SA Endurance opener a fight to the finish
Stuart White, Craig Jarvis and Stephen Young drove their Fantastic Racing Maui Formula Renault to victory in Saturday’s Mopar African Endurance Phakisa Six Hour race in Welkom, but not after a race-long duel that raged through to the final minutes of the race, not only for the lead, but with another battle raging behind them for seventh place overall.
Bloemfontein driver White emerged from the pits from his final pitstop in third, 30 seconds behind Cape Town father and son team, Marcel and Dayne Angel’s race-leading Autohaus Angel Ferrari 458 GT3 race-leading, with another Cape team, Nick Adcock, Johan Engelbrecht and Dane Michael Jensen AidCall/247 Rico Barlow Racing Ligier JS53 Honda in second, some six seconds behind the Ferrari with half an hour to race. 17-year old White piled on the pressure, taking a couple of seconds a lap out of Dane Jensen in the Ligier, who was in turn closing on Dayne Angel in the race-leading Ferrari.
The three were within a second of each other with ten minutes to run and Jensen passed Angel for the lead the following lap, but White’s relentless pace was too much for both of them and the youngster powered into the lead a lap later, after which Jensen and Angel cruised home to second and third with the Ferrari taking GT honours as White became the youngest-ever endurance race winner in South Africa.
Jaki Scheckter and Greg Parton ended fourth in their Drizit Lamborghini Huraçan Supertrofeo, a further three laps behind but five laps clear of the consistent Fritz Kleynhans and James Forbes’ Comenius Ligier JS53 Honda, with last year’s race winner Vereeniging driver Charl Arangies and Kishoor Pitamber’s Stradale Racing Ferrari 458 GT3 fighting from the back to sixth after a mid-race issue.
With the top six places settled as the race drew to a close, attention shifted to another key battle as Sarel Van der Merwe clung on to seventh aboard the Team Africa Le Mans Ginetta G55 he had shared with 81-year old Geoff Mortimer and Greg Mills as Theo van Vuuren relentlessly closed him down in the rapid Arnold Chatz Racing Alfa Romeo Giulietta he and Bradley Scorer had pedalled with gusto throughout the day. 71-year old van der Merwe was struggling with his tyres well past their sell-by date and he could not hold the Alfa off in the end as van Vuuren caught Sarel and made the pass on the penultimate lap, en route to Touring Car honours too.
South African-built race cars occupied the next four positions overall, with Trevor Graham and Brian Martin’s Backdraft Cobra-Toyota V8 and Josh Dovey and Gerald Wright’s Sports 2000 Opel closing off the top ten ahead Peter Schmidt-Loffler, Anton Muller and Glenton Rebello’s Nash Motorsport MVW-Volkswagen and Nicholas and Ronald van Weely aboard their eponymous van Weely-Volkswagen Special.
Richard de Roos and Stefan Snyders’ Porsche Boxster V8 ended 13th ahead of the Andrew Teixeira, Jackie and Jody Morrison Nash MVW-Volkswagen, Estelle Vermooten, Gerdus Smit and Klippies Krige in the 7 Boys Locost Seven and Mike Schmidt and Bruce Avern-Taplin, who quite literally carried their new Bateleur Backdraft Cobra-Toyota V8 home to 16th after a series of teething problems in their new car. Hubi von Moltke, Stuart Grant and Jose Vasques cruised their classic 1976 Mercedes, 280 CE home 17th as the last classified finisher.
Johannesburg duo Simon Murray and Gavin Cronje was the most significant retirement — Cronje had qualified the glorious SMR Ginetta G57-Chevrolet V8 on pole position in the fastest-ever official lap around Phakisa ahead of the race-winning Renault before the two cars cleared off up front when the race started under grey skies. The Ginetta set the fastest lap of the race too, as Cronje and Murray battled for the lead for most of the race, but the car stopped at mid-distance following a clutch failure shortly after a small spin.
From there, the race developed into a game of cat and mouse as the skies cleared up, with the lead changing between the Renault, the AidCall/24 Ligier and the Angel Ferrari, with each crew spending some time in the lead in the second half as strategies developed. The Cormenius Ligier and the Drizit Lamborghini kept a watching brief ahead of the Africa Le Mans Ginetta and the Chatz Alfa Romeo, with the two key battles for the lead and seventh position developing spectacularly towards the end of the race.
Other retirements among the 35 starters included the Eric Salomon, Dave Sinclair and Hennie Trollip’s demise must have been the hardest to swallow when their Team Lessons ELF S06-Toyota stopped with just on ten minutes left to run. Mike Altona and Steve Pickering’s normally dependable Classic Motorsport Porsche 910 exited the race after five hours, while Mike McLoughlin and Mark Owens retired the second Backdraft Cobra at the two hour mark.
Stefan Puschavez and Peter Jenkins Nadini GT-Volkswagen, the Sun Moodley and visiting Indian driver Manogh Maharaj and Johan de Bryun and Pieter van der Spuy’s Porsche 911 GT3, Stefan Puschavez and Peter Jenkins Nadini GT-Volkswagen Steve Truter and Wayne Lotter’s BMW M3 and Adrian Dalton and Wayne Lebotschy’s Volkswagen Golf also succumbed through the afternoon.
The Phakisa 6 Hour certainly opened the 2018 Mopar South African Endurance Series in style and the circus now heads to Cape Town next for the Killarney 4-Hour alongside a full Wingfield Power Series race program Saturday 19 May — a most advisable addition to any Cape race fan’s autumnal diary…