A superb feature race win in the Castrol MINI John Cooper Works in the last round, at Phakisa Freeway in the Free State on August 2, boosted Lee Thompson’s chances of challenging for the Bridgestone Production Car Class T Championship and his confidence ahead of this Saturday’s round six at Zwartkops Raceway west of Pretoria.
Thompson knows the Zwartkops circuit better than most – his racing driver instruction school is based there and he has logged thousands of kilometres in training and in both regional and national competition – but race wins on the twisty and technical circuit have eluded him more than he would like to admit.
A third and a fifth in the opening round of this year’s championship at Zwartkops in March was not a fair reflection of either his or the MINI’s capabilities and he has gone on to make up for this with three wins as well as five more podium finishes in the four race meetings since. He is currently fourth in the championship, 42 points behind defending champion Graeme Nathan. With a maximum of 35 points on offer for each race meeting (race wins plus bonus points for pole position and fastest lap in each race), any one of the top four drivers can take the title. After finishing a disappointed fifth in last year’s championship – five race wins and nine podiums were offset by seven DNFs – the 34-year-old professional racing driver from Pretoria is determined to do better this year.
“I managed to win twice at Zwartkops in six races there last year, so I know we can do it. The MINI works very well on the tight and twisty layout. It’s all about scoring points and if my luck holds good – I’ve only had one DNF so far this year compared to three at the same stage in 2013 – then we should be on the podium this weekend,” said Thompson.
Rookie team-mate Mandla Mdakane will be making his third appearance for the Castrol MINI team after impressing in both the previous rounds. He fell foul of the officials at the East London round where he won the feature race, but was adjudged to have caused the accident that saw the race shortened and excluded from the race result. He followed this up with another feisty performance in the Free State round, fighting off a strong challenge from multiple champion Nathan to finish fourth in the reverse-grid feature race.
“It’s a steep learning curve for me in a very competitive class, but I’m trying my best,” said the 20-year-old Johannesburg student. “I’m really enjoying driving the Castrol MINI and looking forward to racing it for the first time at Zwartkops.”
In addition to principal sponsor Castrol, the team enjoys support from MINI John Cooper Works, EPS Courier Services, Powerbrake and Sony Playstation. In addition, ADF has secured a deal with one of the world‘s leading sponsorship and brand engagement agencies, Octagon.