Groenewald Takes Championship Lead After Stunning Coastal Outing
information supplied by: Subaru South Africa
03 May 2011
GROENEWALD TAKES CHAMPIONSHIP LEAD AFTER STUNNING COASTAL OUTING
Team Sasol Subaru’s Hennie Groenewald drove hard, fast and clean to score two dramatic race wins, a 2nd
and set three fastest laps, scooping enough points to leapfrog to the head of the Bridgestone Production Car Championship after the third round held at the Aldo Scribante race track in Port Elizabeth this weekend.
Richard Pinard gave Team Sasol Subaru a 4th
overall for the day while Tannith Gardner made huge strides until pushed off the track in a high-speed roll that saw the talented driver’s Subaru WRX STI destroyed.
Practice and Qualifying:
Hennie set the fastest times in two of Friday’s practice sessions on old tyres, while Richard and Tannith set respectable times as they bedded their cars in for Saturday’s qualifying session, which was a disappointment for the three-car Sasol squad. Hennie qualified 4th
with Richard 7th
and Tannith 9th
. “I thought I had a great car but the new Audis have a speed advantage and I guess they were sandbagging during the practice sessions. I was quite disappointed”, said Hennie. “We set a goal of doing a 1:06,8 lap but missed that by 0.1 second”.
Races 1 and 2:
Hennie got a great start and slipped up the inside of Melvill Priest’s BMW and set off after Tschops Sipuka who drove very defensively, allowing his team mate Michael Stephen to open a gap. As the second Audi slowed on the straight, Hennie swept past and set off after Stephen. As the gap narrowed, Hennie set the fastest lap by 0.005 of a second, but immediately slowed on lap 5 and dropped down the order. “The oil temperature shot up so I immediately backed off to save the car for the second race”, Hennie related as the SP Race Engineering team added a couple of litres of lubricant to the engine between races.
Race two saw Hennie start from the back of the class A grid and immediately made headway, taking Tannith in the run down to the first corner, followed by the Da Cunha brother’s pair of Nissans. The BMW team took each other off, making the Sasol Subaru’s job a little easier. “I battled to get passed Tschops (Sipuka) for three laps but eventually took him under braking at the hairpin. Richard let me through so I decided to see what I could do about Stephen’s 3 second lead. I was right with him after a lap and half and he made his car very wide. I had a good go around the outside on the last lap but couldn’t make the move stick”, Hennie reported. “It was a fair race”. The Sasol Subaru WRX STI driver again claimed the point for the fastest lap.
Richard got away well and also passed the Nissan pair before becoming embroiled in a close fight with Sipuka, which saw their positions change until Richard made his final move stick and finished 5th
. In race two, Richard was up into 2nd
place before allowing Hennie through. As the race progressed, his car’s engine started to misfire and Taylor passed him on the line, dropping to 4th
at the flag. “I had a great scrap with Tschops; every time I got past him, he came back at me. I was disappointed to lose 3rd
virtually on the line”, said Richard.
Tannith got stuck in immediately and engaged the Nissans in battle which caused her to lose touch with the group ahead. Once past, she started closing down the time loss to the other competitors and finished a solid 8th
. After some bumping and bashing off the grid in race two, Tannith was 5th
, ahead of Priest and Taylor, before she suffered the same problem as Hennie had in the first race. She eased off and ended 8th
. “I got lots of laps which is great, and my confidence is building all the time”, said Tannith.
Races 3 and 4:
Hennie started from pole position and kept the Sasol Subaru in a narrow lead from flag to flag, shadowed the whole way by Johan Fourie’s Audi, whose tyres were in better shape than Hennie’s. “It wasn’t easy by any means. Fourie missed race 2 so his tyres were better than mine. I saw there was lots of action behind me”, said the race 3 winner, 0.7 seconds to the good.
