This past weekend saw the third round of the 2021 Lotus Challenge series take place at Zwartkops Raceway, the first time we’ve visited the venue this year after the scheduled Passion for Speed event was postponed in January.
The entry list was strong, with 10 Class L racers and 12 Class B making up the grid. Friday’s practice was well attended despite a relatively early start with the 1st of 5 practice sessions starting at 8am. Through the day various niggles were sorted and everyone started to hone their lap times in preparation for qualifying on Saturday morning.
Bright and early on Saturday morning the Class L chaps rolled out the pits in dense, cold air with a slowly warming track from the winter sun. Wesley Maxwell (Vibro Eco Aggregates/ Leet Racing) set the pace once again, as he has done most of the season, qualifying on pole ahead of second place man Nick Hodgson (Singular Systems / Leet Racing) who had close company from Andre du Plessis (Leet Racing). Fourth was a bit of a toss up through the session with Ben Knights and Miles Downard (Singular Systems / Leet Racing) and within a few tenths of each other.
Rookies Andrew Fulton (Sure Travel Set Adventures) and Jurie Cordier (Leet Racing) found a turn of pace to end up ahead of more seasoned campaigners Juan du Toit (Leet Racing/Adlem Auto) and Pieter van Aardt (Vibro Eco Aggregates/ Leet Racing) who had a few lingering gremlins from practice. Matthys de Kock (Leet Racing) rounded off the field but was suffering with electrical issues and could not compete in either race.
Race 1 got underway without incident, until turn 5 that is, when Andre hit some oil and cement dust laid down from the previous race and spun, dropping him right to the back of the field. That left Wesley to pull away up front with Nick in a bit of free air in second place.
Ben and Miles had very little free air separating them at all for the entire 10 laps in a closely fought battle for third, finishing in that order. Andre meanwhile had the bit between his teeth after the first lap spin, cutting through the field to finish 5th.
Pieter made short work of the start, jumping straight into 6th place, then 5th with Andre’s spin. He held 5th until the last lap when Andre caught and passed him. Meanwhile Jurie, Andy and Juan settled into a good battle over the first 4 laps until Jurie managed to break free at the front of the trio, leaving Andy to fend off Juan for the remainder of the race.
The grid for race 2 lined up Wesley, Nick, Ben, Miles, Andre, Pieter, Andrew, Juan, Jurie. Once again the race started without incident and everyone maintained position, except for Andre who snuck passed Miles who got caught behind a slow starting class B car. Miles rectified the situation on lap 2 through turn 5, taking back 4th place.
Further back Pieter was enjoying free air in 6th place, which continued until the flag. Andy had managed to create a bit of space between himself and Juan and Jurie. However on lap 3 that came to an end when both passed him.
Shortly thereafter the safety car was deployed for a stranded class B in turn 1, which took up 2 laps while the track was cleared. The restart was fast and furious with the pack now bunched right up. With Miles paying full attention to Nick in second place, he once again let Andre sneak through and a three way battle for 3rd ensued. On the last lap Nick missed a gear going onto the main straight, allowing Andre through. Leaving Nick and Miles to finish 4th and 5th respectively.
Further back Juan led the battle for 7th from the restart but positions changed often in a tough battle with Jurie and Andy driving exceptionally well for their first time out at Zwartkops. Andy managed to take the honours there for 7th followed by Juan and Jurie respectively.
Next up we’re back at Zwartkops for round 4 on 19 June for the rescheduled Passion for Speed event. It’s a big one and we’re all thoroughly looking forward to it.