

“Maybe we can celebrate our American ancestry and give Chevrolet, a true American icon, an independence day to remember when we get to East London”, said Tim Hendon, Chevrolet Brand Manager of GM South Africa.

Results of race two:
1. Gary Formato
2. Ryan Rhode
3. Graeme Nathan
4. Charl Smalberger
5. Lee Thomson
DQ Michael van Rooyen and Shaun Duminy for over boost

Championship Points Standings:
1. Graeme Nathan 72
2. Gary Formato 57
3. Michael van Rooyen 50
4. Lee Thompson 46
5. Charl Smalberger 37
6. Ryan Rhode 32
7. Ryan Cooper 21
8. Shaun Duminy 19

See you at the races on the 5th of July at Prince George Circuit, East London.

Greg Molony
Magoo WRX