Avion Raceway recently hosted round two of the "African Adventure" 1/8th scale off-road event over the weekend of the 23rd and 24th of March 2014. With international driver, Joseph Quagraine aka "JQ" making an appearance, which obviously generated a lot of local interest not to mention drivers travelling from all parts of South Africa to attend the two day challenge and race against one of the top drives on the international scene.
Saturday was qualifying day! With around 65 entries, and a late start to the qualifying rounds, Race control was unable to schedule all the rounds of qualifying in the allocated time slot and had to reduce the number of rounds to three.
With drivers briefing completed, everyone was rather eager to test themselves against one of the best tracks in the country and with varying tracking conditions, consistency would be the key to success. A total of seven heats scheduled for 6 minutes per heat, got underway around lunch time with a lot of new faces standing on the drivers stand and a few "early" anxious moments, we looked forward to an afternoon of qualifying.
At the end of Saturday afternoon, nitro buggy TQ went to JQ with local driver Jose Goncalves narrowly missing out. SJ Cotzee took TQ in the Truggy class and Thomas Schmuch in the electric buggys. The finals rounds were posted and racing concluded for the day.
It's Sunday and that means "FINALS" not to forget an Avion first, a 10 minute "dash for cash". With the best weather in the last 3 weeks, we were looking forward to a day filled with spills and thrills.
The electric buggys were up first. The race would be split into 3 separate races of 10 minutes per round and spread over the course of the day. The final standing after round 3 saw Christoff Meyer take the overall win with Thomas Schmuck ending in second. Bloemfontein driver Ewan Koen round off the top three drivers in this class with a solid third.
"E" mains followed shortly after the electric buggys and was scheduled for 30 minutes. Fransois Benade ruled the roost in this round taking an 18 laps advantage over 2nd place Cameron Balie. Best lap went to Deon Nougoum a respectable 48.61s. Danie Riekert completed the podium in 3rd position. Great to see some new faces getting into the mix.
Up next were the "D" main drivers. Scheduled for 30 minutes of action, some local drivers who had poor rounds of qualifying the day before, found themselves in unfamiliar waters. With returning driver Trevor Tonkinson and Mark Jooste taking an early lead, Paul Naude had his work cut out for himself. Mark and Trevor had technical issues early on in the race allowing Paul take the lead and opened up an advantage. However this was short lived as his bearings failed on the clutch and retired him from the race. With Paul and Trevor out for good, Mark Jooste managed to regain the lead and seal the win driving home his JQ Yellow edition powered by an Ultimate engine and pro-circuit tires. Patrick van Schalkwyk ended in second position some 2 laps behind Mark with Gavin Mclean 1 lap behind Patrick to round off the top 3.
"C" mains started at 9:53am and with a very competitive field it was going to be an exciting one. After the race started, MJ Schoeman had an early retirement with what seemed to be a throttle servo issue. With the majority of the field staying intact with the leaders, it was a battle all the way to the end. SJ Coetzee took first position with 37 laps and a best lap of 45.43s, with steady and consistent driver, Avion's own Jonathon vd Berg some 4 laps behind. The podium was complete by Wykie Van Wyk who has only recently started racing nitro buggys and one to watch out for over the next few races. Congrats to the Allan Dyer aka "The Uncle" for finally breaking the 50s mark. It's all downhill from here uncle!
The "B" main final would be run over a total of 45 minutes. With a number of local "A" main drivers featuring in this event, it was going to be fast and furious. Young driver Calvin Barnard started in pole and never looked back riding home a solid win from start to finish. Although Daniel and Adam who were battling for 2nd and 3rd respectively were both pushing Calvin hard for the lead, they later both retired from the event with mechanical issues. This opened the gate for Arron Gee to bump up to 2nd and Brandon May from Durban in 3rd, with Pedro Maldonado missing out by 12s at the finish line.
With 11 drivers scheduled to start, the "A" final truggy race, this was going to be very competitive round right up till the very end. Any of the top 5 drivers could have taken the win if another driver experienced any mechanical issues. The race lasted a duration of 45 minutes and saw Quintis Van Der Merwe take home the win in his Agama truggy powered with a Bullit motor. Lombard Delport ended 2nd with Ewan Koen some 20s behind Delport. A worthwhile trip up from Bloem.
The main event of the day was set for 60 minutes of "A" main action. Everyone was waiting in anticipation for this event and looking at the qualifying pace, it was going to be a mouthwatering affair. If you think the pit crews were nervous, spare a thought for the drivers. After a short introduction by race control, we were ready to go.
Hosting South Africa's top 3 drivers (based on the 2013 national events) it was open for anyone of the top 10 drivers to take home the win. TQ driver "JQ" drove a faultless race from start to end to take the win and show why he is one of the best in the business. Driving his JQ white edition powered by a Reds motor and AKA tires, he was unstoppable. Current SA buggy champion Miguel Haasbroek who was also driving a white edition, had the final bragging rights with the fasted lap, a track shattering 42.12s. Miguel ended in second place in front of Mugen MBX7 driver Justin van Biljoen who had to work all the way up from the back of the field after a poor start at the beginning of the main and a flame in the pit at his first pit stop. Warren van der Merwe (Agama) finished fourth with Tiaan Olefse (Mugen) concluding your top 5 drivers.
The weekend racing concluded with a final 10 minute buggy "dash for cash". This race hosted the top 12 racers of the weekend (based on qualifying). With the grid starting in reverse order, could JQ battle his way up to take final honors? Miguel had a great start and held his nerve on the final few corners to take the win with JQ hot on his heels with Warren completing the podium. Watch the video of the event and dramatic conclusion of the race.
The weekend then ended with a brief prize giving.
Congratulations again to all the drivers, pit crews and spectators for making this event one to remember. A very big thank you to all the other people that made this events a success. Especially Thomas Schmuck, Allan Dyer and lastly JQ.
Until next time, keep it on the wheels!