Hennie Groenewald rewarded the entire Team Sasol Subaru outfit with a commanding win in race 2 of the Bridgestone Production Car Championship in a challenging weekend for the team.
Richard Pinard had a series of steady races to rack up more points in the championship and claimed 5th place in the 2-hour endurance race, the headline feature of the Sasol Race Day at Zwartkops Raceway west of Pretoria.
Practice and Qualifying:
The weekend got off to a trying start when Hennie’s motor had a leaking crank seal which leaked oil onto the hot exhaust and caught fire. Damage was minimal and the team ran later in the day until another leak manifested itself and the crew set about changing the motor. Richard had a mechanical problem, so all four drivers used the T-car throughout Friday’s session.
The SP Race Engineering technicians worked through the night to remove all three engines from their three cars. The T-car motor went into Richard’s car and the spare motor was fitted into Hennie’s WRX STI. The mammoth task saw both Sasol Subarus ready for qualifying at 10am.
Hennie set the 4th fastest time after aborting his second flying run when a misfire developed, while Richard set the 7th fastest time.
Races 1 and 2:
Hennie started and finished 4th, keeping at bay the race favourite Johan Fourie (Audi) in spite of engine temperatures reaching 106°C and suffering brake problems. “I had to short-shift to keep the temperature in check but was more worried about the brake pedal getting softer and softer until it went to the floor”.
On the grid between races, the technicians bled the brakes and got some feel back. The lucky draw saw Hennie on Pole for race 2. He streaked into the lead and built up a comfortable lead until the brake pedal started going away again, letting Michael Stephen’s Audi close up.
“Every warning light on the dash lit up”, smiled Hennie after the race. “Fuel pressure, water temperature and oil temperature. I eased up over the last two laps and luckily I had a big enough lead over Michael to slow a bit. It was a tense race for me”, said the relived driver.
Richard had a great fight with Tschops Sipuka’s Audi, passing him midway through the race. Running side-by-side up to turn five, Richard outbraked himself allowing the Audi past again and so settled for 7th.
The second race was uneventful for Richard, who gained one place and end 6th.
Carel Pienaar, team principle of SP Race Engineering devised two strategies for his two cars; Hennie and Jonathan du Toit would do two short stints in the heat of the day and two longer stints in the cooler night air. Richard and Jon Williams divided the race into four equal parts. “The plan is to manage the cars and make sure we finish. Each driver has a target time to achieve”.
Within 15 laps of the 2 hour endurance race, Hennie suffered a delaminated tyre. “It happened sooner than we expected and put us under early pressure”, said Carel. “It was better to stay out than do an extra pit stop. When Hennie pitted, we changed the castor and camber to the minimum we could get away with but the problem persisted, even when we dropped the target time from 1:08 to 1:10.
The team also bled the brakes at every pit stop, resulting in longer pit stops than the mandatory 6 minutes. We lost two laps alone because of our longer stops but they were necessary. Hennie’s last stint was 27 laps, but within 12 laps the tyres were giving problems. With Hennie plagued by delaminating tyres throughout the event, he ended in 5th place in class and 6th overall.
Richard and Jon ran with reduced turbo- boost and ran steadily throughout the race, twice taking the lead. Jon’s first stint carried on seven laps longer than it should. “I was enjoying myself so much I didn’t want to stop”, Jon laughed. Richard was stuck behind a class T Ford during his second stint.
Jon added: “Carel told me to go for it in my last stint. Those were the words I wanted to hear”.
All the drivers were full of praise for the dedication shown by the SP Race Engineering technicians who worked so hard to ensure two race-ready Sasol Subarus were on the grid.
The final round of the WesBank SuperSeries is at Zwartkops Raceway on 26th November.
Team Sasol Subaru is proudly supported by Permatex and associate sponsors Shatterprufe, Protea Hotels and MIR sports clothing.