Zwartkops; 29th – 31st January 2016

So the big adventure gets under away! With 20 Formula Junior racing cars safely arriving at Zwartkops International Raceway to take part in the 15th Passion for Speed + the first round of The Diamond Jubilee World Tour.  Amongst the group were 4 cars from Denmark, the sole representative from Italy being Andrea Guarino in the Lotus 22.

Upon arrival all cars and equipment had been unloaded + neatly laid out in our dedicated pit area at this small and compact race circuit in Pretoria and just 40 minutes from the center of Johannesburg.

Scrutineering was errrr……different! All cars passing without any difficulty. Our MSA friends back home would have a fit.

Free practice did not take long to throw up a few dramas, as well as a tropical rain storm.  Poor Andrew Beaumont in the LDS Alfa (who was actually racing in pre 74 single seaters class) had a big end fail which was the end of any further activity for the weekend. Chris Merrick in the Cooper T59 had a starter motor fail, the Lotus 27 of Dave Innes demolished a drive shaft which in turn damaged the rear bulkhead of the Lotus. Thanks to some fantastic local help, the lotus was up and running the following morning. The Volpini of Jac Nellemann lost its brake fluid. Per Piannthin in Erik Justesen’s Lotus 22 was black flagged for dropping oil……which he wasn’t! Red faces in marshals office.

And we hadn’t even started yet!

So after a nerve racking free practice in the rain with more cars going off than going around, 16 cars made it to the grid for qualifying.  At 6000ft above sea level Zwartkops gave some issues with mixtures and carburation; there was much popping + spluttering from the pit garage……. and that was only the cars.

Fastest qualifying on the 2.4 km circuit was 01.11.324 set by Richard Smeeton in the beautiful Wainer 63 with Greg Thornton (Lotus 22) and Chris Drake (Elva 300) a second behind. The fastest front engine car was Jac Nellemann from Denmark in his rare Alfa Dana at 01.18.73. “The nice people at the back” were round in the 1.28. / 1.31 region.  So considerable variation of pace across the grid.

Race 1.

Line honours went to Greg Thornton in the Lotus 22 who had trailed Richard Smeeton for most of the race. The latter deciding to have a little spin just two laps from the end and having to settle for third spot. Second was Chris Drake just 1/100th second behind. At the back of the field there was a good race with Duncan, Richard Bishop Miller and Richard Pugh in the Stanguellini. The Stanguellini taking class A. The first four cars were separated by just .18 of a second. Good stuff!  Your scribe was talking to the local supporters who seemed very genuine in saying it was the best racing they had ever seen.

Race 2.

The grid order was qualifying order. Richard Smeeton took a bad start and dropped to 5th, giving the lead to Chris Drake who in turn was hard pressed by Greg Thornton.  It took five laps for Richard to get back to second leaving a battle to the finish with Greg.

Three cars abreast as the leaders overtook a back marker had the gallery on their feet. Pressing hard Chris Drake chose to swap ends and lose his a podium place.

The last lap was close. Greg taking Richard on the outside of the last corner and the top spot.

Further back Roger Woodridge back in the belts after some years was getting in the grove. Mike Gregory had a lonely race in the beautiful De Tomaso. Too slow for the front, too fast for the back.

Erik Justesen in the in the U2 Mk 2 chased Chris Merrick and Hans Jorgen Krag went well to finish 7th.    Alex Morton in the Lotus F1 had a private dual with “Dr Dave” Innes in the Lotus 27. Honours going to Alex by just one second.

So the first week end of the Diamond Jubilee was over.  All agreed a smashing circuit, enthusiastic crowds and great hospitality.

Killarney next stop……………….

Report by Richard Pugh