Finally the day had arrived for the Shield Golfs to come out of hibernation and partake in the Inland Clubman Series at the Redstar Raceway in Delmas on the 6th of March and the Extreme Festival held on Saturday at Zwartkops Raceway, all under strict Covid motorsport regulations.
Following the 2019 season and having used the same motor for the Endurance Series the year before it was time to treat the “Green Mamba” to a motor overall and little bit more compression, which was sacrificed in light of reliability . Currently this new way of working from home, has provided me some flexibility in-between Zoom and Team meetings to pop up to the garage and spend a few minutes on odds and ends on the cars whilst giving my eyes a break from the PC . How the world has changed and in some strange way this seems to be the new normal for several people.
Sarel, from 8 Valve Performance out in Boksburg, did his magic and managed to extract an additional 12kw on wheels on the dyno, which was just waiting to be unleashed at Redstar.
Saturday morning with clear skies, and the car setup on point with the extra ponies under the hood, I was eager to get out and give the BMWS a wakeup call, which I must say opened a few eyes and raised a few eyebrows with a 1.15.00 .
All drivers fired up for the 1st race of the year meant the Corner 1 was going to be manic and key as we all know too well, to get through the Turn 1 in one piece and have a fighting chance for the rest of the race and weekend.
With new “BOOTIES” rubber on the front and brand new set of endless racing pads, braking into corner one was simplified and with the extra ponies under the bonnet my exit got me out of trouble and roughly into the 5th position before the next set of twisty corners of which Redstar Raceway has many and a long back straight .
Racing was bumper to bumper for the first few laps until the bigger BMW’S & Turbo Hondas started to get a gap down the straight and left me pulling out all the stops on the “twistys” to stay in contention.
The Shield Golf is firm crowd favourite at Redstar as the supporters love to see the underdog challenging the big boys for the podium and gaining on them around the corners and under braking.
Chasing down the laps and hoping that the bigger car tyres were going to overheat to give me a chance of possibly catching them towards the end was not going to be and ended up finish 4th in class when the chequered flag came out .
Using an inverted grid for the start of Heat 2 meant me having to start ahead of the BMW and Turbo Honda and, if I used my game plan correctly at the start, I could make the golf extremely wide and keep them behind me for a while especially on the back end of the circuit . Using this strategy could possibly end up by them making a mistake or overheating their tyres trying to get past in the twisty corners.
On lap 3 I was still in front of Class and couldn’t believe my luck that I had managed to keep them at bay, but oh boy, they were all lining up behind me like a pack of wolves just waiting for a gap to one by one pick me off down the long back straight … with an 8-lap race I had my hands full.
Flying down the back straight and stepping on the brakes at the 75m mark I heard a bang and the next minute I was skidding off into the centre of the circuit at over 160km an hour, totally out of control.
Thankfully Redstar has a long inner field and the car came to a holt without rolling or hitting anyone and, thankfully minor cosmetic damage because of a breakage on the control arm extension snapping.
I was grateful to walk out the situation unscathed and the car still in one piece as this incident could have turned out extremely nasty which unfortunately resulted in a DNF in heat two.
Racing cars run extreme high loads on certain components and modifying them is a tricky business and in some way trial and error in the hope of find an extra gain … however can also be risky even though you factor in all the safety aspects into the design.
Extreme Festival of Speed 12th and 13th March
111 Super Saloons Sprint and 45 Minute Endurance (including the Superhatch Series)
The opening round at Zwartkops for the Car Care Clinic 111 series presented itself with a new format which included a 45-minute Endurance race. I am personally a supporter and think is a great initiative that creates the need for team work and a great opportunity to get the whole family involved assisting with the pit board, lap counting and getting the compulsory 3 minute pit stop planned, which on a number of occasions is the determining factor in the result .
Saturday mornings session was important for me to dial in a good time not only for 111 B Class but also as the Super hatch A class cars, with the likes of Jonathan du Toit and Brett Garland in Honda Civics could definitely be a thorn in my side for overall Index in the Endurance race . Managing a 14.8 was not good enough to be ahead of Du Toit on 13.9 but was quick enough to be ham in the sandwich with Garland on around 14.9.00
GTC Cars leading the pack into Turn 8 still after all these years still brings butterflies to my stomach as you wait anxiously for the green light and whining of turbo chargers as they head down through Turn one to the hairpin at Turn two combined with the sound of screeching of tyres.
Coming out of Turn 2, I was well positioned and First in Class with a few Class A cars I could tag onto to get a good run down the back straight before flying through Turn four, enabling me to remain ahead of the Class until the Finish Line – A great to win the sprint race (1st in Class)
Endurance Race 45 minutes
Planning and preparation of the 45 minutes including the pit stop strategy beside double checking every nut and bolt is the key to success in Endurance racing. Following the sprint race the car was back into the pits – as you can see, under close examination and surgical mask, the brake pads were swapped out to ensure we never had fade and every bolt and nut checked and secured with dab of silicone to prevent the nuts coming lose due to vibration. Qualify around 15th and in the top quarter of the field meant I was going to have to be smooth and consistent if I wanted to win the overall Index which is really the aim outside of a class victory as the GTC and A cars are just too quick .
Needless to say there is no Endurance without its incidents, and it was not long after the start that things started to happen especially with a jammed packed field on a relevantly small 2,4 km circuit when compared to Kyalami and Phakisa. Sharing a pit crew with Adrian Dalton from XTRA Clothing in an Audi TT and his son Luke who has recently started racing was a great idea at the time if it all went to plan. I was scheduled to come in at lap 20 for a 3 minute compulsory stop. Safety car situations and without onboard communication, which is not allowed in this event meant we needed to make some calls as to who came in first and was easiest to follow a sequence and hope for the best. Regrettably this never worked in my favour as by the time I had to come in the safety car had just pulled in, nevertheless at a point in time I was leading the race but sadly still had to pit …….. dammit.
Coming in on lap 20/21 as planned enabled me to top up on fuel, sort out a loose bonnet clip and get out and still finish relevantly high up Overall in 12th of 30 plus finishers and 1st in Class 111.