BMW Race Cars rule in East London thriller
The Bridgestone South African Production Car Championship burst back into action at East London’s former grand prix circuit on Saturday, 5 July after a long, two-month break and it was BMW who left their mark on proceedings, just as they did at the end of the previous round in Port Elizabeth.
Back-to-back 1-2 finishes in round four’s two races (a feat not often seen by one manufacturer) saw former national production car champion Johan Fourie of Cape Town take the chequered flag first overall and in class A on both occasions from team-mate Gavin Cronje of Johannesburg in the ADF Motorsport-prepared Alcohol Killer BMW 335i M Performance Parts cars. Defending champion Michael Stephen was third in each race.
The top three gave a large and appreciative East London crowd full value for their money as they battled it out in race one with Cronje pipping Stephen to second place on the podium by just 0.269s after eight laps of the ultra-fast and daunting 3.921-kilometre coastal circuit.
The grid for race two, scheduled for 12 laps, saw the field line-up in reverse order of current championship positions, with Cronje on pole and Fourie fifth. It didn’t take the Capetonian long to assert his authority, passing Cronje for the lead on lap five at Cocabana. When the race was red-flagged and stopped prematurely on lap 10 after an incident involving two class T cars, the result was declared as at the end of lap nine, with Fourie 2.420s ahead of his team-mate.
Cronje, in his first season in class A after campaigning an ADF Motorsport-prepared Castrol MINI John Cooper Works in class T last year, held off a determined challenge from Stephen to take the runner-up spot for the second time by a slim margin of 0.074s.
“It was the perfect weekend for us,” said a jubilant Fourie afterwards. “Following our two second places in Cape Town in round two and a win in the feature race in Port Elizabeth in round three, we were confident we could achieve a good result here.
“We came to East London trailing Michael by 14 points and now, thanks to a very satisfying full house of points, we lead the championship at the hallway stage by two points (subject to confirmation). It’s not often one can achieve this – bonus points for pole position and fastest laps in both races plus the maximum for two wins – and it’s a well-deserved reward to a hard-working and thoroughly professional team behind me. They did a brilliant job this weekend.”
“A very satisfying result for the team,” agreed Cronje. “It’s not just the result, it’s also the confidence we all have in the cars and the crew at present. We lost quite a bit of preparation time during Friday’s practice as a result of oil on the circuit and the technicians did a great job of setting up the car for qualifying and the races. It wasn’t easy, but we worked hard and we had pace all weekend.”
In addition to Alcohol Killer, ADF Motorsport enjoys support from BMW M Performance Parts, Powerbrake and Sony Playstation, and works with one of the world’s leading sponsorship and brand engagement agencies, Octagon.
The next round of the championship is at Phakisa Freeway in the Free State on August 2.