Just over two years since the Comsol VW Challenge last visited Kyalami, almost 50 drivers made their way to the Midrand circuit to experience the revamped facility on the weekend of 22 & 23 October 2016.
While things didn’t go entirely according to plan, Saturday’s second race was abandoned for safety reasons and was replaced with a non-championship race on Sunday, the general consensus among the drivers was that South Africa now has a world-class motor racing facility.
When the series last visited Kyalami James Hurley was in dominant form and won both races on his way to the 2014 title. Since then the Starter Pack Company Polo driver has experienced mixed fortunes but on Saturday he romped to victory in the only championship points scoring race. Class B went the way of Darren Nathan (Sextrader Polo) while class C went to Lyle Ramsay (Monroe Polo).
Rory Atkinson (Comsol Polo) was the pace setter in Friday afternoon’s qualifying session, taking the class A pole from Hurley with Stiaan Kriel (Polo) and Devon Piazza Musso (Allegiance Polo) filling the second row of the grid. Iain Stevenson (Comsol Polo) and Waldie Meintjes (LTR / Marty’s Body & Spray Polo) rounded out the top six.
In class B Adrian Wood (Laserfische Polo) got the better of Nic Clarke (Central Technical Services Polo) to claim pole position by just 0.022 seconds. Championship leader Nathan headed the second row of the grid alongside Jacques Smith (Hydra Arc Polo). The third row was shared by Quinton Needham (Polo) and Deon Holiday Jnr (T & T Windscreens Polo).
Lyle Ramsay (Monroe Polo) was quickest of the class C brigade. Stuart Mack (Goldwagen JHB CBD and Wynberg Golf) just managed to edge out Luan Roos (Nathan’s Motorsport Polo) to take second with Elke van Vledder (Golf), Wouter Roos (Nathan’s Motorsport Polo) and Graham Savage (Goldwagen JHB CBD and Wynberg Golf) rounding out the top six.
Hurley grabbed the lead when the lights went out to signal the start of race 1 and was never seriously challenged on his way to a comfortable class A win. Kriel kept him honest but made a mistake as the pair were negotiating backmarkers two corners before the flag and spun allowing Atkinson through to second. Kriel recovered to take the final podium step ahead of Piazza Musso. Stevenson claimed fifth managing to hold off Tasmin Pepper (Campos Transport / Alpine Motors Polo) who fought her way through from the back of the grid after a blown motor in practice caused her to miss qualifying.
In class B a three-way battle between Wood, Clarke and Nathan had the crowd on the edge of their seats. Nathan kept a watching brief in third place through most of the race allowing the other two to fight over the lead but he pounced with three corners to go. He moved past Clarke into second before taking the lead at the next corner. Wood fought back and they charged toward the line three abreast. Nathan won the drag race from Clarke with Wood having to settle for third. Smith had an untroubled run to fourth with Holiday Jnr and Andre de Lange (Golf) rounding out the top six.
Ramsay had an easy class C win from Luan Roos with the main action coming in the battle for the final podium position. Mack had the early advantage before Wouter Roos took over approaching the half-way mark. Mack fought back and took third with Shaun Crous (Ancro Building Projects Polo) on his bumper. Wouter Roos and Savage were just behind in fifth and sixth respectively.
Several delays in the race program saw race 2 got underway in almost complete darkness. The race was just half a lap old when Smith was tipped into the wall at Sunset. The pace car was deployed for a lap before race officials decided to abandon the race for safety considerations.
After race 2 was abandoned it was decided that another race would be scheduled on Sunday. As a number of the title contenders had prior commitments and couldn’t make it back to the circuit, it was run as a non-championship race.
Kriel made no mistake this time out, running away at the head of the class A field to take the win from Pepper and Wayne Masters (Performance Masters Polo).
In the absence of Clarke, Wood and Nathan were left to fight it out at the head of the class B field. This time Wood took the win with Brad Hall (Hellermann Tyton Polo) completing the podium.
Mack and Savage had a great battle at the head of class C with Mack just shading his team mate. Christiaan de Wet (Polo) took third.
With just one round of the championship and a maximum of 23 points left in the season, Nathan leads the overall and class B title races. He has a 13-point lead over Clarke. Atkinson and Meintjes share third place on the overall log and lead the class A title charge while Luan Roos had a 10-point lead over Savage at the top of the class C log.
The final round of the 2016 Comsol VW Challenge takes place at Zwartkops Raceway in Pretoria on 26 November.