The Southern African Endurance Series set up shop at the East London Grand Prix Circuit for a double-header weekend featuring rounds five, six and seven of the SAGT National Championship, performing in front of thousands of enthusiastic motorsport fans as part of a bumper Winter Motorsport Festival.
The stars didn’t disappoint as Silvio Scribante powered his Cemza Cement Lamborghini Huracan GT3 to back-to-back victories and the lead of the championship points table after fending off Charl Arangies’ Pagid Racing Audi R8 GT3 in Friday’s race and Marcel Angel’s Autohaus Angel Ferrari 458 GT3 in Saturday’s opening one-hour race.
After a pair of miserable practice sessions that saw the Audi towed back to the pits after suffering from fuel feed issues, Arangies/Neveling got the car sorted for qualifying, planting the R8 on pole by a substantial 0.475 seconds, besting the Scribante brothers Silvio and Aldo. Silvio bested his brother’s similar Scribante Concrete Lamborghini Huracan GT3 by 0.281 seconds followed by Angel/Jason Ibbotson’s Ferrari.
Mikaeel Pitamber (Stradale Lamborghini Gallardo GT3) and Hein/Henk Lategan (BBR Porsche 992 GT3) filled row four, followed by Sun Moodley (Bigfoot Express Mercedes-AMG GT3) and Marius Jackson (MJR Motorsport Audi R8 GT3).
Row five saw Kwanda Mokoena’s Amandla Coal/MJR Motorsport Audi R8 GT4 fend off Johan Hattingh’s Stradale Motorsport Porsche 997 GT3.
Silvio made a brilliant start to snatch the lead heading into Potter’s Pass, shutting the door on Arangies, who was all over the back of the bright yellow Lamborghini in the run down to Cocabana Corner with the rest of the pack in close attendance.
“I closed my eyes and closed the door on Charl”, said Silvio later.
Arangies made another attempt to snatch the lead around the outside of the final corner but had to back out of the move as the car snaked on the dirty side of the track.
Next time around, Arangies out-braked himself at the final turn and lost ground to the flying Lambo. At the mid-race point, Arangies handed the Audi over to Neveling to try and catch Silvio, but it was to no avail. Post race, Arangies/Neveling were excluded from the results for a regulation breach.
Aldo was therefore awarded second place followed by the Pro-Am entry of Angel and Ibbotson, the latter having a quick spin at half distance before handing the car over to Angel.
Hein/Henk Lategan brought their understeering Porsche home in fourth, followed by Jackson – having his first East London outing in his R8 GT3 – and Moodley, who continued to improve his times each time he took to the track.
Pitamber had a torrid race, his Gallardo plagued by fuel system issues which led to his retirement while Hattingh had a more unusual cause of retirement – a sore back. Mokoena had a puncture and parked his car to save it for the Endurance race the following day.
The grid was formed based on the previous race’s lap times, so the field lined up with Silvio on pole, followed by Angel/Ibbotson, Aldo Scribante, Lategan, Moodley, Jackson filling the first three rows. Arangies and Neveling languished at the back, with Neveling taking the first stint.
As the safety car pulled in, Marcel made a play for the lead, out-accelerating Silvio on the run down to Potter’s Pass. With two wheels touching the dirt on the uphill run to the final corner, Silvio squeezed into the lead. By the end of the lap, Aldo also slipped ahead of Angel, while Neveling has sliced through the pack to run in fourth, seemingly defying the laws of physics as he hustled the Audi through the pack.
A lap later, Neveling took second place off Aldo and on lap four, Neveling took the lead off Scribante, taking the Lamborghini on the outside of Potter’s Pass. The fairy tale ended a few laps later with a huge cloud of blue smoke pouring out of the back of the Audi, a failed engine ending their spectacular run.
Once the pit stop sequence had been completed, Angel – who was yet to stop – was ahead of Aldo, who set the fastest lap of the race but he was under continual pressure from Silvio, who tried to go around, under or over the Ferrari!
Aldo bumped Moodley going into Potter’s sending the big Mercedes into a wild spin. With the Ferrari finally in the pits, the two Scribante Lamborghini’s resumed their one-two, followed by Ibbotson, who had a wild ride with ten minutes remaining. He dropped two wheels onto the grass at Potters and spent the next few seconds on the slippery stuff all the way to Rifle Bend, with the accelerator still welded to the floor! The Ferrari lost third place to the Lategan Porsche in the incident, but stayed ahead of Jackson, who stopped to check on his driver Kwanda Mokoena, who had stopped suffering from leg cramps.
Moodley, suffering from a bout of flu, brought his thundering Mercedes home in sixth.
Under threatening skies, the field got away with Aldo on pole followed by Silvio, Ibbotson, Jackson, Moodley and Mokoena.
As the pace car peeled into the pits, Aldo nosed ahead of Silvio with Jason in close attendance on the inside line to Potter’s. Silvio tried to go around the outside and with neither driver prepared to yield over the same piece of tarmac, the Ferrari and yellow Lamborghini pirouetted off the track. Silvio got going but had a right rear puncture, limping around to the pits for a new slick tyre.
Aldo Scribante emerged in the lead, followed by Marius Jackson, Ibbotson, Mokoena, Moodley and Silvio.
Minutes later, it started to rain heavily, turning the circuit into a skating rink. Jackson was the first casualty of the change in weather, going onto the grass in the complex. Jackson and Ibbotson headed to the pits for wet tyres; Ibbotson handed the Ferrari over to Marcel Angel and it was game on as Silvio stayed out with Mokoena shadowing his every move.
Mokoena passed Silvio, the GT4 more drivable in the rain; the team told Aldo to box but Silvio had to pit urgently as his communication cable had worked loose so the team radioed Aldo to stay out; the extra lap on slicks cost Aldo the race win.
The order was Angel, Aldo and Silvio Scribante, Jackson, Mokoena – who had to do another stop after forgetting to do the in and out driver change – and Moodley.
Not only did spectators have three hours of watching the country’s fastest racing cars as part of the Winter Motorsport Festival, there was a driver meet-and-greet on Friday night, as well as drag racing and a show and shine, the concept a first for SA Motorsport and one which will be improved upon for the next round on 29 and 30 September and 1 October.