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Race Report – Zwartkops 29/01/2022

Passion for Speed showcases ultra competitive Lotus Challenge Class L

The calendar’s biggest event, Passion for Speed at Zwartkops, kicked off the 2022 Lotus Challenge season. A large field of 30 cars filled the grid, 11 of which were Class L competitors. The threat of rain over the entire weekend was cause for concern as competitors also had to deal with shaking off the cobwebs from the off season.

With clouds building overhead, qualifying on Friday afternoon was a tight affair, with just 1.5 seconds covering the entire Class L field. Ben Knights took pole position with a time of 01:14.602 – a stellar performance considering he hadn’t attended any practice sessions. Just 0.093 seconds behind was rookie Davide Favo (Leet Racing) followed by Gys Van Der Walt in 3rd. Juan Du Toit (Leet Racing/ Adlem Auto), Andre du Plessis (Leet Racing) and Nick Hodgson (Singular Systems/ Leet Racing) followed, all within the 1m14 time barrier.

Another Class L newcomer, Sean Hepburn (African Packaging & Water) managed 7th ahead of 2021 Rookie of the Year Andy Fulton (Sure Travel Set Adventures / MMG Ford), Thys de Kock (Leet Racing) and Miles Downard (Singular Systems/ Leet Racing). Barry Dunford (African Packaging & Water) rounded off the field.

Race 1 on Saturday morning started under cloudy skies with little drops of rain falling throughout the heat. Gys was off to a flying start, straight into 1st position through turn 1 while Andre made his way into 3rd, followed closely by Nick. Further down the field Miles had made his way up from 10th to 5th by the time the field crossed the line on lap 1. 

A massive battle ensued for 4th as Sean, Davide and Miles swapped positions while chasing down Nick, who eventually made a mistake into turn 5 which allowed the train through. Further behind Juan, Andy, Thys and Barry followed each other closely until on lap 8 Juan forced Andy into a mistake to take 8th position.

Up front, on lap 3, Ben was making his way past a slower Class B car which forced him a little wide on turn 4. Andre pounced on the opportunity to make his way past into 2nd place and set off after Gys, who he caught on lap 7 and took the lead up the inside of turn 5. A lap later the race was red flagged due to a number of stranded Class B cars across the circuit.

With starting positions for race 2 determined based on the fastest lap times from race 1, the field lined up as follows: Sean, Ben, Gys, Andre, Miles, Davide, Juan, Nick, Thys, Andy, Barry.

As the lights went out Miles jumped up into 4th while Ben and Gys made their way past Sean. Miles did the same at the end of lap 2, only to run wide out of turn 2 on lap 3 which let Sean, Andre and Davide through. Shortly thereafter Davide made a move up the inside of Andre on turn 4 but ended up in the kitty litter and dropped right to the back of the field. 

Having made a cracking start, Andy flew into 6th position with Nick close behind. Juan and Nick traded places for a few laps while Miles fought off Andy’s advances ahead. 

An incident with a Class C car on lap 6 brought out the safety car for 2 laps, bunching the field for a sprint to the finish. Ben managed to hold off Gys to take the win and overall victory for the day. Sean came home third followed by Andre, Miles, Andy and Juan.

Davide had managed to claw his way back up the field after the safety car period to end in 8th ahead of Thys and Barry. Late in the race Nick developed a clutch issue and just managed to coast home in 11th.

Lotus Challenge Class L is back at Zwartkops again on 26 March 2022 for round 2 of the championship.

Overall results

Ben Knights

Gys Van Der Walt

Sean Hepburn

Andre du Plessis

Miles Downard

Davide Favo

Andrew Fulton 

Juan Du Toit

Nick Hodgson

Thys de Kock

Barry Dunford

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