After a bit of a drought, thanks in no small part to Covid-19, the desolate Phakisa Freeway once again played host to a swarm of Lotus Challenge racers out for glory at the venue known for its high speeds and unforgiving surface.
Class L boasted a field of 10 competitors for the cross border trip to the Freestate. A convoy left Johannesburg in the early hours of Friday morning for arrival in time for the first practice session.
Friday’s sessions were not without their casualties however, with one broken engine for Andy Fulton(Travelset / Leet Racing), an occurrence rarely seen in class L cutting the field down to 9.
Competitors enjoyed a late start on Saturday morning, with qualifying getting under way at 9.30 am. Wesley Maxwell(Vibro Eco Aggregates / Leet Racing) set the pace, taking pole position ahead of Ben Knights and Phakisa-rookie Nick Hodgson(Singular Systems / Leet Racing). Seasoned campaigner Andre Du Plessis(Leet Racing) managed fourth in a car a little down on power. Miles Downard(Singular Systems / Leet Racing) qualified fifth ahead of Pieter van Aardt(Vibro Eco Aggregates / Leet Racing), Juan Du Toit(Leet Racing / Adlem Auto Racing / Elska), and the two rookies Jurie Cordier(Leet Racing) and Thys De Kock.
Race 1 was underway just before the lunch break, right in the heat of the day. The battle up front made things even hotter as Wesley and Ben kept each other honest lap after lap, with Nick not far behind either. Ultimately the podium places were in that order.
Having shot off the line, Pieter found himself fighting André for fourth, until Miles got his nose in front into the penultimate corner of lap 1.
On lap 2 André stumbled across a rogue class B car allowing Miles and Pieter through. What ensued was a series of overtaking manoeuvres between Miles and André that went down to the wire, with André finishing ahead by just 0.2 seconds.
Further back Juan and Jurie exchanged blows in similar fashion over the course of the race. A late mistake from Jurie, including an off track excursion, meant Juan finished in 7th with Thys rounding off the field in 9th.
Race 2 saw the field line up, Wesley, Ben, Nick, Miles, André, Pieter, Jurie, Juan, Thys.
The field got away more evenly this time, carving a path through the slower class B competitors until it all came to a head going into the fast sweeps over the latter part of the lap. Nick had edged ahead of Wesley and Ben, but a strong slipstream effect saw Wesley come back past and allowed Miles to get a great run and pull alongside Nick as well. Running slightly offline put Nick off the road into the braking zone allowing the entire field past.
Meanwhile André had a similar run on Ben down the back straight, getting him ahead into 3rd. That lasted a lap as Ben returned the favour at the same point on track and then set off after Miles in second place, who’d built up a bit of a gap. Lap after lap Ben slowly closed in, towing André along for good measure. On lap 6 Ben caught Miles, taking 2nd only to lose the place on the same lap. It wasn’t over though as on the last lap Ben made an early move into turn 3 and maintained 2nd place to the finish, followed by Miles and André.
Pieter enjoyed a relatively lonely race in 4th. Further back Nick was making a charge through the field after his off, carving his way back up to fifth by the finish but ruing what could have been if not for the early mistake.
Jurie had a good few opening laps, building a lead over Juan, however Mr consistency made fewer mistakes over the course of the race and caught Jurie with just two laps to go. A tussle ensued with Juan coming out victorious, finishing 7th ahead of Jurie and Thys.
- Wesley Maxwell (Vibro Eco Aggregates / Leet Racing)
- Ben Knights
- Miles Downard (Singular Systems / Leet Racing)