Heartbreak for the Engen Xtreme Team despite Zwartkops victory
Despite claiming overall race day honours in the final round of the National Production Car Championship (NPCC) at Zwartkops Raceway on Saturday, it was a bittersweet day for Engen Xtreme team driver Michael Stephen as he came up just short in his quest for a fourth NPCC crown.
Port Elizabeth-based Stephen was a model of consistency on the day, taking the chequered flag in Race Two and podium positions in Race One and Race Three. While this was enough to emerge victorious overall on the day, it was not enough to close the gap on Hennie Groenewald at the top of the championship standings.
“Since I was chasing the championship, I would have preferred even better results on the day but sometimes you simply have to accept that you cannot win the title every single time,” commented Stephen afterwards.
This marks the second consecutive season in which Stephen has come up just short in the championship, having also finished second in 2014. He won the production car title on three consecutive occasions from 2011 to 2013.
The fight for the championship title went right down to the last race, with Stephen fighting at every opportunity to close to the gap on championship leader, Groenewald. Winning Race Two kept the fight going right up until the flag dropped at the end of Race Three. This kept fans on the edge of their seats every step of the way.
Stephen’s Engen Xtreme Team teammate, Simon Moss (38), claimed second place in Race Two. This marked another step in his maturing into a highly competitive national motorsport contender, in what has been a breakout season for the talented youngster, who finished amongst the top five racers for the year.
“The first race setup wasn't ideal this weekend which saw me battle to control the handling and be competitive out on track,” said Moss “The reverse grid for Race Two saw me starting in second place, and with an altered setup on my Audi S4 quattro, it was a very different race. I started in second place and held off the chasing pack.”
For the Engen Xtreme Team, the end of the 2015 season marks the end of their participation in the National Production Car Championship, as the series has now come to an end. This leaves the door open for exciting announcements on a replacement series in the 2016 motorsport season, which promises to deliver even more exciting action in SA’s top tier saloon car formula.