Rovanpera, Verstappen win; Saood Sparks a SA Racing Revolution
It was a Toyota Gazoo Racing Week with a difference, as Kalle Rovanpera stole a dramatic last-gasp Croatian WRC win for Toyota and Max Verstappen bounced back to lead a Red Bull F1 1-2 in Ferrari’s back yard in Imola. The biggest news was however a splendid outcome to a perfect day’s National Extreme Festival racing at Zwartkops on Saturday, where a local Toyota Gazoo Racing driver led a new dawn for South African motorsport as young drivers came to the fore in most premier categories.
16 Year Old Saood Wins for Gazoo Toyota
Starting with the flagship Global Touring Cars, 16-year-old Toyota Gazoo Racing star of the future Saood Variawa stunned with pole position over champion Robert Wolk. Wolk went on to beat his young rival and Michael van Rooyen in a Toyota Corolla 1-2-3 in race 1. Variawa then followed reverse grid race 2 winner Julian van der Watt’s Ford Focus home, with van Rooyen third, to see Variyawa take the overall win from the day from Wolk and Jonathan Mogotsi’s VW.
Arnold Neveling delivered a dream debut win in the equally spectacular GTC SupaCup over rival rookie, 17-year-old Leyton Fourie and Jean-Pierre van der Walt. Keagan Masters and Fourie won the heats and Nick Davidson took SupaCup. Clinton Bezuidenhout and another 17-year old maiden winner, Charl Visser shared Compcare Polo Cup wins. And two more young guns, Antwan Geldenhuys and Josh Le Roux’ shared the Investchem Formula 1600 wins.
Sean Nurse and Ashley Oldfield shared the Zwartkops Gazoo Toyota Yaris Media wins, while Jonathan du Toit’s normally aspirated Lamborghini overcame the turbo Porsches to take a G+H Extreme Supercar double. Franco di Matteo and Mackie Adlem’s Jaguars shared Mobil V8 Supercar wins and Greg Wilson did the DOE Formula Vee double. Graeme van Breda dedicated his double Sunbet ZX10 Masters Cup victory to his recently passed dad, former SA bike legend Les.
Rovanpera steals Croatia for Toyota
On the international front, Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Kalle Rovanpera came out on top of a thrilling final stage showdown with Ott Tanak’s Hyundai to steal WRC Croatia honours. 21 year old Rovanpera trailed Tanak by 1.4 seconds as the Power Stage started. But his wet tyre choice handed him a 5.6 second advantage to win by 4.3 seconds. Theirry Neuville made small amends for Hyundai by similarly edging Ford’s Craig Breen’s Puma back to fourth in that epic final stage.
Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez of course delivered that dramatic Red Bull 1-2 as home team Ferrari’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix challenge fell apart. Carlos Sainz fell over Daniel Ricciardo’s McLaren to exit the race in the first corner and Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari threw away a certain podium when he spun out of third close to the end. That handed third to Lando Norris’ McLaren from George Russell’s Mercedes which only just held Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo at bay, with Leclerc sixth.
Verstappen on Saturday passed Leclerc to take the sprint race win. Also at Imola, Marcus Armstrong and Theo Pourchaire took the Formula 2 wins, while Franco Colapinto and Roman Stanek F3 shared the F3 wins. Shifting across to the US of A, Ross Chastain Chevrolet took a dramatic Talladega NASCAR win from Austin Dillon’s Chevrolet and Kyle Busch Toyota in a wild last lap reshuffle.
SA Racers Star Around the World
Over in England meanwhile, Tom Ingram’s Hyundai won the first race of new hybrid British Touring Car era. Gordon Shedden drove his Honda to race two victory and Jake Hill dominated the final race. Also at Donington, SA lad Aqil Alibhai ended eighth for the day in his first Ginetta Junior outing of the season. Capetonian Jonathan Aberdein took a fourth and a third on his ADAC German GT Masters debut alongside Swiss driver Raffaele Marciello in a Mercedes-AMG GT.
On two wheels, MotoGP champion Fabio Quartararo dominated the Portuguese MotoGP from Johann Zarco’s Ducati and Aleix Espargaro took the title advantage. Both former leader Enea Bastianini and SA hope Brad Binder crashed out and brother Darryn Binder ended 17th. Joe Roberts took a maiden Moto 2 win and Sergio Garcia’s GasGas topped the Moto3 showdown. Also at Portimao, South African Ruché Moodley ended 14th and 13th on his Red Bull Rookie Cup debut.
Back across the pond, Danilo Petrucci’s Ducati took a third MotoAmerica win from SA hero Mathew Scholtz’s Suzuki after Cameron Petersen crashed. Petersen’s Yamaha bounced back to second behind Jake Gagne in race 2 as Scholtz fell. Back in Europe, Jonathan Rea’s Kawasaki beat Alvaro Bautista’s Ducati and Kawasaki man Toprak Razgatlioglu’s in Assen WSBK Race 1. Second and third switched in race 2, but Rea and Razgatlioglu tangled in the final to leave Bautista to win.
Local Racing Roundup
Back at home, Husqvarna dominated the second round of the SA Enduro championship at Caledon. Overall winner Brett Swanepoel took 1 honours from teammate and E2 winner Heinrich Aust, with Dylan Jones’ KTM third. Another Husqvarna man Greg Nairn won Masters, while KTM riders Rory Gower took Senior, Luke Walker High School and Stuart Billingham Junior Pro honours.
Masters driver Jonathan Pieterse won DD2, Troy Snyman Senior, Jonno Wilson Junior, Taylin Patel Micro and Teiyan Chetty Bambino at iDube’s Max karting regional. And to close off, something completely different. Steve Humble’s Mallock beat Michael Hunter’s Kawasaki ZX6R and Shane du Toit’s rapid CitiGolf to Killarney’s first bike and car Speed Festival sprint race honours.