After an unusual year to say the very least, the Lotus Challenge arrived at Red Star Raceway on 14 November for the final round of a shortened, COVID-19 affected season. Understandably the competitor list has dwindled this year but for a last hurrah there were 16 entries for the weekend, comprising 6 Class L competitors of which 5 fall under the Leet Racing banner.
Unusually, the weekend saw Lotus Challenge race heats combined with the National Sports Car Championship (NSCC) which added a new flavour and some additional challenges for the Lotus racers.
Adding even more spice to the weekend was the fact that Class L’s championship was still up for grabs, where Andre and Ruan were neck and neck. The Rookie Championship would also be decided between Miles and Nick, with just 2 points separating the two newcomers.
Six Class L drivers rolled out of the pits for a bright and early qualifying on Saturday morning. The battle at the front saw Andre du Plessis (Leet Racing) take pole ahead of rookie Nick Hodgson (Singular Systems / Leet Racing) who continued his strong qualifying form. Outgoing 2019 champion Wesley Maxwell (Vibro Ecco Aggregates / Leet Racing) ended the session 3rd after Ruan van der Walt suffered problems having completed just three laps, still managing a time good enough for 4th. Pieter van Aardt (Vibro Ecco Aggregates / Leet Racing) and rookie Miles Downard (Singular Systems / Leet Racing) had a tough battle for 5th with just 0.067 seconds separating the two. Juan Du Toit (Leet Racing) rounded off the field.
Andre Du Plessis had a strong getaway and led into turn 1 while second placed Nick Hodgson bogged down slightly which allowed Wesley Maxwell ahead. Up front Andre soon put a few Class B cars between himself and the chasing pack however Ruan van der Walt was busy slicing through the Class L field from fourth.
A mistake at the end of the back straight put Ruan onto the back of Andre, which saw the lead change hands in turn 1. An opportunistic Wesley Maxwell pounced into turn 2, rubbing salt into Andre’s wound.
At this point Nick Hodgson was just about hanging on to the leading three, while further back Miles Downard and Pieter van Aardt were nose to tail around the circuit, swapping positions regularly while keeping an eye out for fast approaching NSCC front runners.
On lap 3 Andre forced Wesley into a mistake through the tight midfield section, out dragging him into turn 6 and setting off after Ruan who’d managed to build up a healthy lead in first. Despite a relentless chase the top three went unchanged for the remainder of the race, with Ruan taking the win ahead of Andre and Wesley. Second place was enough to seal the Class L championship for Andre Du Plessis.
Meanwhile Nick Hodgson had suffered an alternator related issue on lap 5, coasting to a halt in the midfield after being passed by most of the field while the issue unravelled itself. Pieter crossed the line in fourth having managed to hold off Miles while Juan followed in fifth.
With the heat of battle once again pulsing through the drivers veins they lined up for race 2 in the order of Ruan, Andre, Wesley, Miles, Pieter, Nick, Juan.
Off the line Andre and Ruan were side by side through turns 1, 2 and 3 with Andre managing to use a Class B backmarker through turns 4 and 5 to make his move stick and take the lead.
In the mid pack Miles had managed to fend off Pieter’s advances in turn 1 however was tripped up by a Class B car in turn 5 which meant Pieter came back at him to take fourth through the tight middle section of the track. This saw a resumption of the race 1 battle as Miles spent the next 4 laps attempting to make a move stick but eventually fell off the back of Pieter, who then set off after Wesley for third position (and third place in the championship). Juan followed Miles and Pieter in the first few laps and then spent the remainder of the race dicing (and avoiding) a fairly wild Class C competitor.
Nick once again suffered reliability problems, this time not even making it off the line when an HT lead came loose on the warm up lap. This handed the Rookie Championship to Miles right off the bat.
Meanwhile at the front Andre was having a bit of a yo-yo tussle with a Class B car, catching him in the technical sections only to have the more powerful car pull away on the straights. This allowed Ruan to close right up on Andre on the last lap. Coming onto the back straight Andre had to back off to avoid the B which allowed Ruan past and take victory.
Pieter had capitalised on the free air in front of him and caught Wesley on the last lap, who was suffering with a misfire. It was easy pickings then which saw Pieter take the 3rd step on the podium for the heat and seal 2nd in the championship.
Overall results for the day:
1st Ruan van der Walt (Strap King / Adlem Auto Racing)
2nd Andre’ du Plessis (Leet Racing)
3rd Wesley Maxwell (Vibro Ecco Aggregates / Leet Racing)
Class L Championship Results:
1st Andre’ du Plessis (Leet Racing)
2nd Ruan van der Walt (Strap King / Adlem Auto Racing)
3rd Pieter van Aardt (Vibro Ecco Aggregates / Leet Racing)