Bridgestone Tyres Racing in South Africa
The Bridgestone Super Production Car circus arrives at Cape Town’s Killarney circuit with three important questions unanswered as far as performance goes; namely, how quick will the new Ford Focus STs be straight out of the box, will the freshly-minted Sasolracing Subarus – sedans rather than hatches for the 2013 season – be able to overcome their Killarney bogey, and will the downward revision in turbo boost pressure impact on the established coastal circuit pecking order?
All those questions will be answered when SA’s premier saloon racing formula arrives in the Fairest Cape for the second round of Super Series national championship racing on March 16. Killarney has traditionally been a happy hunting ground for the Afrox BMWs and they must be hoping it stays that way. By their exalted standards the Kyalami race was mediocre at best and not the way they wanted to start the season. Despite getting both F30 335s going through to Superpole, their weekend went downhill from there: Etienne van der Linde crashed heavily on his flying lap, and while it looked like his day was over, he was given a dispensation to run an older spare care, which the team hastily fetched from their workshop nearby.
His team mate Johan Fourie had a mixed day too, going off as the result of a puncture in the first sprint, and then fighting through to fifth in the second. But it all came good for the 34-year-old in the 12-lap feature race – which also scored double points - and he won that at a canter, the power of the big turbo motor giving him the edge. He will be hoping for more of the same in front of his Killarney home crowd.
But the big winners at Kyalami were the reigning champions, who started their title defences with convincing performances. Class A leading light Michael Stephen (Engen Audi S4) is bidding for his third title on the trot and put in a string of solid performances: a first, second and a third, to emerge from the day with the shiniest trophy and a 9-point championship lead.
The second works S4 of Tschops Sipuka will also be in the thick of the action no doubt, the determined Eastern Cape racer keen to be a consistent front runner this season and he started off well at Kyalami: he currently lies third on the log. Three podium finishes for 2012 class T champ Graeme Nathan (Indyoil Golf6 GTI) sees him arrive in Cape Town with a head start for the front-drive machinery, leading Gavin Cronje’s Castrol MINI by a healthy 10 points, in turn two points of Nathan’s team mate Jacques Joubert, whose move to a Golf6 GTI this season seems to have brought out a new level of maturity in the feisty youngster. But VW’s superiority might not last and the Castrol MINIs were fast but inconsistent at Kyalami, with Lee Thompson in particular having more than his fair share of problems, his day ending with a blown motor which saw him spin off on his own oil and bring out the Safety Car.
Both Thompson and team mate Cronje will have a new specification engine for the upcoming race weekend, the turbo’ed 1.6 litre unit now with variable valve timing on both camshafts.
This is expected to boost low-end torque. Missing from the line-up for Cape Town will be teenage sensation Kelvin van der Linde, whose Kyalami appearance was a once-off, and designed to assist him in staying sharp for his first race in the VW Scirocco R Cup in Germany on May 5. But picking up the cudgels in Cape Town will be a BMW for John Mayer, while there’s an off-chance that local enthusiast Nieyaaz Modack will drive the Pirtek-branded E90 Beemer Etienne Van der Linde used as a stopgap at Kyalami.
And the Ford Racing Focus ST pair of Shaun Duminy and Gary Formato will be out in their new class T steeds, marking the debut of the latest-generation Focus, which ran for the first time just 10 days before the Cape Town race. Nevertheless, initial reports from their Zwartkops base suggest they’ve done a good job, and they’re confident that they’ll be on the pace.
Another man who’ll want to be winning again is Gennaro Bonafede, who had a nightmarish opener in the Ferodo Audi S4, with a spate of reliability problems which had his father, Vito – a multiple national championship-winning rally navigator – almost pulling his hair out. While Killarney is in many ways his home circuit thanks to a strong family connection to the region, it isn’t a track which has been kind to the Pretoria student, but maybe 2013 will bring something different. Melvill Priest, in the Mueller Audi S4 had moments of brilliance at Kyalami but was unable to convert that into a haul of points, his cause not helped by a tyre delaminating on what was a stinking hot day on the Highveld. Super Production boss Dick Sorensen has also made a decision to shelve the Superpole concept – for Killarney anyway – after team managers suggested that the format creates an atmosphere in which drivers may over-extend them, putting undue strain on the cars which may compromise them later in the weekend.
Nevertheless, the public can look forward to a day of intense action thanks to qualifying being moved to early Saturday morning, followed by three fast and furious races: the two seven-lap sprint happen in rapid succession (separated by a race from another formula), culminating in the 14-lap feature race late in the day. Don’t forget the sunblock: the heat emanating from the track is going to be intense. Top three after round 1 of 2013 Bridgestone Super Production Car Championship Class A
The first round of the 2013 Bridgestone Production Car Championship held at Kyalami on 23 February will be shown on SuperSport 7 at 18h00 on Tuesday 12 March 2013. The hour long programme will be repeated on SuperSport 6 at the following times:
- Monday 18 March at 15h00
- Tuesday 19 March at 10h00
- Wednesday 20 March at 14h30
These times have been provided by SuperSport and are subject to change.