Race four was dramatic. Starting 6th
on the inverted grid, Hennie had a grandstand view of the accident that caused Tannith to roll off the circuit. “I saw Taylor take my team mate out and wasn’t sure who would go which way but came out of it in 3rd
place. Richard was in the lead but Melvill Priest passed him under double waved yellow flags. Richard backed off, which you are supposed to do, so Priest had a big gap”, Hennie reported. The leading Sasol Subaru driver set after the BMW and reeled him in at a rate of knots, before switching to his inside for the hairpin. The cars were side-by-side through the sweep before Hennie dived up the BMW’s inside into the final corner on the final lap to take his second win of the day, as well as another bonus point for setting the fastest lap.
Richard started Race 3 from 7th
and watched the warring BMWs ahead. As Taylor passed Priest, Richard followed, but Priest rammed Richard in the final stages of the race, pushing the bodywork into the tyre. Richard had to back off and Tannith passed him, leaving an angry Richard 6th
. The blue-trimmed Sasol Subaru started the final race from pole position and was incensed at Priest’s move under the waved yellow flags. “I felt Melvill Priest drove like a learner driver. At this level, the guys should know what they’re doing. I moved over for Hennie and a couple of other guys passed me as well”, said Richard, who ended 5th
Tannith had her Sasol Subaru in the thick of the action in race three, easily passing the Nissans and then Sipuka’s Audi under braking at the end of the straight on lap three. “It was a great result and I’m happy that I’m hanging with the pack, sticking my nose in where I can”, said Tannith.
The final race was brief: “I was on the front row with Richard and we determined the pace for the rolling start. Anthony Taylor gave me a nudge and then rammed me off the track. I rolled four times although spectators said it was five times”, Tannith related. She was completely unhurt in the high speed accident, the strongest testimony to the SP Race Engineering built Subaru.
SP Race Engineering Team Principal Carel Pienaar was scathing in his condemnation of the BMW team’s antics: “Anthony Taylor is totally reckless; the film footage shows it was totally his fault. We have hundreds of thousands of rands worth of damage which was completely unnecessary and caused by the stupidity of one of the most experienced drivers in the championship. Melvill has a history of poor driving conduct – he’s been involved in a number of incidents with Hennie. The penalty he received for passing under waved yellow flags wasn’t severe enough. I have to question the sportsmanship of the BMW team. Hennie has demonstrated again that it is possible to pass a lot of cars without major contact”.
He continued: “The team’s qualifying wasn’t up to standard. The cars lost 11km/h overnight. The oil problem Hennie and Tannith had was a pick-up problem, caused by a leaking pipe. The weekend was one of mixed fortunes but Hennie had three very exciting races. His last lap move on Priest, running through the sweep side-by-side was breathtaking!”
Carel’s last comment related to the safety at the Aldo Scribante circuit. “Tannith rolled higher than the tyre wall and could have landed amongst the spectators. The circuit safety has dropped well behind what is acceptable from a safety point of view and this aspect needs to be looked at urgently”.
“We fully support SP Race Engineering’s position on the driving antics of the BMW team,” said Subaru Southern Africa. “Previously incidents like this have been addressed through a slap on the wrist which at the end of the day does not do the series any justice. Drivers and teams alike need to be disciplined in a way that will set an example to their piers and ultimately benefit the series.”
“Safety is without doubt the number one priority in motorsport; for the drivers and spectators alike. While teams can design and build the most intricate of roll cages to protect the driver, these lose effect when circuits are not able to cater for the demands of modern era motor racing. This incident calls for the need to revisit safety at all South African circuits and especially Aldo Scribante which sees the series return to this track mid-year. We will be addressing both issues with the Production Car series controllers as well as Motorsport South Africa this coming week.”
Team Sasol Subaru is supported by Permatex and associate sponsors Protea Hotels, MIR race clothing and Shatterprufe.
The next outing for Team Sasol Subaru is at Phakisa Raceway in Welkom on 4th
Groenewald Takes Championship Lead After Stunning Coastal Outing.doc (88kB)