It was a busy but happy birthday weekend for the entire Spanjaard Stiaan Kriel Racing team as they celebrated a host of podium finishes during the Saturday, July 22 Extreme Festival. The race day hosted at the Phakisa Freeway outside Welkom saw Kriel consolidate his lead in the Class A VW Challenge Championship where after he teamed up with Robyn Kruger to add another set of trophies in the Phakisa 200 endurance race.
Round 5 of the VW Challenge Championship was the team’s primary focus for the weekend with Kriel quickly finding his pace on the circuit where he has not competed since 2012. Tyre wear was a major concern for all the entrants throughout the weekend due to the very abrasive nature of the circuit, resulting in the team only participating in three of the four practice sessions taking place on the Friday before the race. This call was further justified with them ending the day as the team to beat.
Saturday morning’s qualifying session saw Kriel record his best time on his third flying lap, but with the knowledge that the tyres still needed to last for 16 laps of the 4.2 km circuit he judged it a better call to rather settle for second place on the grid than risking a loss grip for the rest of the day.
The first 8 lap race saw Kriel settling into second position behind his Class A rival Ian Pepper. Kriel finished the race in second position, but with his tyres still in good form to allow him to challenge for a win in Race 2. Due to posting the second fastest time during the race he was also assured of another front row start for the second heat.
Race 2 saw Kriel take an early lead with Pepper and Waldie Meintjies in close pursuit. Kriel did a magnificent job of defending his position until one challenge on Lap 3 led to contact resulting in him being pushed wide and both Lee Thompson Racing drivers being allowed to make their way past. He however tried his utmost to get back into striking range, but had to settle for third position. The overall time accumulation saw Kriel finishing third for the day as well.
Although this being the first round of the 2017 championship where Kriel did not take a victory from any of the two races, he’s still content with the day’s performance: “As race drivers we try to win every time, but that’s of course not always possible. At the end of the day we’re still taking a good tally of points forward which still leaves us at the front of Class A. We’ll however now have to make up some points in the overall championship during the next four rounds, but we’re always up to this challenge.”
The team quickly had to get themselves ready for the endurance race afterward. Earlier on Saturday Kriel ensured a Phakisa 200 front row start by qualifying in second position. With the endurance race being their secondary objective on the weekend, Autobarn Superhatch competitor Kruger had limited practice time during Friday, but quickly found her pace in the Spanjaar Volkswagen Polo.
Kruger started the team’s one-stop campaign and took an early lead, although she could not hold off the more powerful turbocharged Porsche 944 Turbo of eventual race winners Harry and Charl Arangies for too long. She however drove an excellent 30 lap stint before coming in for the team’s stop and mandatory driver change. Kriel concluded the team’s efforts for the day on fairly worn tyres, finishing the race with 47 laps completed in a total time of 1 hour, 37 minutes and 25 seconds. The duo finished the race in third position overall and in second place in Class 111/A while ranking twelfth in the overall Index of Performance.
A happy Kruger takes us through the race: “This was my first time competing in Stiaan’s Polo and I can definitely see why this is such a good car. We battled hard against a quality field of 52 entries and we can certainly be very happy about our results in this competitive race.”
Kriel’s sums up the team’s weekend: “Despite no wins, we’re heading home with a host of good results and above anything else: The Dream Team had an awesome time in the Free State. I’d like to thank everyone for their hard work this weekend. I think Kosie Weyers in particular did the equivalent of a marathon while running around the car this weekend to ensure that everything was perfect. Thank you Robyn for everything you’ve done this weekend – including driving. Of course we would not have been here had it not been for our sponsors Spanjaard, N4 Autocraft, Geardown Gearbox & Diff, ATS Motorsport Supplies, Dunlop Motorsport South Africa, Most Wanted, S&T Tuning, Graffiti, Bessie Bester Motors and DS Vision. We would also like to thank the sponsor of the VW Challenge for making this exciting series possible: ATE Brakes, Dicktator Engine Management Systems, Glasfix Windscreen Repairs and Norbrake Distribution. A special thank you to the new sponsor for the series that we can welcome on board: Roofsure.”
The next round of the VW Challenge will see the Spanjaard Stiaan Kriel Racing team returning to Red Star Raceway outside Delmas for the second time this year on Saturday, September 2.
Story by Reynard Gelderblom – Spanjaard Stiaan Kriel Racing