Hein Lategan’s and Verissimo Tavares’ BBR Racing Porsche 991 Cup broke a side shaft in Friday’s second free practice session, curtailing their race preparations. The team flew in a replacement component which arrived at the circuit at 08:00 on race day and was installed by the crack WCT Engineering Team in just over an hour.
Starting from the back of the grid, the 4-hour endurance race unfolded in dramatic fashion, allowing Lategan to make up places at a rapid rate and the pair was soon into third place after the first hour. Although the car can run a maximum of an hour and 40 minutes on a tank of fuel, Lategan was forced to make a splash-and-dash pit stop for fuel with an hour to go but hung onto their lead to claim their first victory in the Endurance championship.
Second across the line, a lap down was the Lexus-powered Backdraft Slingshot of Mike McLoughlin and Steve Clark. The pair ran second initially after qualifying third but a failed power steering system saw Clark spin four times. As others fell by the wayside, the trio was leading just after the halfway mark but extra fuel stops dropped them back into the second position.
After claiming a stunning pole position on his debut, 18-year-old Kwanda Mokoena, teamed with Mo Mia in their MegaFibre Audi GT4, rounded out the podium with a solid third overall after a trouble-free run. The brand new team changed tyres at every pitstop, costing valuable time, which turned out to be unnecessary, as the Audi was gentle on its rubber – all part of the learning curve.
Colin Ellison/Chris Radloff ended fourth overall in their Titan Historic F1 Backdraft-Lexus. It was touch and go though, as for the last 20 minutes of the race Ellison had one eye glued to the fuel warning light. He decided to roll the dice and back off just enough to maintain his place and save precious fuel, taking the hotly contested
Class E victory and the overall championship lead in the process.
Philip Meyer/Dean Wolson/Mark Harvey drove their Pple Group and Adapt Backdraft to fifth place and second in class, having nursed the car’s brakes which caused a few missed braking points along the way. Add in a puncture 2:40 into the race with Wolson behind the wheel and a worn tyre added to the car which upset the balance, and they were relieved to end on the class podium.
Harm and Barend Pretorius (Pesty Racing Backdraft) had a near trouble-free run to sixth overall, a spin by Harm and a long pitstop to sort out a seatbelt issue the only problems they encountered.
Capetonians David and Roberto Franco, with Danie van Niekerk qualified their Graphix Supply World Volkswagen Polo SupaCup in a fantastic fourth place.
They drove conservatively, nursing braking issues, but as darkness fell, the trio found only one working headlight but still moved from 10th to seventh place. A late splash and dash fuel stop with 20 minutes to go was their only scare but didn’t affect their seventh place overall.
Benjamin and Crisjan Morgenrood had dad Ben in the car with them this time out. A clutch and gearbox problem kept them out of qualifying, also consigning them to the back of the grid.
A fuel rig malfunction saw the Morgenrood Ford and Mazda Backdraft under-fuelled at each stop which required extra stops – six in total. The car was stuck in fourth gear over the last half hour of the race so eighth overall was a good result for the Randfontein team.
Manfred and Brent Schroeder brought their Backdraft home in the ninth position after battling a slipping clutch over the final half hour.
The biggest drama befell the tenth placed finisher, pre-race favourites Riaan Botma and Jeffrey Kruger (Auto Investments Ligier JS53-Honda). Fastest by a massive margin throughout Friday’s four free practice sessions, the engine failed on Kruger’s out lap. Undaunted, the team arranged for their spare engine to be driven overnight from Pretoria.
The engine arrived at 07:00 on race day and was fitted by 08:40, the team mechanics listening to loud rock music as they worked. The gearbox and rear assembly were bolted back and the car was running in time to take up their place at what had become a very crowded and busy back of the grid.
Botma took the first stint and had the Ligier in the lead after just four laps. The team was denied a fairytale result as a control arm bolt broke, relegating the car to seventh. Just as Kruger was about to take over, the alternator failed. While the team made a makeshift repair, the pair ultimately lost 24 laps.
Fikile Holomisa and Baphumze Rabulaza brought their Team Qhubani Backdraft home in 11th after Bapi spun at turn one, 20 minutes into the race. The steering wheel was skew after that and in spite of a thorough check in the unscheduled pitstop, nothing was found to be bent or broken. Six laps were lost, but both drivers raced with caution, unsure if there was a hidden issue.
Brian and Tony Martin drove a great race in their Backdraft until a prop shaft doughnut broke, which cost half an hour to fix, dropping the Backdraft founders to 12th overall.
Sun Moodley took part in the first hour only, gaining seat time in his newly delivered Bigfoot Express Mercedes-AMG GT3. He completed 55 valuable laps in his stint.
Backdraft scored a clean sweep in the Index of Performance, taking the top five positions, with Meyer, Wolson and Harvey winning the challenge.
The third round of the SA Endurance Championship takes place at the Phakisa Freeway Circuit in Welkom on June 18.