Forty years, less one day, since the first three Formula Vee cars raced in South Africa on the 15th May 1965, the category produced two awesome races, at the Zwartkops World of Motoring, on Saturday. In the end. it was the 1997 and 1998 National Champion Anthony Taylor (Rigidek Rhema 2) who took virtually all the glory, with pole position for the first heat, both race victories and a new lap record. It was however, not as easy as these statistics may lead one to believe. Four different drivers led the race, all of them recorded a race lap, under the previous lap record and in the second heat, Taylor only led for about a hundred meters!
Having qualified in pole position, Taylor then fluffed his start and a number of cars slipped past, before the first corner. Taylor was however, a man on a mission and as he went for an outside pass, through the high speed Turn Four, the highly experienced South African race commentator John Witfied, in obvious disbelief, shouted into the microphone “the chap has lost his mind”. By the end of the lap, Alan Holm (JBS Lasersprint Rhema 2), led from Symm Grobler (Auto Mecca Rhema 2), Taylor, Dennis Johns (Goldco Midas Rhema 2), Andre Van Der Merwe (ACC Air Conditioning Rhema 2), Kyle Bennett (Rhema) and the Visions of Laurent Calkoen and Jannie Geyser. By the following lap, Grobler had taken the lead but he soon picked up a problem with his clutch and during the fourth lap, both Holm and Taylor slipped past. The following lap, Johns also disposed of Grobler, while the inexperienced but highly talented Van Der Merwe, took another four laps before he was also able to find a way past.
After shadowing Holm, for a few laps, Taylor made his move and he out braked Holm into Turn Five, to take the lead and although Holm shadowed Taylor for the rest of the race, he was unable to reclaim the position. A number of quick drivers had been forced to start from the back of the grid, for various reasons and as the race moved into it’s closing laps, they started making their presence felt. With three laps to go, the second JBS Lasersprint driver Jaco Schriks, driving Holm’s old Rhema 1, slipped past the dueling Karters, Bennett and Calkoen who then had the 2001 Title Holder Lee Thompson (08X Connect Rhema) breathing down their necks, while ex Karter Trevor Bland (AC DC Dynamics Rhema) who had also started from the back, was not far behind.
It was however Taylor who took the victory 0,651 of a second ahead of Holm, with Johns a further 0,210 of a second behind Holm. Van Der Merwe finished next and he was followed home, by Grobler, Schriks, Bennett, Calkoen, Thompson, Bland, Nico Blignaut (Gilus IT SAP Rhema) and Gerber.
It had been a close hard fought race and apart from the battle up front, battles too numerous to mention, had raged on all the way down the field as well. Retirements came from development driver Benny Phetla (Lotto Vision) who only completed half the race, before retiring, with the hydraulic pipe to the clutch lying against the exhaust and causing the fluid to boil, while the only other retirement, came from Claude Cartmell who blew the motor of his Rand Brake Sting.
Johns had qualified on pole, for the second heat and he led the field away, followed closely by Taylor, Grobler, Holm and Van Der Merwe. Lap three saw Grobler pick up a position, at the expense of Taylor but race leader Johns, was headed for disaster. Approaching Turn Two for the fourth time, smoke poured off the front tyres, as the front brakes locked up but the car showed no signs of slowing down and if anything seemed to gain speed, as it careered straight on off the circuit, across the gravel trap and slammed head on into the double row of tyres, in front of the Armco barrier. The impact was such, that one of the posts supporting the barriers was pushed back a few centimeters and having arrested the forward motion of the car, the tyres then spat it out backwards. The marshals where at his side almost immediately but it was just under a minute, before Johns was able to catch his breath and climb out of the car, having been winded by the force of the impact.
Johns later said that the car had suddenly jumped forward, as if it had been hit from behind. It was however later established, that the right rear brake hose had come loose and without hydraulic pressure to the rear, the pedal went flat, dragging the throttle pedal down with it, so not only did Johns have no back brakes but the harder he pushed the brake pedal, the more the car was accelerating. He tried to spin it or throw it sideways but the car refused to respond, going straight on and as he bounced across the gravel trap he heard the engine screaming, as the rear wheels became airbourne and he hit the kill switch, stopping the Sachs rev counter at 8,200 rpm, in second gear!
There had also been some action up at Turn Five, involving Chris Danks (Stalcor Rhema2), Gareth Jackson (JBS Lasersprint Sting), Kevin Cartmell (Rand Brake Sting) and Bobby Nel (Lantis). The incident, eliminated Danks from the race but Cartmell did not seem to lose too much time, while Nel and Jackson both lost positions, to Devan Moonsammy (Lotto Rhema) and Phetla, before they where able to resume. In the meantime, Grobler had inherited first place but he was soon relieved of that, by Holm, as Holm, Grobler, Taylor and Van Der Merwe remained locked together, at the head of the field. Eventually, Taylor found a way past Grobler as well and as they came trough to complete the penultimate lap, the order was, Holm, Taylor, Grobler, Van Der Merwe, Thompson, Calkoen, Blignaut, Bennett, Bland, Cartmell, Gerber and Schriks.
It looked as if Holm was heading for victory but Taylor was having none of that. As Holm defended the line, into Turn Four for the last time, Taylor once again tried to pass on the outside, getting up alongside Holm. They where still side by side, as they headed up the hill toward Turn Five, where Taylor braked a bit earlier, to switch to the inside, in the hope that Holm would run wide exiting the bend but Holm held on and they where still virtually side by side as they headed toward Turn Six, with Taylor on the inside this time. Somehow Holm held on, around the outside and they both exited the bend, still virtually side by side. With only two left hand corners to go, Holm now had the inside line for both but Taylor hung on around the outside of the kink and as they headed back down the hill, to the final tight left hander, they where still side by side! Taylor knew that it was now or never and with Holm not able to use the full width of the circuit, turning in and exiting the bend, Taylor muscled his way past, to win the heat by 0.177 of a second, from Holm. During the final lap, Van Der Merwe had passed Grobler and he had a grandstand view of the action ahead of him, finishing 0,601 of a second behind Holm. He was followed across the line by Grobler, Thompson, Calkoen, Blignaut, Bennett, Bland, Schriks, Gerber and Kevin Cartmell who had petrol burning his back and had lost concentration at Turn Two, making an excursion through the gravel and surrendering two positions, during the final lap of the race.
Not only did Taylor secure the first National Championship double win of the year but he also claimed the new Zwartkops Formula Vee lap record, setting the new mark at 1 minute 10,106 seconds.
Original article from Car