The Hunt continues!
The Williams Hunt Racing Team arrived in the mother city early Tuesday morning, to ensure that a certain mad radio presenter got a chance to experience what Class T of the Bridgestone Production Car Championship was all about. Guy McDonald (@GuyMcDonald), Good Hope FM’s breakfast DJ had always wanted to get onto Killarney to see what all the fuss was about, and so after the Chevrolet Cruze had spent a day at the Williams Hunt Cape Town branch in Bellville, we set up the track with the help of WPMC/Killarney officials to give McDonald the experience he had always wanted. The Chevrolet would be piloted by Michael van Rooyen, with McDonald as his passenger, and possibly a clean set of underwear standing by.
The PR team ensured that we got all the footage onto Facebook for the whole world to see as well as giving the week ends racing a different perspective. McDonald, a big fan favorite in the Cape was also given the chance to speak about his drive with the local commentary team and could not get the smile off his face all week end. A big thanks to Des Easom (WPMC) and Wally Pappas (MSA) for allowing us the chance to entertain a whole new audience.
We then had to get down to the more serious stuff. Van Rooyen came into the Cape Town leg with second spot in the championship in his hands. With all the testing the previous week at Zwartkops, he was feeling very confident. This clearly evident early on as he went from 3rd quickest in the first practice session to quickest in the 3rd and final practice. Qualifying was going to be a tight battle and van Rooyen decided on a different strategy giving the Cruze two warm up laps instead of the one. This was a gamble but paid off as he crossed the line with his closest rivals in pit lane unable to do anything about his second quickest time for qualifying. He was unable to pip Thompson but considering the first 6 cars were split by a little over half a second and he was just 9 hundredths of a second off Thompson it was pretty close.
Van Rooyen was able to use the outside line on the rolling start to his advantage as this is the cleaner of the two lines and got around the outside of his close rival by the exit of Hoal’s Hook, turn one at Killarney. The Cruze was strong and due to the in house battle between Nathan and Thompson, van Rooyen was able to get away slightly and open up a small gap. Thompson seemed to falter ever so slightly in the middle of the race and fell right to the back of the Class T bunch, which left the Chev in a commanding position. As the laps ticked off though a very good recovery saw Thompson make his way back through all the field and back into an attacking position for the lead against van Rooyen and Nathan. The attack of Thompson came with one lap to go and he was able to force his way to the front, after setting the fastest lap of the race. Michael had to settle for third and concentrate his efforts on securing double points up for grabs in race two.
The theme piece race of the weekend meant the grid was set according to championship points coming into the rounds and then is inverted, so this meant a back of the grid start for van Rooyen as the first and second place were now 6th and 7th respectively. But there are twice as many laps available for drivers to try to get back to the front. Some drivers revel in these kinds of conditions and both 6th placed van Rooyen and 7th placed and championship leader, Nathan, are two such drivers.
Patience is not easy when racing is so hard fought right from start. Fired up from his first race win there seem to be no stopping Thompson as he waisted no time getting past the two rookies in the class – Smalberger and team mate Rhode. Duminy was not as easy to get by. By this stage Thompson had been joined by both van Rooyen and Nathan. So there was a four way battle between the four drivers and respective manufacturers. The battle ended as Thompson hit the front and proceeded to disappear from the three other contenders. Nathan and van Rooyen eventually got by Duminy and then continued to scrap for second and potentially the championship lead. A few bumps and nudges occurred as they got by Duminy and unfortunately one was costly and dropped van Rooyen back. In his attempt to make up the ground he lost he pushed the purpose built sprint tyres too hard and his right front wheel completely delaminated leaving him to nurse the car home.
Thompson crossed the line in front but his car was found to be underweight after the weigh in and leaving Nathan with the win and rookie Smalberger second. Michael nursed the injured Cruze over the line to a third, clearly not happy about the tyre situation. His third securing him third overall for the day maintaining second place overall in the Class T championship.
Marvan van Zyl, the Dealer principal of Williams Hunt Cape Town commented “The Chev was good, tyres not so good.” and that said it all, summing up a weekend that showed huge improvements for the team and disappointment with a tyre delamination.
This will not stop the hunt for the championship; in fact it just gets van Rooyen more motivated for the next round on the 3 May in Port Elizabeth. Aldo Scribante has long been the home for another team. General Motors South Africa and Chevrolet are a Port Elizabeth based manufacturer and it has been a long time coming to see the production car honours head to the other brand from the windy city. Look out for the Rustenburg Rocket and the Williams Hunt Chevrolet Racing Team burning up the black stuff come race day.
See you at the races on the 3 May at Aldo Scribante, Port Elizabeth.