An immersive experience at Dezzi Raceway

A month-or-so back, I received a phone call from a representative of Sumitomo, which, at the time, I had no idea was the parent company of Dunlop and Falken Tyres.

I was invited to join the team for a weekend of motorsport at Dezzi Raceway on KwaZulu-Natal’s South Coast. It was rather exciting because it was the first round of The Extreme Festival, which, for this instalment, included the Falken Volkswagen Polo Cup, Global Touring Car series (GTC), South African Superbikes and Supersport 600 and the Investchem Formula 1600 series’. This was special not only for Dezzi Raceway, but for the entire KwaZulu-Natal province as circuit racing made its return for the first time in many years.

A surprise

Upon arrival on Friday afternoon, my colleagues and I were greeted with a surprise. We would be a part of the racing programme, with a media challenge reminiscent of the one I competed in during 2017 at Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit. We started off with a small karting challenge, where our partners had to complete a tricky gymkhana course, which contributed to our total time for the challenge weekend.

After some fun at karting, we had an opportunity to practice in the Polo Cup Media Challenge cars. These machines are based on the previous generation Polo 1.2 TSI DSG, but modified with a revised suspension, exhaust, weight reduction and more power from the engine. While not the fastest racing machines in the world, they proved exceptional fun around the tight and technical Dezzi Raceway.

After the practice session, we had a braai at the skidpan where our overnight accommodation awaited us in the form of tents. Our glamping experiance was very special as we were right in the midst of the racing action. With an early 05h30 start on the cards and two races before our departure at 11h00 the next day, we knew that the programme would be packed.

After a blisteringly hot Friday, Saturday morning was notably more overcast with rain looming. Our first time attack racing session was scheduled for 07h35 and was completed just in time to avoid the heavy rain that ensued. I managed to go fastest in the first session, with a lap time of 1min 32sec. Our second session was scheduled for 09h35 but was delayed slightly as the Falken Polo Cup Cars and Dunlop GTC machines had to switch to wet weather rubber as the heavens had opened, drenching the circuit.

By the time my second session was underway, the track was properly greasy, some of my colleagues even spun the Polos in their session. I adopted a far less aggressive driving style in these conditions and managed to go fastest again in session two with a lap time of 1min 39sec, showing just how slippery it was out there. The two sessions in the Polo and my partner’s solid performance in the karting meant that he and I secured first place for the weekend, while our Falken Media Challenge Team took the hours versus our Dunlop competitors.

The real racing

Our Media Challenge aside, the actual racing for the weekend certainly delivered on the promise. The most entertaining, in my opinion, was the Falken Polo Cup series. Twenty-three drivers competed on the updated track to secure points in the first round of the annual eight-stop tour. From aggressive bumper-car style racing down the final straight, to hair raising two-wheel turns on the newly modified track, it was the youngsters who stole the show, and who extracted the most gasps and cheers from the crowds.

“The average age of these Falken Polo Cup drivers is under 20, there are only five drivers older; the rest are in their teens,” said Greg Maloney, race announcer for the day.

Jeffrey Kruger (Universal Healthcare) was the quickest qualifier, setting a time of 1min 29,913s to edge out Bradley Liebenberg (VW Motorsport) by just 0,128s with Stiaan Kriel in the Motor Mart/Kales entry third quickest. With the top six moving up to Superpole qualifying, it was Liebenberg who came out on top, 0,707s ahead of Kruger with Jason Campos (Campos Transport) in third place 0,906 s behind the leader – this setting the tone for the two races.

Kruger finished fourth, ahead of Kriel and Clinton Bezuidenhout (Glyco Engine). Podiums went to Chris Shorter, with Kruger in second and Liebenburg in third.

In the Global Touring Cars (GTC), which saw a couple of major changes in GTC with both former champion Michael Stephen and Gennaro Bonafede stepping aside for 2019 – in the case of the former to allow Tschops Sipuka to make a return to Terry Moss Racing.

It was his partner in the Audi team, Simon Moss, who made the running in qualifying, setting a best lap of 1m 24,362s to take pole position ahead of Michael van Rooyen in the Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa Corolla. Third quickest was Robert Wolk (Chemical Logistics BMW 2-series) from Keagan Masters (VW Motorsport Jetta).

In the GTC 2 category, Bradley Liebenberg (VW Motorsport Golf GTI) was quickest ahead of Adrian Wood (VW Motorsport Golf GTI) and Charl Smallberger (Universal Healthcare VW Golf GTI).

Moss did not waste any time stamping his authority on proceedings and blasted into an early lead, powering the Audi to victory by 2.2 seconds from Masters, Daniel Rowe and Wolk with Johan Fourie a long way back in fifth place, his BMW looking worse for wear after a mid-race coming together with Van Rooyen’s Corolla.

Some frantic work by the Toyota team saw the car repaired in time for the second race where he went out and put Moss under severe pressure for the entire 10 laps, just not quite able to close the one second between them to attempt an overtake. Rowe finished the heat ahead of Masters and Fourie.

The combined results for the day had Moss on the top step of the podium with Masters in second place ahead of Rowe, Fourie and Van Rooyen. Bradley Liebenberg dominated the GTC 2 class, winning overall for the day from Wood with Smallberger in third place ahead of Bob Neill (Delmon Mining Ford).

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