South African Gavin Cronje and Belgian Nico Verdonck clinched the inaugural Formula Le Mans Cup Championship for prototype sports cars at Silverstone in England on Saturday when they won the first race of the fifth and penultimate round.
Driving an entry from the French DAMS team, the South African/Belgian combination has been the pair to beat in this new feeder series to the established long distance Le Mans Series and claimed their sixth victory from eight races in Saturday’s opening 34-lap race around the Silverstone grand prix circuit in the English Midlands.
Verdonck started the race from pole position and handed over to Cronje in the lead. The 30-year-old South African, the reigning national Formula Volkswagen champion and a former world Rotax Max kart champion, held off a strong challenge from Swiss driver Mathias Beche (Hope Pole Vision Racing) in the closing laps to take the chequered flag by just half a second after over an hour’s racing.
Cronje and Verdonck finished second in race two behind Beche and Valle Makela after Cronje experienced problems in the first stint when the wheels locked up and flat-spotted the tyres. Despite dropping back to fourth he was able to hand over to Verdonck in third place at the driver change and the Belgian was able to make up another place before the chequered flag and finish 24 seconds behind the winner.
Gavin Cronje: “I’m really delighted with today’s result as it was decisive for the championship, and also because Nico and I have continued our string of victories. We’ve done what we set out to do so we can tackle the rest of the season in a much more relaxed state of mind. We’ve gathered a lot of experience in prototype racing this year and I hope that we can bring it to another team next season, as I’m really motivated to race in the Le Mans Series or in the Le Mans 24 Hours next year.”
The new monotype (one make) formula, which is aimed at drivers and teams wanting to get started in prototype sports car racing before graduating to the longer endurance races, features a carbon fibre monocoque sports car penned by ORECA and powered by a 6,2-litre V8 engine from General Motors that delivers 430 bhp and 630 Nm of torque.
Thirty-year-old Cronje, Rotax Max world karting champion in 2001 and a former rookie driver in South Africa’s entry in the A1GP World Cup of Motorsport, is the reigning domestic Formula Volkswagen champion.
The final round of the Formula Le Mans Cup Championship is at Magny-Cours in France on September 18 to 20.
STORY COURTESY OF: Peter Burroughes Communications
PICTURES COURTESY OF: gavincronjeracing.co.za