Heading into the 6th round of the MSA Super Series, the Williams Hunt Chevrolet Racing team were looking for a bit of change in terms of luck. Being Woman’s month they were expecting lady luck to shine on the team at the Zwartkops raceway.
Testing had gone well up until the last session where the test pilot, Kelvin van der Linde, proceeded to put the Chevrolet Cruze into the wall in turn one. The reason for the young gun being at the wheel, was the fact that Michael had planned the birth of Michael Jnr to perfection to fit in between two rounds allowing him a chance to have some special time with his family and see the birth of their first child. All went well on that side. Unfortunately the mistake by VD Linde meant some work for VMR and Wrap Vehicles to get the car back into race trim in less than a week.
Needless to say that was accomplished with about an hour to spare and Van Rooyen was back behind the wheel setting about the weekend’s task to retake 2nd place in the championship and close the gap on championship leader, Graeme Nathan.
Practices times were looking good with Nathan, Van Rooyen and Gary Formato going well. Lee Thompson unfortunately destroyed his car in turn one in FP2 writing himself off the the weekend. His team mate Mandla Mdakane had some gear box issues which would only see him return later on race day for Race 2. Charl Smallberger was a no show, this left Formato and team mate Shaun Duminy fighting for race one with second on the grid, Van Rooyen and pole man, Nathan.
Sitting on front row with the inside line Van Rooyen had the advantage into turn one over Nathan, he just needed to get off the line well. With 180 VIP guests up in the Williams Hunt area above pit lane on the edge of their seats they lined up for Race 1.
As expected Van Rooyen had an awesome start and headed to turn one side by side with Nathan, the two so close that the inevitable touch happened as Nathan turned in and cut Van Rooyen off. Nathan ended up on the outside of turn one’s exit and on the dirt but managed to recover just ahead of Formato, who was trying hard to capitalize from the mistake. Van Rooyen in the mean time used this little touch to his advantage and headed out of turn 2 with about a 5 car lead over his rivals. Planning could not have gone better.
All things were looking good after 5 of the 10 laps and then seemingly with no explanation, the Chevrolet Cruze started to experience a braking issues. Van Rooyen battled in the car to get it slowed enough for corners and was running wide in areas where tight cornering was required and even though he tried to drive around the problem, it was slowing the car down and thus diminishing his lead to Nathan and Formato who, although also in a big fight, were closing the leader down. Eventually Van Rooyen, who by now had almost no brakes with two laps to go and was having to roll off early and use the gear box to slow the car down, fortunately able to keep Duminy in the second Ford ST behind him as the flag came out.
Race One Result:
1. Graeme Nathan
2. Gary Formato
3. Michael van Rooyen
4. Shaun Duminy
It would be an even more interesting start to race two, as the cars are in reverse order, depending on where they come into the race day in terms of championship points. Being along side Formato and due to the nature of the grid Van Rooyen was looking for payback from East London, two drivers, both out of VMR stable had crashed out dramatically ruining the Star Spangled Chev Cruze into Cocobana. Van Rooyen wanted to hook in behind the Audi and let him pull him through to the front.
Mandla Mdakane was also back with some fresh rubber and a repaired gearbox. Duminy lead for a while as the race commenced and waited for his team mate, Formato, to close in before opening up the door to allow only Formato to get through. He then drove extremely defensively to keep the young driver and the Nathan and the Chevy Cruze from getting through. There were 15 laps in race two and this was always going to be a concern with tyre wear. Van Rooyen was the first to experience a loss of traction as his front right started to delaminate eventually making the Cruze difficult to control and this meant he had to roll out of the dice and try to salvage what ever was going to be left, as other cars started to experience similar or worse problems. Nathan probably the worse of the lot with only two laps to go and the crowd witnessing his tyre literally coming off the rim and tearing into his body work, but with too little time for Van Rooyen to catch up after dropping back to save the double points that were up for grabs.
Early race leader Duminy had also fallen back with a badly under steering Focus. Formato seemed to be the only car not affected by the tyre problems, other than of course Mdakane who was challenging the Ford driver for the top step of the podium.
With Nathan only able to get a third in the second race and Formato winning, the championship remains pretty open and not wrapped up yet at all.
Race 2 Result:
1. Gary Formato
2. Mandla Mdakane
3. Graeme Nathan
4. Michael van Rooyen
5. Shaun Duminy
The Championship hunt continues down in the mother city on the 27 September 2014 and the teams are looking to close the points down even more at the circuit that always sees the Chevrolet Cruze at the front end of things in Class T.
See you at the races on the 27 September at Killarney Raceway, Cape Town.