Hennie Groenewald came close to repeating his clean sweep last May at the Sasol Race Day at Zwartkops, scene of round 7 of the Bridgestone Production Car Championship. The Sasolracing driver claimed two pole positions, three fastest race laps and took two lights-to-flag victories to jump back into second place in the championship standings with two rounds remaining.
Richard Pinard driving the second Sasolracing Subaru had his best showing of the season, finishing all three races, adding 13 points to his tally.
Practice and Qualifying:
The SP Race Engineering-run team spent Friday’s practice sessions working through a series of solutions, pushing the WRX STI to replicate the temperature issues that affected the team at Phakisa earlier this month. At the end of the day, Hennie set the second fastest time, a strong sign of the Sasolracing team’s readiness for the Sasol Race Day challenge.
Richard worked his way up to fourth on the timesheets, leaving the team buoyed for the racing to come.
In Saturday’s qualifying session, Hennie put one clean fast lap together to end top of the timesheets, 0.3 seconds quicker than his nearest rival. Richard found his tyres did not give him the confidence to attack. “I lost 0.5 seconds at turn 1 and that was the difference between 4th and 10th place”, said Richard.
Races 1 and 2:
Hennie streaked into the lead and never looked back, except to keep an eye on championship leader Michael Stephen who was closing in on occasion during the 8 lapper. “It was critical to get in front and stay there to run in cool air”, Hennie related. “Michael closed up a few times. He kept me honest. I had maybe another tenth of a second in hand, but that’s all”.
In race 1, Richard had to contend with “two very wide rivals” and he remained 10th throughout the race.
Race two saw a four car grid inversion so Hennie was stuck behind Michael Stephen, concerned that the dirty air would affect the Subaru’s temperature. Mid way through the race, the temperature reached 120°C and dropped back. Desperately trying to bring the temperature down, Hennie dropped back through the field. On the last lap, he went for the race fastest lap, which he successfully achieved, earning pole position for the final race.
Richard had a great race two, mixing it with Johan Fourie and Melvill Priest, crossing the line in a solid 6th place.
Lining up on pole position once again, Hennie set off and disappeared into the distance, finishing the double points race 0.6 seconds ahead of Stephen. “It wasn’t as easy as it looked. The temperature got within 4 degrees of the critical zone, so I turned down the boost and short-shifted. The traffic worked in my favour more than for Michael which helped, as did the few corners where he couldn’t attack because of a yellow flag incident”, Hennie reported.
Starting from 5th on the grid, Richard was caught napping at the start, allowing Anthony Taylor past. The Benoni businessman had a race long fight with Taylor and Priest, ending in 6th spot.
“It was my best weekend of the year. I saw the chequered flag three times!” he exclaimed. “It is a priviledge to be part of the Sasolracing team this weekend. I have never signed so many posters before. It was a great day’s racing with a good crowd”.
Team principal Carel Pienaar was satisfied with his team’s performance but cautioned against unrealistic expectations. “We ran at near critical temperatures and need to complete our development on the oil delivery system before Cape Town. Today we had something of a damage-limitation system in place which largely did what we hoped”.
He added: “The problem is technically very complex and we have been working closely with Sasol’s technical department. It was a very important day for SP Racing commercially and we delivered a set of solid results that did Sasol proud. The development will not stop and we will have some radical improvements for the next meeting”.
The penultimate round of the Championship takes place in Cape Town on 22nd September.
Sasolracing gratefully acknowledges their partners Subaru, AutoZone, MIR Sports Clothing and Shatterprufe windscreens.