Race report from Wesbank Raceway.
by Pierre Martins
10 November 2007:
Picture a Porsche 944 TurboCup going flat out down the back straight at Midvaal Raceway, with me in the passenger seat coaching a rookie driver. At the 100m mark this guy threw anchors and what happened? The brake pedal fell to the floor...
Driver panicked. Instead of using the runoff he suddenly pitched it anyways. Time slowed down. We went sideways off track with the tyre wall coming up at a rate of knots. I braced for the impact. Next thing a bump in the boondocks threw the car up in the air. Spectators say it was airborne by +/- 10 feet.
We came down hard, smacked the tyre wall at about 160km/h and pushed it along a couple of metres. LHD jobby. Driver's side took the impact, but I slid out of my seat and clouted the driver's seat hard.
The passenger seat was a generic Porsche OEM unit with stock 3-point belt. Driver's seat was a proper job, 6-point belts and whatnot. I've done many a track day in similar OEM seat & belt setups in 911's and never thought anything of it. I guess when the shit hits the fan you kinda change your thinking a bit about safety...
Anyway, I was lucky to walk away from that one with some pretty colourful bruises and a buggered up shoulder. Driver not badly hurt either, but his car was toast. Sad story.
I decided to lay off the painkillers for Friday practice and do just two sessions to save my old bones. The kart felt good and I had the gearing spot on, except for the second ess bend in the infield.
Gearing was a tad too tall for that corner, so I decided to pitch it more sideways and steer on the throttle to keep the revs up and stay in the power-band, but on the third lap I overcooked it and spun out. I don’t like spinning, but sometimes you have to try new things and push the envelope. That is what practice is for.
For the second session I stayed out a full race distance to see if my sore shoulder would cope. It felt quick. Fabio Tafani, Sean Moore and yours truly were the only guys in the 1’10”s. The rest of the guys were struggling.
I was happy, but my shoulder started telling me it was time to go home and relax…
Woke up Saturday morning full of pain, but nothing a good dose of 250 Superkart adrenalin wouldn't take care of...
Qualifying was a bit of a stuff-up though. I wanted to go out behind Sean Moore to check him out, but slotted in behind his bro Giles by mistake cause their karts and helmets are identical.
We hit traffic for three laps, so I backed off to make space. Tried to stick in two flying laps, only to hit traffic in the wrong places again. Eventually qualified in sixth spot on row three, behind Giles and next to Greg Farah…
I thought about pulling a sly move by hanging back slightly and jumping the rolling start by a fraction of a second, but it’s difficult to pull it off when you’re not at the back of the field. Nobody watches the back of the field, but when you’re towards the front people notice any sneaky moves on the starting grid.
So I opted to play it safe and just be sharp. That was a good call, planted my right foot at just the right moment, caught a few guys sleeping and drove right past Giles and both Farahs at the start to slot into P3 behind Sean Moore and Fabio as we entered turn one. I saw immediately that Sean had a problem. He was getting under my feet in the infield whilst Fabio cleared off. Giles got past me and we were all over Sean like a bad rash, until he pulled in after lap 2.
Right, time to work Giles out of P2…
I knew his balls got the better of his driving skills at this track a few times in the past, so I figured I had to put pressure on him and hoped he’d make a mistake. Sure enough, he out-braked himself at the end of the main straight and spun. P2 for me, thanks Gileseee. He-he-he...
But it wasn’t over yet. Mario’s signals from the wall told me that someone was riding my ass. I figured it must’ve been one of the Farahs, or both, so I went defensive in the infield. Man, I made my kart three times wider by going slightly off the racing line in the right places.
It worked. I kept the Farahs behind me. Tony managed to get past me on the very last lap just before we got onto the main straight, but I powered past him and waved good-bye. Even the flag marshal showed his appreciation with an all teeth ear to ear Gary Busey like smile as we crossed the finish line.
No bumping and barging, just good honest hard clean racing. What more can you ask for?
At the end of lap one Mario signalled a huge gap. I was delighted to have the pack of wolves off my back whilst trying hard to keep up with Fabio and Sean. Kept P3 for the first five laps but I just didn’t have it in me to keep the pace.
Mario signalled someone was closing the gap I had. Giles got me first, then Tony. I tried to fight em off but they were too fast for me. Then Greg took a bite at me. He passed me onto the main straight, I out-braked and re-passed him into turn one, but the man is a hard racer and outfoxed me in the infield. Game over.
After that I just gave up. Pain was killing me and I battled to hang onto the wheel, especially over them pesky bone jarring bumps leading into the chicane, so I cruised home to take P5 for race two, thanks to Fabio who fell off towards the end.
I must admit I was quite surprised at the overall results for the day. Tony Farah took his first win of the season for Team Farah with two stonking drives, finishing both heats in P3. I got 2nd overall and Fabio 3rd. Behind us there were some excellent dices between Vaughn Obhlidal, Steve Lavender and Ivor Horne, with Ivor producing his best drive ever. I wish I could have seen that dice from a spectator’s view…
For me it was a bittersweet result in more ways than one, not my best performance, yet I took home another trophy from a track I hated This was a historic race weekend of sorts. - The last race meeting at Wesbank Raceway, before the bulldozers move in and turn this track into a fat profit for the money-grabbing property developers.
Anyway, this is the end of my longwinded story. My kart is sold and I’m moving on to another race formula next year, but I’ll tell you more about that after the final round of the 2007 Superkart season…