Julian van der Watt

Former champs make winning race returns

Local racing proved the highlight of the South African race weekend past, with two former champions and a Moto GP star  coming back to show the rest how it is done at Zwartkops’ fifth round Extreme Festival national circuit championship races in Pretoria on Saturday.

2017 Investchem Formula 1600 champion Julian van der Watt made a dominant return to the wings and slicks single seater series when he held off championship leader Scott Temple to win both races, with Nicholas van Weely and Andrew Schofield fourth and fifth both times as Ivana Cetinich took Class B. Temple now has one hand on the title but second is now up for the taking with even van der Watt capable of stealing it from van Weely.

2017 champion Devin Robertson likewise made a victorious return to the Falken Polo Cup with an opening race win over Bradley Liebenberg, Keegan Campos, Dario Busi and Jason Campos, before new championship leader Liebenberg turned the tables on overall winner Robertson, Campos, Chris Shorter, Jeffrey Kruger, Matt Shorter and Jason Campos in the second heat.

It was a similar scenario on two wheels, as Moto 2 grand prix rider Steven Odendaal returned home to ride his Yamaha to a double 1000cc SA Superbike wins as Lance Isaacs (BMW) and Clinton Seller (Yamaha) shared the seconds and thirds. Yamaha trio Blaze Baker, Kewyn Snyman and Dino Iozzo meanwhile emerged the top three in both 600cc rounds.

Simon Moss took the opening GTC race for Audi ahead of Keagan Masters (Volkswagen) and Johan Fourie (BMW) but it was all change in the reverse grid second race as Robert Wolk took his BMW to victory over Michael van Rooyen (Toyota) and Fourie. 
Charl Smalberger led works duo Bradley Liebenberg and Adrian Wood home to a GTC2 VW Golf GTi 1-2-3, before Paul Hill (Golf GTi) took a welcome second race win from Smalberger and Mandla Mdakane (Mini).

Franco Scribante (Porsche) beat Charl Arangies (McLaren) and Pieter Zeelie (Toyota) to the opening Extreme Supercar race, before Arangies took race 2 from Zeelie and Jonathan du Toit (Ferrari). Scribante then bounced back to take the final from du Toit, and Gianni Giannoccaro (Lamborghini).

Back on two wheels, SA National Cross Country motorcycle action saw Louwrens Mahoney (KTM) take the Live Lesotho 400 OR1 win over Ross Branch (KTM) and Brett Swanepoel (Husqvarna) to move into that championhip lead, while Gareth Cole (KTM) consolidated his OR2 title lead with a win over Jarryd Coetzee (KTM) and Taki Bogiages (Husqvarna). Stefan Van Deventer (Husqvarna) won OR3 and KTM duo Juan Van Rooyen won Senior and Ryan Pelser the High School races. 

Back on the racetrack, a very well supported Monocle motorcycle series visited the East London Grand Prix Circuit for its fifth round, where AJ Venter (Suzuki) took the 1000cc double as Ricardo Otto and Connor Hagan (Suzuki) shared the 600 wins. There were also doubles for Robert Portman (Honda) in Masters, Thomas Brown (Ducati) in the Twins and Kawasaki duo Nicole Van Aswegen and Dorren Loureiro in 300 SJ and Unlimited, while Wade Wright (Yamaha) and Colin Hume (BMW) shared Street Bike wins.

The Western Cape Rotax Max Karting Championship returned to Killarney, where the fifth round races delivered another splendid day’s action on a perfect Province winter’s Saturday. Dino Stermin won DD2, Roy Gruer DD2 Masters and Charl Visser Senior Max. In school action, Tate Bishop took the Junior, Jason Macbeath Mini and Reza Levy Micro Max victories as Rayan Karriem won the well supported Bambinos, Johan Hamman took Clubmans and Joaquin de Oliveira Mini Rok honours.

The KZN Rotax Max Championship turned out to be mini national in anticipation of the SA championship races there in two weeks as  local lad Benjamin Habig beat the visiting Bradley Liebenberg to the DD2 wins, Jonathan Pieterse took both the DD2 Masters and Max 175 wins and  Shrien Naidoo took Senior Max. The schoolboy classes saw Jordan Brooks and Muhammad Wally dominate Junior and Mini Max respectively, while Luviwe Sambudla took Micro Max and Mattao Mason won Bambino.

Meanwhile on the international front, a gruelling, red-flag affected Spa 24 Hour GT3 race run stopped for several hours due to pouring rain, proved a tough nut for the four SA drivers competing. Former Nurburgring 24 winner Kelvin van der Linde was best placed in 30th overall in an Audi R8, while GT3 rookie Gennaro Bonafede’s BMW came home 46th. Jordan Pepper’s Bentley stopped painfully close to the finish and David Perel’s Ferrari also retired. On two wheels, Bjorn Estment’s Suzuki retired from the Suzuka 8 hours in Japan after 40 laps.