Monday, October 18, 2010

Round 8 - 16/10/2010 - Zwartkops

The final round of the Execuline Formula Vee championship held at Zwartkops was to be the arena for the head-to-head championship duel between MSA development driver Zaahir Essa (Reflex Solutions) and ex-champion Peter Hills (Renexcon). Hills lead Essa by 7 points going into the weekend and, to make things more interesting, multiple ex-champion Alan Holm (Office Direct) was making a return to the grid after having been away the entire season.

After working through various problems during the practice sessions, Essa was on form and hooked up on the track with his Lotto-provided Rhema 2, qualifying on pole by 0.8 seconds at lap-record pace. The races, however, proved to be a much tighter and dramatic affair. The first heat started off with Essa being pushed wide and off the track, and had to make up lost ground from 4th place to retake to the lead after a few laps. Just after relinquishing the lead, Peter Hills had a mechanical failure and had to anti-climatically pull out of the race. The championship was far from over, though, as Holm and Essa were dicing hard at the front, eventually leading to a coming together at the table-top with 2 laps remaining. Essa was knocked into the gravel and out of the race, with Holm taking the victory from Symm Grobler (Auto Mecca) and Johan Gouws (Indwe).

With all still to play for, Essa had to win the second heat to take the championship with both contenders starting from the back of the grid. During the first lap, Essa had to avoid potential accidents, including running off-track, and lost precious ground to what was already a steep mountain to climb. Throughout the 12-lap race, he picked off cars one by one and began to gain on the leaders Holm and Grobler quickly. By the final lap he was right in it, but hard defending from Holm took up all the opportunity Essa had for an attack for the lead and he finished glued to the gearbox of Grobler, the man he had to beat to ensure maximum points. Hills was not out of the woods at the time, and a final tussle at the last corner of the race with Gouws and a curiously-slowing Holm, ensured he overtook both cars and came across the line in third position – enough to take the championship by a single point.

“Well, I’m really gutted that I lost the championship in such a manner, finishing excruciatingly close to what could have been a victory,” said Essa. “It’s amazing that I was in any position to fight for the championship in the first place, with vital help from MSA and Reflex Solutions throughout the year. I feel like I have let them down by not settling to merely finish the first heat and cement the championship, but there’s little point in looking back at the various circumstances now. I have new motivation looking ahead to next year, where I will definitely be much stronger and wiser!”