Bridgestone Production Cars Class T Championship
Round 1 Race Result
Kyalami, 23 February 2013
TEAM CASTROL MINI JOHN COOPER WORKS WINS AT KYALAMI
The Castrol MINI John Cooper Works team started off new circuit racing season the way they finished the last season – with a win at Kyalami.
On a blisteringly hot summer’s day – at 14:00 the air temperature was 36 degrees Celsius and the track temperature was 52 degrees – Gavin Cronje scored a win and a second in two of the three Bridgestone Production Car Championship races on Saturday, while team-mate Lee Thompson was quickest in Friday’s official qualifying and finished on the podium in race two.
It was an up-and-down weekend for the team. Thompson, bidding for the top spot in the new-for-2013 Superpole on Saturday morning, failed to record a lap time when his car’s engine shut down in the middle of the lap as a result of a wheel speed sensor failure. He started the opening six-lap sprint race from third on the grid and finished eighth, a lap down, after having to pit to change a flat wheel.
Cronje, who started from fourth on the grid, chased down pole sitter Kelvin van der Linde (VW Golf) and took the chequered flag in first place after passing Van der Linde on lap five. In the process he recorded the fastest lap of the race on lap five.
It was Cronje’s turn to experience bad luck when he was forced to retire from the second sprint race on the opening lap with gearbox problems. Thompson, who started eighth, made good progress during the race to finish a hard-earned third despite a recurrence of the wheel speed sensor problem, which left him without ABS throughout the race.
The final race of the day, a 12-lapper, promised much for the two MINIs, which were quick and nimble around a technical Kyalami layout that suits their superior handling qualities. While Cronje did well to fight his way from ninth and last on the grid to second at the flag, just 0,397 sec behind the winning VW Golf of defending champion Graeme Nathan, Thompson’s bad luck continued.
Starting second on the grid and with high hopes of a first win of the season, he was stranded out on the circuit after completing just two laps when the wheel sensor problem again resulted in an engine shut-down on lap three. He spent the rest of the race spectating from the sidelines.
Lee Thompson: “We tried a few different suspension and spring settings on Saturday and somehow this affected the wheel sensors. This was detrimental to braking and the car’s engine management system shut down as a safety mechanism. Otherwise, the car performed really well and I’m confident we are going to be strong contenders this season.”
Gavin Cronje was delighted with his win and some useful championship points. “It was very hot out there and hard on both man and machine. We have a very strong package in the Castrol MINI and today we showed that when everything is going well it’s the Class T car to beat. We’ve got a bit of time to attend to the technical challenges we’re still facing and we’ll come back fighting at Killarney in three weeks’ time.”
The next round of the championship is at Killarney circuit in Cape Town on March 15 and 16.
In addition to principal sponsor Castrol, the team enjoys backing from MINI John Cooper Works, Ferodo, EPS Courier Services, Akrapovic Exhaust Systems and new partner Powerbrake.