GQEBERHA, EASTERN CAPE – This weekend saw Ashley Oldfield dominate in the third round of the GR Cup, which took place at the Aldo Scribante Racetrack near Port Elizabeth. The motoring journalist and experienced racer posted the best qualifying time, and went on to win both races in the cup, which features identical stock Toyota GR Yaris cars, equipped with the necessary safety equipment.
The Aldo Scribante circuit was largely unknown to the six motoring journalists, whose past experience on the track was limited to product launches at relatively sedate speeds. So, the first order of business was to get to know the circuit during Friday’s practice sessions.
Qualifying took place on a slightly damp track, but despite the changeable surface conditions, Oldfield posted a time of 1min 10.605sec – good enough to pip Thomas Falkiner by 0.658sec for pole position. Guest driver, former racer Mario De Sousa, was third-fastest, 1.803sec behind the flying Oldfield.
The leading trio had Mark Jones, Jeanette Kok-Kritzinger, Sean Nurse and Lerato Matebese behind them. Despite setting the third-fastest time, there was disappointment for De Sousa, as he went just too far across a curb, and ended up on the wet grass beside the track. With no way to slow the car down on the slippery surface, he managed to turn the GR Yaris slightly before impacting the tyre barrier. This caused damage to the side of the car, but the technical crew affected some running repairs to get De Sousa onto the grid for Race 1.
In the end, De Sousa was unable to complete Race 1, which promoted everyone behind him by one spot. Oldfield led from flag to flag, besting Falkiner, who had maintained his second position on the grid throughout the race, by 3.137sec. Jones made the most of the opportunity to bag the final podium position for the race, with Kok-Kritzinger delivering a spirited performance to finish 4th.
Sean Nurse had struggled with technical challenges relating to the transmission in his car throughout the weekend, and was further hamstrung by delaminating tyres. He may have been able to challenge for fourth place, but had to settle for 5th as a result of his woes, with Lerato Matebese in sixth.
The results of Race 2 were almost a carbon copy of Race 1, though with De Sousa back in the mix, there were always going to be some upsets. Oldfield again made it look easy at the front, with Falkiner following him across the line just 2.209sec back. Jones again took third place, clearly showing good pace.
Nurse fought his way past Kok-Kritzinger shortly after the start, and then capitalised on a brake problem experienced by De Sousa. This saw him finish in fourth place, just over 6sec clear of the guest driver. Kok-Kritzinger finished in 6th, which was disappointing given her performance in Race 1: “I allowed my inner voice not to damage the car get the better of me, and in the process, I forgot to race.”
Overall, the drivers agreed that Aldo Scribante offered a stern test, and while Oldfield and Falkiner showed their class at the head of the field, everyone felt that the weekend in Gqeberha was a learning experience. Next up will be Round 4 at Red Star Raceway near Delmas in Mpumalanga, with the meet scheduled for the first weekend in July 2022.
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