It was make or break for a number of title hopefuls at Round 4 of the very popular Engen Volkswagen Cup contested on Pretoria’s Zwartkops Raceway on the long weekend of 16 June. The race was earmarked as the one that could start to influence the outcome of the entire season, and the racing and spectacle dished up by the one-make series once again lived up to its expectations.
“Close racing with probably as many as 10 drivers capable of winning is exactly what people want to see,” commented Mike Rowe, head of Volkswagen Motorsport. “That is why we are so pleased with the overall success of the series and why we are involved with this great series in the first place.”
Qualifying was proof of Rowe’s assessment of just how close racing in the Engen Volkswagen Cup can be with no less than 14 drivers all breaking the 1 minute and 14 second mark around the 2.5 kilometer Zwartkops circuit. What’s more is that these 14 drivers were separated by just nine tenths of a second. When the session was done and dusted, it was the name of Juan Gerber who topped the time sheets with a time of 1 minute and 13.094 seconds, a mere 0.014 seconds faster than championship points leader Devin Robertson. The top 6 then proceeded to take each other on in a super pole style qualifying session where it’s all or nothing over one flying lap, and again, it was Gerber who topped the timesheets, but this time ahead of Clinton Bezuidenhout and Tasmin Pepper. Devin Robertson dropped down to fourth, ahead of Shaun La Réservée and Justin Oates who rounded out the top 6.
“Our aim is to stay in the front during tomorrow’s races,” said a delighted Gerber after qualifying. “We need the championship points, so we are going all out for the win.” Unfortunately for the pole setter, things don’t always go according to plan in the unforgiving sport of racing. His Polo was involved in an incident early on during race 1, putting an end to his weekend’s aspirations. This allowed championship leader Devin Robertson to fight his way past his rivals and up into first, a position where he stayed until the chequered flag was waved. Tasmin Pepper regained some of her form by finishing race 1 in second position, just more than a second behind Robertson and just three tenths of a second ahead of Shaun La Réservée who claimed the final podium spot. Clinton Bezuidenhout, Jeffrey Kruger and Matt Shorter completed the top 6.
But fans still had one more race to look forward to, and again, the Engen Volkswagen Cup did not disappoint with a full field of more than 20 identical Volkswagen Polos once again putting up a great show. When the dust settled, it was Robertson who increased his championship points lead with yet another victory with lady driver Tasmin Pepper hot on his heels for the second time in one day. Gerber recovered from his misfortunes in race 1 to claim third and the final podium spot, ahead of Shorter, Bezuidenhout and La Réservée.
The steep learning curve continued for Volkswagen Motorsport’s Jonathan Mogotsi and Kuda Vazhure who both showed good pace but did not quite get the results that they deserved. Their lap times were only about half a second off the winning pace, but in a field as competitive as this one, it meant that they missed out on a top ten overall finish with Mogotsi claiming the points that come with 11th, and Vazhure having to settle for 18th following issues in race 1.
“We are still happy with their progress and very confident that our strategy of developing future talent is already bearing fruit,” continued Mike Rowe. “But motorsport was the overall winner here at Zwartkops and we as Volkswagen wish all the competitors the best of luck as they now take on the second half of the championship.”
Round 5 will be at the home of Volkswagen when the Engen Volkswagen Cup travels to Port Elizabeth to do battle on the Aldo Scribante circuit on 14 and 15 July.