Rick Morris (Investchem Reynard) and Graham Hepburn (Suburban Body Shop van Diemen) shared the race wins at Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit on Saturday, 2 December, but the 2017 Investchem Formula Ford Kent regional championship went to Dean Venter in his Desco SA / Manitou Group Swift.
Venter left it until his penultimate lap in qualifying to knock Duncan Vos (WCT Engineering van Diemen) off the top of the timing sheets, thereby securing the single point he needed to claim the 2017 title. Vos had to settle for second ahead of David Jermy (Lime Chilli Consulting van Diemen) and Hepburn. Andrew Horne (Xena Chemicals / Budd Power van Diemen) could only manage fifth alongside Morris. Jeff Gable (Jacquet Racing van Diemen) and Alex Gillespie (ERP Trucking Components Swift) rounded out the top eight.
In the historic category, which was racing with the regional championship class to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Formula Ford racing, Ben van der Westhuizen (Pioneer Plastics / Delta Rubber Royale) got the better of Ian Hebblethwaite (Merlyn) and Stuart Thompson (WCT Engineering Dulon).
In the opening race, Venter grabbed the early lead but Vos and Jermy worked their way past before they field headed up to the top of the hill for the first time. Coming back down the hill, Jermy got past Vos and tried to open up a gap on the chasing pack. Although Venter had the championship in the back, he wanted the win and set off after Jermy. Behind them, youngster Cameron O’Connor (Strata Mygale), who had a poor qualifying session, was on a charge through the field.
While Jermy and Venter were joined at the front by Horne, O’Connor continued his steady progress, joining the trio before half-distance. Just over a lap later he had taken the lead, but it was short-lived. Electrical gremlins slowed him unexpectedly resulting in Jermy and Venter colliding while trying to avoid the Mygale. Hepburn ran into the back of Horne while they were trying to avoid the collision in front of them. While Horne and Hepburn were able to continue albeit, with slightly damaged cars, Venter and Jermy were not as lucky. Venter pulled off to the side of the track, out of harm’s way, but Jermy was stuck in the gravel trap in a dangerous position necessitating a safety car intervention while his car was recovered.
While all this was happening, Morris had taken the lead from Vos with Gillespie, Hepburn and Horne in close attendance. When the safety car period came to an end, Morris was the quickest to react and opened up a two-second gap which he held during the single lap sprint to the flag. Vos led the chasing pack with Gillespie taking the final podium position. Hepburn and Horne, despite the damage to their cars, came home on fourth and fifth respectively. They were followed by Jonathan Nash (Turnfab Engineering Swift), James Reeves (Ray) and Gable.
In the historic category, van der Westhuizen had a comfortable win from Hebblethwaite who just managed to hold off Thompson. Chris Clarke (Avo Suspension Titan), Mike Ward (Ecurie Zoo Royale) and Paul Richardson (Infinitude Design / Budd Power Dulon) rounded out the top six, separated by only a couple of car lengths at the flag.
In race two things didn’t go quite as planned for Morris. Lining up on pole, the former British Formula Ford champion found the wrong gear in his unfamiliar Reynard and dropped to the back of the field when his car didn’t get off the line. His misfortune allowed Vos to take the early lead from Hepburn with Reeves, Nash, Jermy and Horne not far behind. Hepburn had fond memories of his last race at Kyalami before it closed for remodelling when he secured the 2014 Investchem Formula Ford Kent championship and when Vos left half a gap he needed no second invitation to take the lead, which he held until the flag.
Reeves’ great start came to nothing when his car came to a halt halfway through the opening lap leaving Nash to head up the chase after the leading pair. Jermy soon took over that role and by the end of the second lap had closed the gap to Vos, bringing Horne and Venter along with him. Two corners later he moved into second place and set off after Hepburn. Vos, Venter and Horne then engaged in a three-way battle for the final podium spot. This became a two-way fight when Horne spun out of contention. Venter did get past Vos couldn’t hold the position, eventually having to settle for fourth. Nash ended in fifth ahead of Basil Mann (Royale) who showed he had lost none of the skills that brought him four South African Formula Ford championships back in the 1980s. Horne recovered to seventh ahead of Allen Meyer (van Diemen).
After losing out to van der Westhuizen in the opening race in the historic category, Hebblethwaite made no mistake in the second, taking a relatively comfortable win. Thompson again took the final podium spot followed by Clarke, Richardson and Mike Altona (Royale).
In the day’s overall standings Hepburn took the Kent class win from Vos and Nash while the historic class went to van der Westhuizen with Hebblethwaite and Thompson joining him on the podium.
In the 2017 Investchem Formula Ford Kent championship standings, Venter emerged on top with 107 points ahead of Horne on 84 and Jermy with 54.