Brian Joss –
Round six of the eight round Engen Volkswagen Cup championship which took place at Dezzi Raceway in Port Shepstone, a circuit new to the drivers, proved a hard outing for the competitors.
At the outset, championship leader Sheldon van der Linde (1 – Champion) looked set to continue his run of race-winning successes. He qualified fastest, but the draw for grid positions stepped in to change his fortunes. For race one he drew sixth and for race two it was a fifth place start.
This put him on the back foot, having to battle through the racers ahead. In that first race Van der Linde managed to get past three other competitors to finish in third place, behind Chris Shorter (33 – Hollard) and Daniel Rowe (2 – Ferodo).
The layout of Dezzi Raceway features tight corners, a narrow race track and some very bumpy areas mixed with a geographical layout that sees racers compete at a number of elevations – in places almost like a rollercoaster.
In that first race it was Shaun La Reserveé (9 – Alpine Motors / Compendium) that impressed. After his disastrous Zwartkops outing which saw him unable to complete a single lap in both races when he was involved in accidents in each opening lap, he made a strong comeback at the Dezzi Raceway event to be named “Driver of the Day”.
La Reserveé qualified 10th, working his way up to fifth by the end of the 10 lap race. In race two, he pulled off in eighth place, crossing the line for sixth – and then moving up to fourth when two other racers were penalised by officials. This saw him claim third overall for the day, a far cry from his last race weekend and a good outing for the KwaZulu-Natal local.
For championship leader Van der Linde the Dezzi Raceway sees him stretch his lead to 33 points from the 18 point lead he had going into the round. Second-placed Mathew Hodges (M1 – Sourcit / Phoenix Signs / 959 Panelbeaters) saw his 23 point advantage shrink to just six points after a race day he will be keen to forget.
Third place in the championship became a lot more secure for Rowe at this event. A second place in race one, a victory in race two and first overall for the day puts him right on the heels of Hodges and gets him 31 points clear of Trevor Bland (M2 – Nutritech / Monster Energy).
For Matt Shorter (11 – Champion) race one will not be amongst his favourite memories. He drew pole position in the top six draw, but as the lights changed and he released the clutch his driveshaft broke, causing a moment of panic on the grid as the other competitors dashed and dived around him at the start of the race.
For the second race, Shorter made up for the problems he experienced in race one by crossing the finish line for fifth place.
For Matthew Hodges (M1 – Sourceit / Phoenix Signs / 959 Panelbeaters), second in the championship and leader in the Masters category, a finish close to – or in front of – Van der Linde was in his race-day planning. In typically unpredictable Engen Volkswagen Cup fashion he was involved in two separate race one incidents and he crossed the line for 12th. In race two he was on pace – and out of the action – to cross the line for a more accustomed third place.