The Extreme Festival presented by Dunlop and Falken Tyres held at Dezzi South Coast Raceway on Saturday proved to be an electric day of racing.
Twenty-three drivers competed in the Falken Polo Cup on the newly-modified track to secure points in the first round of the annual eight stop tour.
From aggressive bumper-car style racing down the final straight, to hair raising two-wheel turns on the newly-modified track, it was the youngsters who stole the show, and who extracted the most gasps and cheers from the crowds.
“The average age of these Falken Polo Cup drivers is under 20, there are only five drivers older; the rest are in their teens” said Greg Maloney, race announcer for the day.
Jeffrey Kruger (Universal Healthcare VW Polo) was the quickest qualifier, setting a time of 1min 29,913s to edge out Bradley Liebenberg (VW Motorsport Polo) by just 0,128s with Stiaan Kriel in the Motor Mart/Kales Polo third quickest.
With the top six moving up to Superpole qualifying, it was Liebenberg who came out on top, 0,707s ahead of Kruger with Jason Campos (Campos Transport Polo) in third place 0,906 s behind the leader – this setting the tone for the two races.
As the cars poured into the tight left hander after the start, the bravest emerged at the front of the pack. It was Kruger who secured a really good launch and immediately opened up a gap on the jostling pack behind him where places changed regularly until midway through the heat when the racing began to settle a little.
In the melee, the driver making a statement was Chris Shorter (AE Polo) who weaved his way up to third behind Campos while also holding off a staunch challenge from Kriel and Liebenberg with Jonathan Mogotsi (VW Motorsport Polo) and Jurie Swart (Alpine Autohaus Polo) not all that far behind.
Shorter, who then went on to win a dramatic second heat is a former Polo Cup champion but took a sabbatical last year, this being his first outing in 12 months.
The second race was red-flagged three laps shy of the full complement and restarted for a true sprint to the finish. Shorter had the lead when the race was stopped and he exploded off the line at the restart to keep that lead, under intense pressure from Campos and Liebenberg; the cut and thrust of this battle getting the large crowd to its feet and cheering.
Kruger finished fourth, ahead of Kriel and local favourite Clinton Bezuidenhout (Glyco Engine Polo). Podium went to Shorter, with Kruger in second and Liebenburg in third.
Thrill and drama aplenty
The Extreme Festival included the Global Touring Cars (GTC) series, which was equally full of drama.
The off season saw a couple of major changes in GTC with both former champion Michael Stephen and Gennaro Bonafede stepping aside for 2019 – in the case of the former to allow Tschops Sipuka to make a return to Terry Moss Racing.
It was his partner in the Audi team, Simon Moss who made the running in qualifying, setting a best lap of 1m 24,362s to take pole position ahead of Michael van Rooyen in the Toyota Gazoo Racing Corolla.
Third quickest was Robert Wolk (Chemical Logistics BMW 2 Series) from Keagan Masters (VW Motorsport Jetta).
In the GTC 2 category, Bradley Liebenberg (VW Motorsport Golf GTI) was quickest ahead of Adrian Wood (VW Motorsport Golf GTI) and Charl Smallberger (Universal Healthcare Golf GTI).
Moss did not waste any time stamping his authority on proceedings and blasted into an early lead, powering the Audi to victory by 2,2 s from Masters, Rowe and Wolk with Fourie a long way back in fifth place, the BMW looking worse for wear after a mid-race coming together with Van Rooyen’s Corolla.
Some frantic work by the Toyota team saw the car repaired in time for the second race where he went out and put Moss under severe pressure for the entire 10 laps, just not quite able to close the one second between them to attempt an overtake.
Daniel Rowe finished in the heat ahead of Masters and Fourie.
The combined results for the day had Moss on the top step of the podium with Masters in second place ahead of Rowe, Fourie and Van Rooyen.
Bradley Liebenberg dominated the GTC 2 class, winning overall for the day from Adrian Wood with Smallberger in third place ahead of Bob Neill (Delmon Mining Ford).
Young and old star in two brilliant races
Meanwhile, it was a stunning blend of good old experience and youthful exuberance as the Investchem Formula 1600 kicked off with a couple of spectacular races at the Oslo Beach track.
