POINTS IN THE BAG AS SASOLRACING CIRCUIT TEAM DEVELOPMENT CONTINUES REVIEW: BRIDGESTONE PRODUCTION CAR CHAMPIONSHIP: ROUND 3 – PORT ELIZABETH
Hennie Groenewald and Richard Pinard bagged points for positions as the Sasolracing Circuit Team continues to develop their sophisticated new Subaru WRX STIs. Following damage to Hennie’s car in Cape Town three weeks ago, testing was put on hold so the car could be readied for the third round at the Aldo Scribante track in Port Elizabeth.
Hennie ended a frustrated 7th overall on the day after missing race 2 with Richard recording 6th on the final timesheets.
Practice and Qualifying:
The #8 Subaru used Friday’s practice sessions to find a suitable balance on the abrasive Eastern Cape tarmac, but each change he made to improve the front-end grip affected the rear balance so opted for the lesser of two evils – understeer. “We need to find another 0.2 of a second to be racier. The car was far more predictable on fresh tyres which masked the problem somewhat”, said Hennie.
Indeed, when the clocks were ticking in qualifying on Saturday morning, Hennie set the 4th fastest time – 0.202 of a second off pole position. Tyre management required him to nurse the tyres and did an extra warm-up lap to bring the rubber up to the ideal operating temperature gradually.
Richard had a freakish incident in the first practice session when a stone was thrown up and hit the external kill switch, which shut his Subaru down. “I was going down the straight when all of a sudden the instrument panel went blank and the car died on me. When we got back to the pits, the technicians flicked the switch and we were back in business”, Richard related.
Richard banged in a time to grab 8th on the grid, suffering the same handling woes as his team-mate.
Both Sasolracing Subarus held station in the opening 8-lapper where Hennie stayed glued to his rival’s rear bumper but not able to challenge for a podium finish. When he switched the engine off after the cooling down lap after the race, a turbo impeller blade broke and the shaft exhibited excessive movement. With insufficient time to replace the turbo between races, the SP Race crew hoped for the best.
“I thought we had a chance to run in race two but on the warm-up lap, there was absolutely no boost and it was prudent to pull into the pits. I watched the race from the control tower”, said a disappointed Hennie.
Richard rotated his tyres for the second race and found the rear end loose, sliding wide out of the hairpin on each lap but he controlled it on each lap and ended 7th.
With no qualifying time set during race 2 for the race 3 grid, Hennie started from the back of the pack. Richard made way for his in-a-hurry team leader who was soon embroiled in several races within a race as rivals’ fortunes waxed and waned. Throughout the 16 lap race, Hennie ran side-by-side with Etienne van der Linde (BMW) and inevitably they made contact. Quick reactions saw Hennie keep the Subaru on the road, but he lost time and fell back into the clutches of Johan Fourie (BMW).
Over the remaining laps, Hennie tried repeatedly to drive around the outside of his rival, spending much of each lap side-by-side. Towards the end of the race, they too made contact and Hennie went off the road at one of the fastest parts of the circuit.
As the race unfolded, he again caught Fourie and tried to drive around the outside of the corner to pass Fourie, repeatedly barreling down the straight alongside each other until one lap from the end it was all over when the power steering pump oil overheated and he settled for 6th position.
Richard used the longer feature race as a long test session, trying different lines to find a few extra tenths of a second. He ended 7th.
Both drivers were unanimous in the praise for their technicians who gave up their Easter break to endure the race-cars were ready. “We need to get out and test to get to the bottom of the understeer issues and up our ante before the next round. But at least we earned some points” was the drivers’ feeling.
Hennie and Richard will be in action at Zwartkops Raceway, a traditionally strong track for the Subarus, on 4th May.
Sasolracing Circuit Team gratefully acknowledges their partners Subaru, Top Class Automotive, Freem Sports Clothing and Shatterprufe windscreens.