Hennie Groenewald claimed a brace of third place podium finishes at Zwartkops Raceway to claim 2nd overall for the day while Richard Pinard set his best Production Car qualifying place and equalled his best result with 2nd place, earning 4th place overall at the final round of the Bridgestone Production Car Championship.
Practice and Qualifying:
The team ran two sessions on Friday before a minor technical problem arose; Hennie and Richard were happy with the Sasol Subaru WRX STI’s handling and parked for the rest of the day.
Richard outqualified Hennie, with the team taking 4th and 6th places on the grid. Hennie had a soft brake pedal just before the session started, which was traced to a leaking brake caliper seal.
Races 1 and 2:
Hennie immediately went on the attack, passing both Richard and Tschops Sipuka on the first lap. As the 8 lapper neared the end, the Subaru’s engine temperature rose dramatically, forcing Hennie to reduce boost and cruise to 3rd place over the remaining laps. Richard maintained his 4th place after a slow start off the grid.
The inverted grid draw for race 2 saw Richard on pole with Hennie alongside. Richard led the opening lap before Michael Stephen’s Audi passed under braking.
“I let Michael go as he was fighting for the championship and slotted in behind him. I was waiting for Hennie to come past but he had a down on power engine so I ended 2nd. I’m really happy with the result”, said Richard.
Races 3 and 4:
Lining up 4th on the grid, Hennie went around the outside of Tschops Sipuka and Anthony Taylor (BMW) before the BMW driver retook the position, leaving Hennie in 4th place.
Richard clipped the jagged inside edge of the kerb at the hairpin on the opening lap which damaged a rim, forcing the Subaru to pit for a new tyre, leaving him trailing the field, 2 laps down.
Hennie started race 4 from pole position and streaked into the lead. “I knew it would be tough to keep the BMWs behind me and sure enough Anthony and I touched which left Anthony with a puncture and he retired, so I had a comfortable cushion over Melvill (Priest)’, Hennie related. “Three laps from the end I had a heating issue again and the tyres started to go off. On the last lap I didn’t think I would finish.
Michael closed up by corner four so I went defensive and nearly went off the road and had to get off the throttle, but then the oil pressure light came on. That light means “stop now” but I thought Carel would forgive me any engine damage if I brought the car home first. Melvill snuck past on the finish line and I parked it immediately after taking the flag”.
The season started well for the Sasol Subaru WRX STI, with SP Race Engineering fielding a competitive package. The team had a few early-season oil pressure problems but Hennie soon took the lead in the championship race.
“We were the fastest team out there but then Audi brought out the new S4 and the controllers made allowances for the BMW which hampered our year. We fought hard all season but towards the end we were not quite there with reliability issues creeping in”, Hennie summarised.
“8 wins is a fair share of the chequered flag so it was a good season from that point of view”.
Richard said: “It was a season of mixed fortunes for us but overall for myself and the team it was a fair year considering the goalposts move all the time. I would like to thank Sasol and Subaru as well as everyone at SP Racing for the year we had”.
Carel Pienaar, SP Race Engineering Team Principal added: “The last third of the last race epitomized our year. We were fast, we were in the lead, then niggling issues derailed what should have been a win”
“Production Car racing has three major issues that the controllers need to address: it is too expensive, the cars are too complicated and the ‘success ballast’ belongs in a 1980s clubmans championship. I am weighing up my options for 2012 and it occurs to me that I can run 10 VW Polo Cup cars or a couple of R2 rally cars for the same price as one Production Car”.
Team Sasol Subaru is proudly supported by Permatex and associate sponsors Shatterprufe, Protea Hotels and MIR sports clothing