Melani Cook, driving her father’s BMW E36 325, made history at Killarney in Round 1 of the Power Series presented by Wingfield Motors and Kfm 94.5 on Saturday 6 February as she not only became the first woman driver in living memory to win a saloon car race outright, she went on to score a hard-fought hat trick of three Bejo Trustees Fine Cars wins in one day!
Ms Cook started Race 1 in fourth behind Gunther Appelgryn’s BMW E36, Jan Koekemoer in a Mazda RX7 and the astonishingly quick Piri Piri Racing Mini 1000 of Stuart Greig, but powered past Greig and Appelgryn on lap three to take the lead. As she gradually eased away to finish 3.38sec clear of the field, Appelgryn, Koekemoer and Rodney Green (Piri Piri Racing MGB) fought it out for second in a monumental dice that saw them finish in that order, covered by less than a second.
Race 2 was a lot tighter; Koekemoer ran a close second to Cook for two laps before falling victim to Appelgryn’s shamrock green E36. He dropped back in the closing stages to finish almost seven seconds off the pace while Appelgryn, Fred Phillips (Piri Piri Racing Morgan 4/4) and Green chased Cook all the way to the flag, all four coming home within three seconds.
Appelgryn and Green were the only drivers able to stay with the Cook BMW in Race 3, as she eased home to her third win of the day, 1.5 seconds clear of Appelgryn and 2.5 seconds ahead of Green. Fourth, after a fine midfield dice, was Koekemoer’s Mazda.
It was a battle of the giants in the Sports & GT category races as local hero Steve Humble in the Judd-powered Harp Pilbeam and SA Endurance Series champion Franco Scribante in his freshly rebuilt Porsche 997 TT fought it out for line honours. Scribante led the first six laps of Race 1 before being overtaken by Humble – but the fight wasn’t over, as Scribante dived down the inside going into Kfm Corner at the start of lap eight and the two came together.
Externally, the damage to both cars seemed minimal but the Porsche refused to shift out of sixth gear and Scribante cruised round to the pits to retire while Humble went on to win by almost nine seconds from Dayne Angel (Autohaus Angel Porsche GT2 R) and his father Marcel in the new Autohaus Angel Ferrari 488 GT3.
The Scribante Porsche was back for Race 2 and running as hard as ever, but Humble was on top form, posting the fastest lap of the day at a blistering 1min08.559 on lap four, and there was no way the visitor was going to challenge for the win. Scribante finished a fine second, only 1.1sec behind the Pilbeam, while Dayne Angel beat his father for third by just 0.01sec after a superb dice.
Marco Busi (Automan Polo) and Jurie ‘Umpie’ Swart (VW Polo) shared the honours in the Cheaper Cars GTi Challenge races with a win apiece. In Race 1 Busi was followed home by Swart, Jano van der Westhuizen (VW Polo 6R) and Colin Meder (International Tube Technology Polo) after early challenger Jason Coetzee (Mint Wrapworks/CK Coachworks Polo 6) dropped back in the closing stages to finish seventh.
Ian Kapp (Hydracor Golf Mk1 1.8L) won Class B from Eden Thompson (Mad Performance/Somerset Refrigeration Polo 6) and Byron Mitchell (Dolphin Engineering Golf Mk1), while Kyle Wiltshire (VW Golf Mk1 1.8L) led Class C.
Swart struck back in Race 2, leading every lap and finishing 2.6 seconds ahead of Busi and Coetzee, while Van der Westhuizen got the best of a superb three-way battle for fourth with Meder and Mario Roux (Automan Jetta 2L) that saw them finish in that order, covered by less than a second.
Dario Busi (VW Golf Mk2) flew the family flag at the top of Class B, ahead of Kapp and Brent van der Schyff (Magmaster/Whiteknuckle/PG Autoworx Polo), while Tate Bishop (Angri Golf) beat Wiltshire by just half a second to claim Class C honours.
