Julian van der Watt

Julian van der Watt

Considered a “driver’s circuit”, the challenging Phakisa Freeway lived up to its reputation on Saturday. The sixth round of the South African Single-Seaters (SASS) championship kept the racers on their toes as they each dealt with the challenges before them.

Although not amongst the top overall achievers at this event, Dewald Brummer (11 – Anglo Truck / MAD Racing) can certainly lay claim to a challenging weekend. Brummer drove through to Phakisa on Friday morning, completed practise one and then drove back to Heidelberg to write a second-year Mechanical Engineering calculus test on Friday afternoon.

He returned to the circuit on Saturday, achieving a third-place finish in the first race. In race two a battery strap came lose, costing him time and he finished seven of the 10 laps. This left him 13th overall for the day – on balance though happy with his result considering the circumstances.

Ahead of Brummer, it was Julian van der Watt (42 – Investchem) who claimed the first race victory, with Keagan Masters (44 – Performance Masters) in second place. The pair managed to record those same finishing positions for race two which mean they were also the top two performers overall for the day.

With Brummer third in race one (15th in race two) and Nicholas van Weely (87 – Magnificent Paints & Hardware) third in race two (5thth in race one) it was Werner Scholtz (3 – Motorvia / Investchem) who finishverall as he crossed the finish line in both race one and two for fourth place, a consistent performance that ensured his overall achievements for the day exceeded the two podium finishers ahead of him on track.

For championship leader Robert Wolk (41 – Chemical Logistics Mygale) the Phakisa outing could perhaps better be considered a test of his patience rather than his racing skill. On Friday Wolk struggled with the handling of his race car but it appeared resolved when he claimed pole position during the qualifying session.

In the first race his rear wishbone broke, costing him any advantage that a pole position start offered when he completed just one racing lap. In race two, while involved in an on-track battle with Van der Watt, there was contact between the pair in lap five – ruled a racing incident by officials – and he slipped down the order, from fighting for first place to finishing in sixth position.

Ending his race day in 14th place overall sees Van der Watt make serious in-roads to Wolk’s 30 point lead in the championship leading up to the Phakisa event – with just two rounds left to run for the year.

With just those two events that remain of the South African Single-Seaters championship for 2015 – one round at Killarney Raceway in the Western Cape and the final event scheduled for Zwartkops Raceway – and with both Wolk and Van der Watt under the scrutiny of series officials, they will have to find a combination of close, competitive racing that avoids any situation which could negatively influence their chances of scoring the maximum available points.

The Phakisa round saw the pair separated by just 0.044 of a second during qualifying – in Wolk’s favour – and their race laps times are equally close, indicating that their dash to the championship title is going to be an even matched and hotly contested affair.

Saul Hack (88 – Mygale) and Andrew Horne (15 – Investchem / Xena Chemicals), both behind the wheel at Phakisa for the first time this year, did not contest for the lead positions in the SASS races, but had a great race weekend fighting each other for track position. Van Weely returned to single-seater competition at the Phakisa round for the first time since round one – at Killarney. For Van Weely a race two podium was a welcome reward after a week that included a blown engine and competing with a car that isn’t yet making the right amount of power to be fully competitive.

The Cape Town round in October already promises to be an exciting event, with the battle for points poised to reach epic proportions in the closing stages of the championship season.