Thompson and Castrol MINI John Cooper Works first overall in PE
Bridgestone Production Cars Class T Championship
Round 3 Result
Aldo Scribante Circuit, Port Elizabeth, 6 April 2013
THOMPSON AND CASTROL MINI JOHN COOPER WORKS FIRST OVERALL IN PE
Lee Thompson (Team Castrol MINI John Cooper Works) put the disappointment of two problematic rounds in the Bridgestone Production Car Championship firmly behind him with a satisfying overall Class T win in round three at the Aldo Scribante circuit in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.
Despite not being entirely happy with his and his car’s performance in the two eight-lap sprint races – he finished fifth and fourth – a fine drive to second place in the 16-lap feature race behind defending champion Graeme Nathan (VW Golf GTi) and second fastest lap of the race saw him take the overall honours for the day and score triple as many points as he had done in the first two rounds.
“The day got better with each race and it was good to finally score a decent number of points, but we’re still not quite there yet,” said Thompson, who pointed out that he actually finished a nose ahead of third-placed Jacques Joubert (VW Golf GTi) in race two, but was adjudged to be fourth by just 0,02 sec as a result of his transponder being located slightly further back in his car than Joubert’s.
Team-mate Gavin Cronje started his race weekend strongly with second fastest lap in qualifying and back-to-back second place finishes in the sprint races. However, contact with Nathan’s VW in the first corner of the opening lap of race two – for which Nathan was reprimanded – resulted in a damaged exhaust, which fell off as he crossed the finish line at the end of the race.
He started the all-important feature race, which counts for double points, without his exhaust and looked headed for a convincing first overall for the day as he challenged eventual race winner Nathan for the lead on lap nine. Two laps later the engine temperature of the Castrol MINI John Cooper Works rose alarmingly and he slowed down to preserve the engine and completed the race at a virtual crawl in sixth place, scoring a valuable six points. As a result he was able to retain his second place in the championship behind early leader Nathan.
The two Castrol MINIs ran for the first time with the new N18 turbo-charged 1 600 cc engine that is featured in the recently launched MINI John Cooper Works GP hatch and both drivers were impressed with the new power plant and its variable valve timing.
“There’s a real improvement and we look forward to taking full advantage of this in the races to come,” said Cronje. “We had a good day today, but it was a pity about my exhaust getting damaged in the incident with Nathan. I was confident of a good result in the feature race and we could have made big inroads into his championship lead.”
The next round of the championship is at Zwartkops Raceway in Gauteng on May 4.
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.