Audi S4 quattros in dominant Port Elizabeth performance
THE Audi S4 quattro proved itself again at round three of the Super Series. The Port Elizabeth event saw the quartet of racers feature in each of the three races on the day – with a dominant finish for the Audi S4 quattro in the results.
For the championship leader – and title defender – Michael Stephen (A1 – Engen Xtreme) – the PE round saw him compete in front of his home crowd. Their support spurred him on to claim pole position in qualifying and lead race one from start to finish. He also set the fastest lap in that first race, repeating that feat in the second race as well.
With a reversed grid based on the finishing positions from race one, this put Stephen into a sixth place start which translated into a fourth place finish. Race three saw Stephen in a fight with fellow Audi S4 quattro competitor Melvill Priest (A7 – Mueller Sports Medicine). The two were involved in a fast-paced fight for position that nevertheless saw them pull away from the field.
“PE was the right place to put in another good performance for us,” says Stephen. “We had a tyre strategy for the weekend and it played out the right way for us. It is a bit of a gamble using good tyres for race two which sacrifices them for race three or alternately you start further back and have good tyres on a track where it is difficult to pass.”
Priest qualified for the PE races in third place and finished in second place, just behind Stephen, in that first race. In race two Priest finished on the podium again, this time in third place
“In race three I wasn't going to try anything brave against Michael,” says Priest. “In the feature races I haven't been scoring well so it was important to capitalise on the double-points available here. We've been working hard as a team to have a weekend like this, so it actually feels like a win.”
Priest finished in second place in the final race and second overall for the day, just behind Stephen and just ahead of Tschops Sipuka. Sipuka's performance in PE saw him cross the line for fifth in race one and he followed this with a win in the second race. His local fans give him a hero's welcome for that race victory which, thanks to a third place finish in the final race saw him in third place overall for the day.
“I don't believe anyone has seen a race celebration like that before,” says Sipuka, referring to his fans' reaction to the second race victory. “We just had to find our way in that first race. It put us in a good place for race two – it was a good way to please our spectators and everyone who came from all over, including the Transkei, to support us.”
“In the final race, it was a question of holding on to third place. I just drove my line but there would be no gap there, I made sure of that.”
The racer trying to get past Sipuka was Gennaro Bonafede (A32 – Ferodo Racing) in the final of the Audi S4 quattros. Bonafede improved consistently throughout the event, moving from sixth to fifth to fourth in each of the races, ensuring that when the flag dropped on the final race of the day it was an Audi S4 quattro in each of the first four places – the same as the starting grid which was an all Audi S4 quattro affair.
“The whole race day was like a war,” says Bonafede. “Tschops and I raced hard, he had the pace but he blocked me on every corner as well. I just couldn't get past him. It was a hectic weekend, but I've got solid points today. It was a tough weekend and if I did get past Tschops, I might have been able to stick with the front guys.”
With another strong showing from the Audi S4 quattro racers in Port Elizabeth, the attention now turns to round four of the series where they will compete at Zwartkops Raceway. While the track is similar in nature to Scribante, it is also much higher above sea level. Race fans can look forward to this race meeting taking place the first weekend of May.