Subaru South Africa Sasol Racing at Zwartkops
SASOLRACING CIRCUIT TEAM ON THE PACE AT ZWARTKOPS
Hennie Groenewald and Richard Pinard set their most competitive times of the season in the new Sasolracing Subaru WRX STIs at Zwartkops raceway during round 4 of the Bridgestone Production Car Championship but a series of mechanical issues and accidents prevented the team from converting their pace into solid results.
Practice and Qualifying:
During Friday’s free practice sessions, Hennie consistently set times within 1/10th of a second of the front runners, indicative that the team’s intensive development is starting to pay off.
During qualifying on Saturday morning, Hennie set the second quickest time and was on track for a pole-setting time when he made a rare error, selecting second gear instead of 4th gear when down-changing from 5th. The engine buzzed at 10 500 rpm and was damaged beyond repair.
Richard Pinard, celebrating his birthday at Zwartkops, set his best ever time at the tight Pretoria track to line up 8th on the grid.
In a gesture of amazing sportsmanship, Richard sacrificed his raceday by offering Hennie the engine from his car.
SP Racing made a Herculean effort to complete the changes in time for race 1, completing the task in just 2½ hours.
Hennie said: “The front end works well now and I was consistently second fastest and was confident the car would deliver. The disaster in qualifying is something we need to understand. I appreciate Richard’s gesture to allow me to score points by offering me his engine”
Team Principal Carel Pienaar added: “If we put Hennie in Richard’s car, he would have to start from the back of the grid. Richard’s car also has some experimental parts which are not race tested so it’s better to transfer the engine to keep Hennie in second place”.
Hennie retained 2nd place off the line but going into turn two, Gennaro Bonafede (Audi) collided with Johan Fourie (BMW), who in turn cannoned into the back of the Subaru.
Trailing a cloud of tyre smoke and loose bodywork, Hennie continued to fight hard to retain his place but almost immediately the turbo began to lose boost and he retired one lap from the end of the race to allow the team maximum time to change the part before race 2.
In spite of completing the turbo swap in just under an hour, it still refused to boost properly and pretty much everything was changed in a valiant attempt to get the Sasolracing car onto the grid for race 2, the team working frantically up until the pitlane exit was closed.
Hennie’s day was over, with suspected damage to the engine’s internals.
“I missed a gear during race one as well, which points to a gear-linkage problem. It is something we will have to investigate back at the workshop”, said Hennie.
Carel Pienaar said: “We were extremely unlucky. The team has done lots of development work and we have nothing to show for it. The hard knock at the rear actually dented the door and may have damaged the chassis.
We replaced everything on the motor between races except the motor itself in an effort to get it to run properly. Hennie is human; at 10 500rpm, the valves and pistons meet and that was the end of the engine”.
The Sasolracing team will miss the next round in Durban and now has three months before the Phakisa event in early August. Two brand new motors are being built and a revitalized Sasolracing team will be racing hard again.
Sasolracing Circuit Team gratefully acknowledges their partners Subaru, Top Class Automotive, Freem Sports Clothing and Shatterprufe windscreens.