It was a day that promised much but the sixth round of the Bridgestone South African Production Car Championship at Phakisa Freeway in the Free State on Saturday proved to be a character-builder of note for the class T Castrol MINI John Cooper Works team of Gavin Cronje and Lee Thompson.
Two class wins and a 1-2 finish for the team in race one in the most recent Durban street races in June and memories of a win and two seconds last time the team visited Phakisa in August last year saw the team in a buoyant mood for what promised to be another good weekend.
Motor sport is a fickle mistress and, despite Thompson qualifying second and Cronje third for the opening eight-lap sprint race, extra weight carried by the MINIs as a result of recent successes together saw Cronje finish fourth with tyre wear problems and Thompson drop out after five laps with engine problems after a water pipe came off.
Despite their best efforts the crack ADF Motorsport team was unable to ready Thompson’s car for the second eight-lap sprint or the 12-lap feature race and a disconsolate Thompson was forced to sit out the rest of the meeting.
“What can I say? I’ve had more bad luck this season than most of the last few combined, but there are still three rounds remaining, two of which are at Zwartkops Raceway and Kyalami – two of my favourite circuits – and I can’t wait to turn things around,” said Thompson.
The team’s woes didn’t end there. Cronje and another competitor tangled on the opening lap of the second eight-lap sprint race with Cronje spinning into the Armco barrier and retiring with damaged suspension.
The ADF pit crew had a lot of repair work to do to his damaged suspension after the race two incident and although he made it to the start of the 12-lap feature race, a suspension link, probably damaged in the incident, snapped on the warm-up lap, forcing him into the pits for repairs. He started the race three laps down and finished sixth after completing eight laps.
“It was a tough weekend,” admitted Cronje. “It happens. You just have to take the good with the bad and look ahead to the next opportunity.”
The next round of the championship is at Zwartkops Raceway near Pretoria on August 31.
In addition to principal sponsor Castrol, the team enjoys backing from MINI John Cooper Works, Endless Brake Pads, EPS Courier Services, Akrapovic Exhaust Systems, Powerbrake and Monster Energy..