SUBUARU WRX STI at Kyalami
GREAT START FOR SASOL RACING’S SUBUARU WRX STI
Hennie Groenewald gave the new Sasolracing Subaru a great start to its racing career with a pair of second places in the opening races of the 2013 Bridgestone Production Car Championship, while Richard Pinard finished all three races well inside the points paying positions.
For a car that first turned a wheel on the Tuesday of race week, it was a fitting reward for the SP Race Engineering technicians who have created the new racers.
Practice and Qualifying:
This where all the engineering theory that went into the design of the WRX STIs was put to the acid test. New rules for this season call for an across-the-board boost reduction of 20% which affected the Sasolracing machines by 17km/h.
A private shakedown test at Midvaal saw a few new-car niggles appear but were quickly sorted by the experienced crew. As the team prepared for official qualifying at Kyalami on Friday afternoon, Hennie was 0.7 second off the pace but cautioned: “This is a track that has traditionally favoured the Subarus so it’s a bit concerning”.
Hennie lined up 5th and Richard in 8th place on the grid. Richard said: I was disappointed after qualifying but spent time going over the data with Hennie and found some time for race day”.
Races 1 and 2:
From a standing start, Hennie surged into 3rd place by the first corner and held station in a tightly-bunched pack until the safety car came out on lap four. At the re-start, Hennie was tempted to see what he could do to get past another rival and as the cars went over the line, the Subaru drew alongside Melvill Priest’s Audi through turn 1 which gave him the inside line for Turn 2 and he was up into 2nd place.
“The standing start was one of my better ones”, said Hennie. “I thought I might catch one or two people napping at the safety car re-start and worked hard to make the most of the opportunity”.
The Sasolracing Subaru lined up for race 2 in 5th place after a six-car grid inversion, a feature of Bridgestone production Car racing. Another great standing start saw Hennie rocket straight into 2nd place and in spite of coming under intense pressure from Priest amongst others, held on for another helping of 8 championship points.
Hennie said: “The Subaru is the best starter with its Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive. Considering how little testing we did, these results feel like a victory. I am encouraged that in spite of one of the hottest race days we have experienced, the car’s temperature stayed exactly where we expected it to be”.
Richard Pinard had a quieter first race, settling in to his new ‘office’. “The steering felt heavier than my Cougar (his historic racer) which made driving in the heat very difficult. He made up two places and chalked up his first points of the season.
The grid inversion for race two saw Richard on pole position. “It was a bit intimidating:”, Richard acknowledged. “I concentrated on doing things right and got a fair start, taking first to second gear at just the right moment. I shifted into third a bit too early and came off the power band”.
The class A field gobbled up the Subaru in one fell swoop and Richard found himself at the back of the class A field, but recovered two places to claim another 6th place and set his personal best time in the new car.
The 12-lap race saw Hennie line up 3rd on the grid and again he gained a position of the grid. Going down the mineshaft, he was passed by rivals on consecutive laps, dropping to 4th place. After another four laps, the head gasket failed and Hennie was forced to retire. “It was a disappointing end to the day but overall I’m very happy with the new car”, said the Sasolracing driver.
Richard settled into the longer race at a steady pace and picked his way to 5th place which became a 4th place result when one rival was penalized for a jumped start. “I’m really happy with these points”, said Richard. It’s a fantastic start to the season with greater reliability compared to the races last year”.
Team Principal Carel Pienaar added: “I’m very happy with the performance of our cars out of the box. There’s a lot of testing to be done to find a few more tenths to put us consistently at the sharp end of the grid”.
Sasolracing gratefully acknowledges their partners Subaru, Top Class Automotive, Freem Sports Clothing and Shatterprufe windscreens.
The next outing for the Sasolracing circuit team is at Killarney in Cape Town on 16th March.