Groenewald’s Phenomenal Drive Netts Team Sasol Subaru’s First Killarney Win
information supplied by: Subaru South Africa
04 April 2011
GROENEWALD’S PHENOMENAL DRIVE NETTS TEAM SASOL SUBARU’S FIRST KILLARNEY WIN
Team Sasol Subaru arrived in Cape Town sporting a bright new livery on their three Subaru WRX STIs. In a weekend of mixed fortunes at Killarney, scene of round 2 of the Bridgestone Production Car Championship, Hennie Groenewald claimed a storming victory in race 3 from 3rd
on the grid and set two fastest laps during the day’s four races, the best performance yet by the Subaru WRX STI at the coastal circuit.
Groenewald was issued a penalty after a stewards’ meeting over a Kyalami incident between the Sasol Subaru and Melvill Priest’s BMW. After an appeal against his disqualification, and potential loss of championship points, Groenewald was forced to start race 1 from the back of the class A grid, irrespective of his qualifying position.
Practice and Qualifying:
Team Sasol Subaru was up to full strength at Killarney with a third car for lady racer Tannith Gardner. The SP Race Engineering team had a busy Friday, replacing Richard Pinard’s gearbox after it jumped out of 4th
gear. Although Groenewald had CV issues, he set the fastest time in practice session three, leading the field by 0.222 second. Gardner’s car caught fire after an oil pipe came off which fried the wiring and rendered the STI out of service for the remainder of the weekend.
With so little track time, qualifying was going to be tough. Groenewald was quickly up to speed but a severe vibration cut his session short and the Kyalami winner lined up 5th
on the grid. With only 4 laps of practice under his belt, Pinard was a disappointed 8th
on the grid for race 1.
Races 1 and 2:
Groenewald stormed off the line, using the Subaru’s All-Wheel Drive to rocket past the pair of Nissans and team mate Pinard. Once up in to 5th
place, he set about reeling in the BMWs but slowed on the penultimate lap and pitted with smoke pouring out of the car.
“I thought the car had seized a bearing but an oil pipe came off. The car’s ECU kicked in as it sensed its engine had lost oil pressure”, Groenewald reported. The team quickly set about cleaning up the engine bay, toped up the oil and sent Groenewald on his way, but he had to start from the pit lane behind the Class A field.
What followed was a brilliant drive as Groenewald picked off the opposition one by one. He quickly dispatched the pair of Nissans with better drive out of Cape Town Corner, and in quick succession, reeled in and passed Johan Fourie’s Audi. The short six lap race was over as he homed in on the BMW pair, leaving Groenewald in 4th
place with the fastest race time.
“I’m happy with the result considering where I started”, beamed Groenewald.
Pinard was quickly into battle, passing Da Cunha’s Nissan into Cape Town Corner but on the exit, he selected the wrong gear, allowing the Nissan to re-pass the WRX STI. “I tried everything to get past again, but Paulo (Da Cunha) drove a wide car again. It was a great race!” said Pinard.
Race two was uneventful for Pinard and his Sasol Subaru. “I got quicker and quicker during the race and set my fastest lap of the weekend on the second last race lap. It shows how much I lost out with so little running on Friday”, Pinard said.
Race 3 and 4:
on the grid, Groenewald was involved in a huge fight with the Audi of Sipuka and Michael Stephen’s new S4 model, which made its debut in the Cape. As the Audi ran wide at Malmesbury Corner, Groenewald lunged for the inside line and swept through, claiming the inside line for Cape Town Corner where he slipped up the inside and into 2nd.
The Audi fought back with Anthony Taylor and Melvill Priest in close attendance. Groenewald slid past the new Audi under braking at the end of the start/finish straight and into a lead he built up to 1.099 seconds over the final laps.
The on-grid draw for the final race saw Groenewald start 6th
but quickly had the Sasol Subaru into 4th
place after passing Johan Fourie and Melvill Priest in Quarry Corner. Two laps later, he was into 2nd
place and gunning for the lead Nissan before the oil pressure problem returned, forcing Groenewald to slow; he slipped back to 6th
over the last two laps.
“It was our best Cape Town performance by a long way”, said Groenewald. “We have a good package for the year ahead which will keep me in the championship hunt. The oil pressure problems cost me quite a few points. We need to find the cause of these gremlins and fix them”.
Richard Pinard graciously handed his car over to Tannith Gardner so she could go racing. With no running or experience of the Sasol Subaru, she settled in and got quicker over the 12 racing laps she completed.
“It was awesome”, exclaimed Gardner. “I didn’t want to damage Richard’s car and spent my time shaking the rust off. In race 4, I have a nice tussle with Paulo Da Cunha and managed to stay with him, so I’m happy with my progress. The gearbox warning light came on so I started short-shifting; I didn’t want to leave the gearbox at the side of the track!”
Carel Pienaar, SP Race Engineering’s owner, was reasonably happy with his team’s performance in Cape Town: “We passed the test on speed. The oil pressure issue is a new problem which we need to understand and fix quickly. I’m encouraged and disappointed. Richard had no seat time while Tannith did well with no laps under her belt. There are not many women drivers who could do what she did today. We scored points for a couple of fastest laps which is a good bonus”.
Subaru Southern Africa’s said: “The team still has one or two issues to resolve. Tannith’s car is brand new so gremlins can be expected. Without a shadow of a doubt, we have a team capable of fighting for the championship and look forward to the rest of the season with renewed optimism”.
Team Sasol Subaru is supported by Permatex and associate sponsors Protea Hotels, MIR race clothing and Shatterprufe.
The next round of the WesBank SuperSeries is in Port Elizabeth on 30 April.
Groenewald’s Phenomenal Drive Netts Team Sasol Subaru’s First Killarney Win.doc (83kB)