Friday morning was an early start for the Shield Golf, making its way down to the Engen 1 Stop just after the Vaal Plaza tollgate for the crew to have an early morning “wake me up coffee and brekkie bun”, before heading out to Phakisa Raceway. Normally we leave late Thursday afternoon to get settled in the pits, and get sorted out at the B&B to make first practise at 9 am for the Clubman’s series but this year for some reason we were scheduled at 10.40 am. It made sense to rather drive down Friday morning and have the shinning Shield Golf on the road for the truckers, holiday makers and farmers to see and getting the odd hooter with a driver giving a thumbs up.
Arriving at around 8.30am at Phakisa, which is one of my favourite circuits, I was truly devastated to see how this, once world class Moto GP circuit infrastructure, is now crumbling and going to ruins. I so wish a consortium or the Motor Industry / MSA could try gather some form of investment or value proposition for government to keep this track functioning at a reasonable level or, I am sad to say it will be lost to motor sport in the not-too-distant future. Sadly, even more concerning is the entire road system in the area is crumbling with many large potholes between Odendaalrus and Welkom.
Having off loaded the car and done a quick tyre pressure check, setup the alignment and made sure all the wheels were torqued I was ready for session one. Once the tyres had reached temperature and I had settled into the car it was time to do some lap times and see if all the pre work and setup was on song. Straight out the blocks I was into the 1.58 and banged in an optimal reading on the race chrono of 1.57 which was impressive considering the condition of the track surface. Session 2 with the temperatures soaring into the 30’s, I was managing a constant 1.58.1 and was happy to park the car and get it ready for the Qualifying session on Saturday morning , besides this was saving some rubber which was being chewed up at a rapid rate.
Combing a field with Clubman’s and Midvaal Historic made the circuit extremely busy and with the temperatures fairly cool at 25C, I was hoping for a low 1.57 but ended up with 1.58.0 putting me 5th on the grid overall and 1st in class, which I was good enough for me.
Heat 1 – Temprature hovering around 32 C
Starting in 5th on the grid and having a rolling start, I had to maximise the speed of the class A cars down the long back straight and therefore had to ensure I got through Turn 1 bunched up close to them and hang in like a pit bull for a tow down the back straight. Obtaining a tow would give me an advantage over the other class B cars and was crucial that I timed it right. On entering the back straight, I was lucky enough to get behind the 20v Honda Civic of Fred Kruger, which helped me get a few extra Km/h before the fast double right hand corner and the twisters coming before the main straight. Gaining a gap on lap one meant I had to put my head down and remain smooth and keep the lap time as close to 1,58.00 I was going to see the chequered flag 1st in class. 5 Laps in, and with a healthy lead, the Safety car board came out which meant all the hard work Fred had put in giving me a tow down the straight came to nought. Once the cars had a bunched up, I knew I would have my hands full for the remaining 3 laps as we were now bumper to bumper for the start and had to ensure I was wide awake when the pace car turned in and the race leader started picking up the pace. Keeping my cool and thankfully being on the inside lane coming up to turn one I manged to hold position and kept it until the flag dropped finishing around 4th overall and 1st in class.
Heat 2 – Temprature was around 33 C
Waiting for the last race of the day in these temperatures you will appreciate is an Endurance event all on its own, as every race driver hat finishes and comes into the pits the crew open an ice cold one … wow this was punishment!
Anyway, enough moaning and had to focus on heat two which I knew was going to be a humdinger as there were one or two really fast historic cars that run on slicks that were doing similar times to me in Heat 1 and running on Semi Slicks towards the end of the race. They had a really good chance of getting past me. Starting from an inverted grid meant that I started further back in the race and meant I was closer to the Historic cars that I knew could give me a hard time as the race went on which was true to my words. Racing legend and Historic champion from last year Jannie van Rooyen was on my tail for the entire race in his Scirocco and I don’t know how I managed to stay in front as towards the end his lap times were a second quicker. I was beyond thrilled to pass the chequered flag at lap 8 taking 1st Place in Class. Truthfully had there been another lap or two I hate to admit that he may well have passed me. This undoubtedly was “The Race of the Day”!