Experienced single seater veteran and last year’s runner-up Nichols van Weely delivering a fine opening race win and youth in Andrew Rackstraw taking two pole positions and winning his maiden race in the second heat.
It was clear that the young blood was on a charge through Friday practice, but that was underlined in qualifying when Rackstraw and Liam Pienaar delivered brilliant laps on a wet track to close off the front row ahead of van Weely (Magnificent Paints & Hardware van Diemen), reigning champion Stuart White (Fantastic Racing Mygale) and 2018 third man Scott Temple (Road to Race/1st Race Matt Nash Motorsport Mygale).
David Jermy (Beauty Factory Fantastic Racing Mygale) headed up Class B in fifth ahead of another young gun Tiago Rebelo (TRMS Brian Kruger Mygale), a most impressive best rookie in karting lass Ivana Cetinich, Andrew Schofield (Investchem Mygale), Siyabonga Mankonkwana (Investchem Brian Kruger Racing Mygale) and Alex Gillespie (ERP Trucking Components Matt Nash Motorsport Mygale) closing off the top ten.
Gerard Geldenhuys (Abacus Divisions Mygale) was next up ahead of Ian Schofield (Investchem Mygale), rookies Zac Edwards (SCM Brian Kruger Racing Mygale) and Alex Vos (Ecurie Zoo Magnificent Paints van Diemen) and Allen Meyer (Investchem van Diemen).
Rackstraw made a great start but overshot the first corner of the first race to be collected by Ian Schofield in the ensuing confusion, to put Schofield out with a bent rear wishbone. Alex Gillespie similarly endured an early incident to drop him down the pack as he struggled with a deranged suspension, while Rackstraw dropped to the back to begin an impressive fight back through the field.
That left van Weely in the lead and driving out of his shoes as he dealt with Temple’s closest attention, with Liam Pienaar third ahead of White. David Jermy was meanwhile making it just as difficult for Andrew Schofield, Rebello and Mankonkwana to find a way past him in fifth. Schofield ultimately attempted a move but could not pull it off, costing him a couple of places instead.
Pienaar then made a small error on the final tour, which was enough for White to find a gap and pass him for third, but nothing was going to stop van Weely from storming to the win from Temple, White and Pienaar, as Class B winner Jermy held Rebello, Mankonkwana and Andrew Schofield off for fifth.
Ivana Cetinich meanwhile delivered a fine debut performance to hold the resurgent Rackstraw off for ninth ahead of Gerard Geldenhuys, the struggling Gillespie, Alex Vos, Allen Meyer and Zac Edwards.
Rackstraw once again started on pole position for the second race, but van Weely delivered another of his customary demon starts to lead into turn 1, only to become involved in an incident that spelled his demise from the race.
This time it was young Rackstraw who found himself in a lead he initially consolidated before keeping the pursuing White and Temple at bay to score a delighted maiden Investchem Formula 1600 win.
Siyabonga Mankonkwana ended fourth from Ivana Cetinich, who once again handled herself brilliantly using her karting experience to best effect deliver a brilliant fifth in heat 2 on her Investchem Formula 1600 debut.
Andrew Schofield drove a fine race, picking off several cars before taking a while to pass David Jermy en route to sixth from David Jermy, Alex Gillespie, Gerard Geldenhuys and Ian Schofield, who still seemed to be suffering from his first race damage.
Liam Pienaar was next up from Zac Edwards and Alex Vos, while van Weely and Rebelo retired and Allen Meyer did not start the second race.
Stuart White took the overall win for the day from Scott Temple, Andrew Rackstraw, Siyabonga Mankonkwana, Andrew Schofield and Liam Pienaar, while Ivana Cetinich made a brilliant debut with the Class B win for the day ahead of David Jermy and Ian Schofield.
Dezzi Raceway proved a brilliant venue to start the 2019 Investchem Formula 1600 championship — the racing was fantastic to watch, tight with many overtaking moves and action throughout as the field put on a great show for an appreciative KwaZulu Natal audience.
The next round of the Extreme Festival will head to Zwartkops on April 6. For more information visit extremefestival.co.za.
Photos by Ralph Pike