Veteran Jacques Ackerman on the Kawasaki South/Barker/Stepp ZX-10R not only posted the first race win of his career in the South Motorcycles Superbike Series, he made it a double!
Pre-race favourite David ‘McFlash’ McFadden wisely withdrew on the morning of race day after working through the night to repair Brett Roberts’ Yamaha, which suffered a gearbox failure during practice on Friday, setting up an epic duel in Race 1 between Ackerman and David Enticott (Motorwise/Sarum Engineering ZX-10R).
The two were never more than a bike length apart until both ran wide going into Turn 3 on the final lap, when Enticott, in his own words, “got on the gas a little bit too early”, and very nearly highsided. Enticott pulled off a near-miracle save, but it cost him about a second, and with it any chance of challenging for the win in the final corner, as he came home 1.327sec in arrears.
Eleven seconds behind them late entry Connor Hagan (Suzuki GSX-R600) got the best of a race-long battle for third with Jean-Baptiste Racoupeau (RPM Center ZX-10R) and Roberts. That was actually decided two laps from the end when Racoupeau’s Kawasaki blew a fuse, leaving Roberts to chase home Super600 Class winner Hagan.
Less than a second behind him multiple former Regional champion Rob Cragg, riding McFadden’s spare R1 because his own Mad Macs ZX-10R was waiting on spare parts, finished fifth overall and second in the Masters Class. Sixth overall and second in the Superbike Class went to Supermotard hotshot Gareth Gehlig on the Liqui Moly SA ZX-10R after a superb dice with Donovan Le Cok (RPM Center ZX-10R) and Peter Haupt (Fueled Racking R1M) as they finished in that order, covered by less than a second.
Enticott was unable to stay with Ackerman in Race 2, and was caught in the closing stages by Le Cok, Racoupeau and Cragg. He refused to give up, however, setting up the closest finish of the day for second overall as Racoupeau, Le Cok, Cragg and Enticott came home in that order within 0.782sec.
Roberts, meanwhile, posted eighth overall and first in the Super600 Class after Hagan failed to finish.
On a day dominated by grown-ups another veteran, Wayne Arendse on the JJ Smith Trust ZX-10R, posted a hard-earned double win in the Clubmans/Classics/Breakfast Run races. His thunder was stolen, however, by Dylan Croudace on the Golden Circle 899 Panigale. The Ducati rider chased Arendse all the way in Race 1, while fending off a determined challenge from Nasief Smart (Yamaha R1), Deon Ebel (Ebel Bros CBR1000RR), and Shaun Mackrill (GFP Lighting ZX-10R), who posted the fastest lap of the race at 1min16.836 on his way to finishing third behind Arendse and Croudace, with Ebel and Smart fourth and fifth respectively.
Hot-starting Zobair Adams (Suzuki GSX-R750) got the hole-shot off the line and actually held second for a lap and a half before being blitzed by the big guns. He finished sixth overall (the first 750 home), just ahead of Classic Class leader Hilton Redelinghuys, out for the first time on a 1996 Kawasaki ZX-7R which he’d found under a tree on a farm and restored to immaculate condition, while Mitch Robinson (Hillbilly Racing EBR1190 RX) came home first in Class B and 12th overall.
Croudace was late for the start of Race 2 (he wasn’t the only one!) and had to start from pit lane, whereupon he set about carving through the field, making up nine places on lap one and another four on lap two. He was ninth on lap three, seventh on lap four and fifth on lap five after posting the fastest lap of the race at 1min16.947.
He closed to within 3.3 seconds of Adams in fourth by the end, but ran out of laps before he could get to terms with the lead group.
Ebel kept Arendse honest all the way to the flag, never out of touch and finishing just 0.119sec adrift after one of the best rides of his career, followed by Smart, Adams and Croudace, who was just 6.741sec off the lead at the line after the ride of a lifetime.
Redelinghuys was again the first Classic rider home in 11th overall while Robinson led the Class B pack in 12th and Jamie Hall on a Honda CBR600 RR completed a well-deserved Breakfast Run double in 20th overall.