After seeing our race car be the talk of the town in East London in its star spangled livery and then be turned into the “star mangled” Chevrolet by some Class A friends, it was time to head to Phakisa Freeway in Welkom with some new colours courtesy of a new partner, Fine Line Designs. They turned the Grey into something pretty spectacular and after testing between the races showed the rebuilt front end was not an issue, Michael van Rooyen left Zwartkops on Wednesday feeling confident!
Upon arrival at the Free State circuit, Van Rooyen and the team set about getting the times down and practice sessions done. In the back round the rest of the PR team set about getting all in order for the much anticipated Chevrolet “CruzeBall” Cup, which was to see 42 different teams from the MSA Super Series, come and have one of the most fun filled evenings the Super Series has had in a long time. Each team that entered had to pay R50 or donate a blanket to the Chevrolet Ute Force blanket drive. At the end of the evening the SA Single Seater racing team of Jason and Keegan Campos triumphed, taking first prize of two limited edition Terry Labonte Chevrolet Monte Carlo Winston Cup Cars home. Their mechanics were runners up also taking the prize of top scorers of the evening. Congratulations must also go out to Roger Stephen and his team mate Lerryn Mew for winning best dressed.
Big thanks to Tim Hendon (Chevrolet SA) for supporting our initiative and loaning the Chevrolet Ute Force bakkie which was used as part of the festivities. To the team at Foozi for supporting our efforts with the awesome tables and of course to Phakisa Freeway management and all the teams and sponsors who got behind us on the night. We managed to raise R3000 and purchased 60 blankets, to add to the blankets that were donated on the night.
Saturday morning’s qualifying session which saw a very close finish amongst the top four cars in Class T. Van Rooyen looked fast but with the Production Car Technical team instituting a “Control Fuel” rule for the week end it was the Chevrolet that didn’t seem to like the new fuel as much as 3 others. They managed to be just 0.6 quicker than Van Rooyen’s hot lap. So fourth place it would have to be.
Michael’s post qualifying interview showed a disappointed Van Rooyen, who simply said that the car was brilliant and he pushed it 105% but did not know how to get any more out of it. Race one would have to bring the red mist and he would be ready.
As the lights went out, it was Nathan that got off the line the best and using the rolling start headed the field of Class T into the first turn followed by the Thompson and Formato. By turn two Michael was sitting comfortably in fourth and watching the action unfold as Formato flew by Thompson and attacked Nathan for the lead. This happened through the famous Uncini 2 Turn which brings racers onto the long back straight. It was quite an impressive maneuver that saw Formato hit the front and go on the inside two wheels on the dirt to get by.
The on board footage from the Chevrolet Cruze was quite impressive, seeing four of South Africa’s best drivers battling for tarmac and giving each other just enough room to play. As they crossed the line for lap two Van Rooyen felt he had the ability to out brake the very good braking Thompson and in attempting to do so, over cooked it and ran wide and onto the side of the track at turn one. He recovered and after a few to’s and fro’s and side to side moves, just to check everything was okay with the car, he tucked his head down and started the long haul back to the 6th placed Mandla Mdakane.
Unfortunately being an 8 lapper, there was just not enough time for Van Rooyen to get past, even though he closed to within 0.9 seconds. 7th place it would have to be, but what a drive to try to make up for the mistake. One consolation came when Shaun Duminy was found to have over boosted so this moved the Chevrolet to 6th place
Race One Result:
1. Gary Formato
2. Graeme Nathan
3. Lee Thompson
4. Charl Smalberger
5. Mandla Mdakane
6. Michael van Rooyen – Williams Hunt Chevrolet Cruze
DQ Shaun Duminy
Michael was disappointed but as always remained confident he could make up for it in the second race and get some good points, all of which count double in the second race.
He was very quickly motivated with the arrival of a good friend, the 36th King of the Royal Bafokeng Tribe, his royal highness King Leruo Molotlegi, who had flown in via helicopter to check on the way the week end was going. He was also pretty upset that he had missed the CruzeBall the night before, but it was certainly incredible to have some royalty present.
With the grid reversed in order of championship points coming into the Phakisa Round, meant that because Van Rooyen was second, he would start second last just ahead of championship leader Nathan.
A very determined Thompson was not going to play with anyone in race two and once he got through Duminy, Smalberger and his team mate, he started to disappear out in front. Formato was determined to catch him but even with the extra 4 laps was not able to do so. Nathan and van Rooyen were hindered slightly and had to battle with Duminy and Mdakane.
Van Rooyen tried to go with Nathan and both pretty wearily, when it came to Mdakane after the incident between him and Nathan at East London. Nathan squeezed by and Van Rooyen tried to go with but eventually took discretion as the better part of valor and settled for 5th instead of potentially being in another crash and not scoring any points.
After such an amazing start to the week end, things didn’t quite go to plan, but it is starting to become consolidation time and points are now more valuable than anything, so finishing both races with no penalties incurred is crucial.
Race 2 Result:
1. Lee Thompson
2. Gary Formato
3. Graeme Nathan
4. Mandla Mdakane
5. Michael van Rooyen – Chevrolet Cruze
6. Charl Smalberger
7. Shaun Duminy
Championship Points Standings:
1. Graeme Nathan 124
2. Gary Formato 93
3. Michael van Rooyen 90
4. Lee Thompson 82
5. Shaun Duminy 47
On behalf of the entire team we also would like to wish all our ladies a very special “Woman’s Month” and hope your significant others all spoil you, as much as you deserve!
Let’s see what happens as we head into Williams Hunt Pretoria’s back yard for the next round at Zwartkops on the 30 August.
See you at the races on the 30 August at Zwartkops Raceway, Pretoria.