The 2021 lotus challenge season got off to a delayed start this last weekend at red star raceway after the scheduled first round at Zwartkops was rescheduled to a later date, citing Covid reasons.
Fortunately the field size was not dampened, boasting 11 Class L competitors in the biggest turnout since 2018. This bodes well for the season ahead.
Friday practice saw competitors dusting off the festive season cobwebs, with 2020 Rookie of the Season, Miles Downard (Singular Systems / Leet Racing) topping the timesheets.
Qualifying on Saturday morning shifted the goal posts as seasoned campaigner André Du Plessis (Leet Racing) bombed in a stellar lap for pole, followed closely by Wesley Maxwell (Vibro Eco Aggregates / Leet Racing), with Miles some way off in third.
The midpack was filled by established campaigners with Juan Du Toit (Leet Racing / Adlem Auto) in 4th, followed by Pieter van Aardt (Vibro Eco Aggregates / Leet Racing), Ben Knights and Nick Hodgson (Singular Systems / Leet Racing). The rookie battle was hotly contested seeing Brent van der Schyff (White Knuckle Adventures / Leet Racing) followed by Jurie Cordier (Leet Racing), Andrew Fulton (Travelset / Leet Racing) and Thys de Kock (Leet Racing).
Lining up for race 1 saw nerves high but adrenaline higher as the lights went out. Fortunately everyone got away cleanly and managed to stay out of trouble through the first few corners while the pack settled down. André and Wesley soon found themselves caught up in heated battle, while having to navigate Class B backmarkers. Miles tried to stay close but just couldn’t maintain the relentless pace set by the front two, despite their fierce battle.
Meanwhile Pieter made his way into 4th after a tussle with Ben in order to set off after Miles who had built up a decent cushion in some comparatively clean air. Ben unfortunately suffered a DNF after a stone went through his radiator on lap 5.
Further back Jurie, Juan and Nick were having a ding dong battle, finishing in that order ahead of Andrew and Thys. Brent had an alternator problem on lap 3 and coasted back to the pits.
Up front Wesley found himself in second place on the second last lap but had André in his sights down the main straight, making a move on the back straight to take the lead. Wesley managed to stick to the front and took the win in heat 1 by 0.65 seconds. Pieter had been steadily gaining on Miles for the latter part of the race but ran out of laps, ending under a second off the last podium spot.
With fastest times from Race 1 determining the grid for Race 2, Class L lined up as follows: Wesley, André, Pieter, Miles, Jurie, Ben, Juan, Nick, Andrew, Thys. Once again everyone was off the line without incident. Miles made his way into third into turn 1 then set off to build a gap over Pieter, however found a Class B backmarker in front which allowed Pieter to stay in touch and attack from behind.
Up front, Wesley managed to force his way past another Class B backmarker, creating a buffer between himself and André. And that’s how things remained for the entire heat, leaving a very frustrated André ruing what could have been.
On lap 7 Miles was caught out in the midfield section, allowing Pieter through into 3rd where he remained until the chequered flag, crossing the line 1.2 seconds ahead of Miles and in doing so sealing the final step of the overall podium for the day by a net 0.6 seconds on total race time over the two heats.
Having sorted his radiator issue out in the break, Ben enjoyed a race-long tussle with Nick and Brent, to finish in that order. Jurie was also involved in the skirmish until an error saw him spin off while making a move on Brent, allowing Juan to take 8th, with Andrew and Thys in 10th and 11th respectively.
Class L has a remarkable depth this season, with close battles throughout the field, catering for all levels of experience and ensuring enormous fun for all involved. We can’t wait for Round 2 which sees us headed to Phakisa in the Freestate on 10 April.
Overall Race Result for Round 1
- Wesley Maxwell (Vibro Eco Aggregates / Leet Racing)
- André Du Plessis (Leet Racing)
- Pieter van Aardt (Vibro Eco Aggregates / Leet Racing)
- Miles Downard (Singular Systems / Leet Racing)
- Nick Hodgson (Singular Systems / Leet Racing)
- Juan Du Toit (Leet Racing / Adlem Auto)
- Jurie Cordier (Leet Racing)
- Andrew Fulton (Travelset / Leet Racing)
- Thys de Kock (Leet Racing)
- Ben Knights
- Brent van der Schyff (White Knuckle Adventures / Leet Racing)