The Bridgestone BMW Club Racing Series made a welcome return to the track on Saturday 25 July, as part of the Zwartkops Winter Challenge, and with all the pandemic restrictions in force in all walks of life at the moment, a challenge it was indeed.
But competitors and officials alike lived up to it, and hopefully that will augur well for local motorsport's resumption at large.
In the absence of Class A entries — all of which were eliminated by mechanical issues on Friday — qualifying for the event saw Andreas Meier put his #TrainedAmateurs Class B BMW E36 STC in pole position, from where he led the field at the start of race 1 on Saturday morning, with his old sparring partner Jan Eversteyn (African Surprise BMW E46 M3) in hot pursuit.
Jan Eversteyn in his African Surprise BMW E46 M3. Image: RacePics.co.za
Into turn 2 of the first lap, Oz Biagioni (BioPool Maintenance BMW E46 M3) spun at the exit, forcing Carlo Garbini (Kimbo Coffee BMW E46 330 Turbo) to go off track, in the process letting Ian Kotwal (Retoria Motors BMW F22 325i Turbo) into third place.
As the field then sorted itself out and settled into an orderly pace without any more major drama, Meier reeled in the 10 laps, to win from Eversteyn, and a recovered Garbini to complete the Class B podium.
Kotwal was mighty in fourth place, the first Class C runner. Salvi Gualtieri (SavSpeed BMW E36 328i Turbo) was next up ahead of Renier Smith (#BeldiePolisie BMW E36 M3).
Another pre-race favourite Rob Gearing (diebels Alt BMW E30 325is) pitted after a few laps to fix a faulty throttle and re-joined down the order.
The Class D battle was won by Smith's teammate Matthew Wadeley (#BeldiePolisie BMW E36 M3), making a noteworthy return to the fold after a long absence.
Matthew Wadeley in his #BeldiePolisie BMW E36 M3. Image: RacePics.co.za
Varish Ganpath (Prodigy BMW E46 325ci) finished runner up in the class, with Shane Grobler (Mayfair Gearbox BMW E36 325i) completing the podium. Nicholas Herbst (Greenhouse Solar BMW E46 330i), finished 4th in his first start in the class.
In Class E, Nicholas van Zyl (Luxury Fragrances for Rides BMW E87 130i) took the laurels, beating Colin van Son (Bridgestone BMW Car Club BMW E36 328i) and Bertie Rietveld (Rietveld Knives BMW E36 328i). Manny Ribeiro provided the on-track entertainment, drifting the Bridgestone BMW E46 325i Touring entry with aplomb, especially at turn 5, much to everyone's delight.
Race 1 Results per Class:
|Class B:1. Andreas Meier – 01:08.6552. Jan Eversteyn – 01:08.4923. Carlo Garbini – 01:08.985||Class C:1. Ian Kotwal – 01:09.5982. Salvi Gualtieri – 01:09.7283. Renier Smith – 01:10.630|
|Class D:1. Matthew Wadeley – 01:12.3982. Varish Ganpath – 01:12.0033. Shane Grobler – 01:15.076||Class E:1. Nicholas Van Zyl – 01:16.8052. Colin van Son – 01:15.7663. Bertie Rietveld – 01:17.073|
|Fastest Lap: Jan Eversteyn – 01:08.492 in Lap 6|
Heat 2 was expectantly awaited, and as things turned out, it did not disappoint.
Oz Biagioni led the partially inverted grid away following his misdemeanour in heat 1, the last-placed laptime then being the first on the grid, second time around. Before long however, Garbini, Meier and Eversteyn were on his case.
The Kimbo Coffee driver took over at the front, with the other two chasing him.
In Class C, Kotwal was again leading the charge, while behind him Renier Smith, Troy Cochran (Arrow Automotive BMW E36 M3) and Neil Reynolds (Valve Hospital BMW E36 M3) were locked in close combat.
In Class D, Wadeley was again in control with Varish Ganpath an early retirement with a broken sideshaft. There was then some drama when Renier Smith went off the track at turn 1, bringing out the safety car.
At the re-start, Meier took the lead from Garbini, but not for long. The German's car lost its alternator belt, and overheated leading to a loss of power and his fall down the order.
Eversteyn then seized the moment, and passed a spirited Garbini with a couple of laps to spare to happily take the win by less than a second.
Kotwal claimed his double in Class C for the day, finishing an impressive third overall on the road. Biagioni took fourth spot to, complete the Class B podium, with Salvi Gualtieri fifth the second Class C runner. Troy Cochran was next over the line, to complete that class podium.
In Class D, Matthew Wadeley again did the business, scoring a brace like Kotwal, with Shane Grobler finishing second. Young Nicholas van Zyl again took the Class E victory, completing a trio of braces.
Craig Herbst, sharing his car with his son Nicholas, finished just behind van Zyl, with Colin van Son taking the last place of the Class E podium.
Race 2 Results per Class:
|Class B:1. Jan Eversteyn – 01:09.0802. Carlo Garbini – 01:08.9473. Oz Biagioni – 01:09.859||Class C:1. Ian Kotwal – 01:09.8592. Salvi Gualtieri – 01:10.7693. Troy Cochran – 01:11.216|
|Class D:1. Matthew Wadeley – 01:12.9802. Shane Grobler – 01:14.666||Class E:1. Nicholas Van Zyl – 01:16.5632. Craig Herbst – 01:15.5643. Colin van Son – 01:15.287|
|Fastest Lap: Andreas Meier – 01:07.958 in Lap 9|
After his two solid races, Kotwal took the coveted Driver of the Day award.
Grade 12 pupil Nicholas van Zyl did not put a foot wrong all day, and with his brace, now finds himself at the top of the overall standings in the title chase.
Nicholas van Zyl in his Luxury Fragrances for Rides BMW E87 130i. Image: RacePics.co.za
Last but not least, our favourite German, Andreas Meier, went and offered his services as the lollipop man for the four-hour SAES main event which followed, and by all accounts was not too despondent after the result of heat 2.
He now finds himself third in the overall standings, behind Eversteyn in second, and the young Van Zyl.
But for all the effort and stellar performances by one and all, the really big winner on the day was local motorsport, which arguably successfully navigated all the hoops placed before it to stage the Zwartkops Winter Challenge, paving the way one hopes for a much needed return of the full complement of categories in the weeks to come.