Sasol Racing Circuit Team went to the Top Gear Festival in Durban for round 5 of the Bridgestone Production Car Championship expecting a tough weekend and that is exactly what they got. Hennie Groenewald pocketed a few points for 6th place in Saturday’s race, scant reward for SP Race Engineering’s hard work, but fortunately the team left with both cars intact, ready to fight again at Phakisa in early August.
The pair of Subaru WRX STIs were hampered by the added 70kg imposed by the series controllers and this dramatically weighed down the team. “It’s like going into a street fight with one hand tied behind your back”, Hennie mused as he saw his title lead eroded. “We used to be 0.4 of a second off the pace at the coastal venues but the margin has grown to 1.1 seconds”.
Practice and Qualifying
Richard Pinard ran a full free practice session while Hennie stopped early with a tightening engine which the team replaced. Saturday qualifying was red-flagged on lap 2 after the omnipresent concrete walls claimed another victim. “The tyres didn’t have a chance to heat up properly in 1½ laps so all I could manage was 6th. Richard was 11th; he said: “The walls demand full attention but we didn’t have much time on the track”. The door mirrors hampered both drivers visibility so they were removed for the races.
In spite of a slipping clutch off the line, Hennie held position thanks to the yellow flag rule, which meant no one could overtake him into the first two corners after the start. He was under race long pressure from Neil Lobb (BMW) but managed to cling on to take three points for 6th place. “The 70kgs banged on the WRX didn’t help. I stayed with the pack as they held each other up, but groups soon formed and I dropped away from the fight. The brakes were spongy so I couldn’t attack”, said Hennie.
Richard retired on lap three with complete brake failure and didn’t take part in Sunday’s race. “The weekend was very nice except for the racing! The added weight put a lot of pressure on the brakes. It wasn’t worth risking myself or the car. Hopefully, the situation will be resolved before Phakisa”, said the disappointed driver.
The early morning qualifying session saw Hennie scoop another 6th place starting slot. As the race got underway, Hennie came under pressure from Anthony Taylor, who started from the back of the grid. “Taylor closed at a rate of ½ second per lap. I tried one defensive line but then the car’s engine hit 115ºC and went into ‘limp’ mode, so all I could do was cruise to the finish”, Hennie explained.
“We will have to rebuild our championship from Phakisa. It’s quite clear the Technical Working Group is inconsistent in terms of their mandate which is not achieving the desired objective. It’s clear the system doesn’t work and their decision has cost me valuable championship points. Our competitors ‘decided’ our fate this weekend”, said the forthright driver.
Sasol Racing Circuit Team Principal Carel Pienaar added: “The pre-event predictions unfortunately happened. We hope reason will prevail before Phakisa. The weight penalty applied cost us our championship lead and has undone all the good work over the year. It’s time the Technical Working Group analyze the facts and stop using words like “they say” and “apparently”. People are very selective in their rationale”.
The Subaru WRX STIs will be out in action at Phakisa in Welkom on 4th August.
STORY BY SUBARU