A dramatic 2018 MotorMart VW Challenge season finale saw Stiaan Kriel controversially finishing as championship runner up on Saturday, November 10. His on-track performance would have seen him taking his maiden title, but two significant protests saw Rory Atkinson emerge as champion at Zwartkops Raceway.
Heading into Round 8, Kriel headed up the points table with a one-point advantage over Atkinson. Saturday morning’s qualifying session was stopped early on due to a competitor depositing oil onto the circuit. The red flag was deployed as Kriel finished a flying lap; this of course immediately nullifying this lap. His second-fastest lap was also enough to secure pole position, but shortly after the session he was protested for not making enough of an effort to slow down after the red flag was deployed. This saw him receive a three-place penalty while Atkinson took pole position.
Even though starting the first race from fourth position, Kriel was determined not to let his championship hopes slide. Initially While Atkinson and Bevan Masters gained an advantage up front, Kriel tried to make his way past Lyle Ramsay. This opportunity came on the second lap where after Kriel also passed Masters to finish the race in second position. More drama was however to come following the conclusion of the race. The pass on Ramsay was adjudged to have taken place in a yellow-flag zone which saw a second penalty applied and with Kriel reclassified as fourth place finisher.
By the start of the second race, Kriel found himself with an outside chance of winning the title with Atkinson now holding a six-point lead. Kriel slotted into an early lead from where he dominated the race; also taking the point for fastest lap in the process. Atkinson finished in second place. The category utilizes a format of “drop-points” with both drivers having 11 points subtracted from their total. In the end Atkinson won the title by three points.
Despite two thrilling races, the talking point from the day remains the two penalties with Kriel providing his account of events: “The red flag came out on the finish line as I exited the final corner. As a lot of people would know the finish line at Zwartkops is shortly after this corner so by the time that I slowed down adequately I was already over the line. Nevertheless, I knew that this lap would’ve been discounted based on the red flag being deployed meaning that the timing was halted. Following the session, I was protested for not having done enough effort to slow down with the red flag deployed. Although I won’t mention the name of the team protesting this, I would like to take this opportunity to clarify that this was not Rory, I think we both were looking forward to the championship being decided on-track. Controversially I was penalised with three positions. Although this can be enquired at a later stage, this would not change the fact that I had to start the race from fourth position.”
“The Race 1 penalty was even a bit more controversial. I was on the inside of Lyle heading into Turn 4 with the yellow flag displayed on the outside of the circuit. Given the position of our cars at the time, the stationary flag was not visible to me. Lyle who saw the flag did however protest and even though it was concluded during the post-race enquiry that I was not able to see the flag, I lost two positions placing me behind Lyle again. From there the championship was effectively over. Had I kept my point for pole position, had I kept my second position in Race 1 and with my win and fastest lap in Race 2; I would have accumulated 20 points compared to Rory’s 19.”
Although feeling disappointed with the day, Stiaan was however quick to congratulate Atkinson: “I’d like to again congratulate Rory on his championship win. Throughout the season we had a fierce but fair battle up front. This was definitely an exciting season.”
As announced by Kriel shortly after the completion of the final race, he will be moving to the national Engen Polo Cup in 2019: “I’m looking forward to this new chapter. I’m expecting fierce competition and I’m looking forward to some good on-track battles. I will however still be involved in the MotorMart VW Challenge championship in 2019, but on the technical side for the MotorMart Racing Team. I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who supported me through 2018. We did not win, but I think we’ve done our bid ensure one of the best on-track battles of the season.”
Kriel would like to thank his sponsors for making his 2018 season possible: Pozidrive, Dale Automation, Kalex, Spanjaard, N4 Autocraft, Geardown Gearbox & Diff, Racing with God, SAX Shocks, Most Wanted Performance Tuning, Bessie Bester Motors and S&S Meat
In addition, Kriel would also like to thank the associate sponsors of the MotorMart VW Challenge for making this exciting category possible: Norbrake Distribution, ATE Brakes, Dicktator Engine Management Systems, Yaskawa, BPM Engineering and Pozidrive.
Story by Reynard Gelderblom - Stiaan Kriel Racing