Backdraft Racing supports SA Endurance Series

Motor racing is all about passion and Backdraft Racing – based in Prospecton, Durban – has taken this to a new level by loaning 10 race-ready Roadsters to new teams for the 2020 SA Endurance Racing Series.

That’s right! Ten cars loaned out for the 2020 season for free.

Teams from the United Kingdom, one from Sweden and one from Dubai are adding some international flair to the highly competitive series.

Tony Martin
Tony Martin

Backdraft Racing is headed up by former South African Driver’s Champion and Daytona 24-Hour winner, Tony Martin who says: “Everything I have today has come from racing so this idea is both a way to give something back to the sport I love and to add a new dimension to the SA Endurance Racing series.

“It is not a gimmick and the cars are all prepared to within a couple of horsepower of each other and are identical in every other way. They are extremely competitive, not only against each other but will be able to challenge other marques involved in the series.”

Loan race cars in the Backdraft Racing workshop
Loan race cars in the Backdraft Racing workshop.

The South African Endurance Racing series consists of six events at various circuits around the country and are all 4-hour races except for the final at Killarney, Cape Town in December that will be a marathon 7-hour event.

“We have loaned cars to teams capable of competing at this level of racing,” says Martin, “and all we are asking in return is they guarantee to be ready and present for both practice and the race at each event in the series.”

The Backdraft Roadsters are open-top racers powered by a 300 hp Lexus V8 engine driving the rear wheels through a BMW gearbox and BMW limited slip differential.

“They are raw, powerful and purpose-built race cars,” says Martin. “There are no electronic aids such as traction control or anti-lock braking. They are true driver’s cars.”

The 'office'
The ‘office’.

While the competing teams are free to bring their own sponsors on board to cover the general running costs, they will not be allowed to make any modification to the Roadsters beyond basic race-day and handling setup.

We will have a fully kitted parts transporter at each race with a full range of spares available. Backdraft will have their own ‘policeman’ – Brian Clifton – to assist competitors and to ensure compliance to the rules where necessary. Nothing on the engine, transmission or brakes can be changed, in fact no performance enhancing modifications will be allowed.

Competing in the series are a wide range of marques including Lamborghini, Ferrari and Porsche alongside sports cars such as Ginetta, Liege, Nash and Juno.

One of the loan cars ready for delivery
Ready for delivery.

In all, Backdraft Racing will have at least 13 cars for the 2020 season with established pairing Brian Martin and Trevor Graham continuing to campaign their easily recognizable red Roadster, while a completely new car is being readied for Tony Martin and Mike McLoughlin. Added to this we are excited that Clare Vale will be competing in another Backdraft albeit not in the production series.

McLoughlin holds the outright lap record at Dezzi Raceway, KZN in his sprint setup Roadster, having taken that away from Jaki Scheckter who was driving Greg Parton’s Lamborghini Huracan at the time.

Current KZN Sports Car Champion, Duncan dos Reis, will be one of the drivers of the new Roadsters alongside Damon Parker while well-known Historic driver Colin Ellison will partner with Peter Jenkins.

The UK team consists of Mark Owens with Italian Jean-Marie Gabbiani as co-driver while Thomas Kummerling and his son Jacob will be the Swedish entry. Rudi Patior and A N Other our Dubai importers will also be competing.  Brothers Gary and Nigel Richardson will form another team as will Graham and Tania du Toit.

Another top KZN driver, Steve Clark still has to announce his co-driver as does Cape Town’s Brian Morgan.

“The spectacle of these 10 Backdraft Roadsters racing each other and the rest of the field is going to add a whole new dimension to the series this year,” enthuses Martin. “Within the series itself there will be a Roadster class – so if anyone has a roadster and wants to come and join the fun, they are more than welcome.”

The first of the current Endurance Series was a 6-hour held at the Phakisa Freeway near Welkom in the Free State on February 23, 2013. The events grew in stature and size over time as their popularity increased and, in 2017 National Championship status was granted by Motorsport South Africa.  The first South African National Endurance Racing Champion was crowned together with an Index of Performance National Champion. Ironically this honour befell a Zimbabwean, Darren Winterboer.  He managed to pull off both Championships with solid performances throughout the year.

For 2020, the season-opener is a 4-hour race at Aldo Scribante near Port Elizabeth on March 21.

W Series gets F1 dates

W Series racing – the all-women single-seater formula – heads for a bigger stage this year with the USA and Mexico races scheduled alongside the Formula 1  race at each venue on the weekend.

W Series’ USA race will take place at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, on Saturday, October 24 and W Series’ Mexico race will take place at Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez in the capital, Mexico City, on Saturday, October 31.

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Tasmin Pepper

The two all-new W Series races – with South Africa’s Tasmin Pepper as part of the field –  will form an exciting championship-deciding ‘double header’, held on consecutive weekends, and will be rounds seven and eight of the eight-race 2020 W Series championship.

The full 2020 W Series championship calendar

Race 1 St Petersburg, Russia May 30th
Race 2 Anderstorp, Sweden June 13th
Race 3 Monza, Italy June 27th
Race 4 Norisring, Germany July 11th
Race 5 Brands Hatch, UK August 23rd
Race 6 Assen, Netherlands September 5th
Race 7 Austin, USA October 24th
Race 8 Mexico City, Mexico October 31st
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Catherine Bond Muir

Catherine Bond Muir (Chief Executive Officer, W Series) says: “We at W Series are absolutely delighted that, in only our second season, our championship has been welcomed by Formula 1 and we are utterly thrilled  the final two races of the 2020 W Series season will therefore take place as part of the Formula 1 platform.

“Our two all-new races will follow six races on the DTM platform, making a very varied, extremely exciting and truly international eight-race championship, in eight countries across the globe. I’m particularly pleased that W Series will now stage races outside Europe, and the USA and Mexico are of course both very important new territories for us.

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“Interest in and enthusiasm for W Series was enormous in our first season, 2019, among media and fans alike, and the addition of two all-new W Series races on the Formula 1 platform will inevitably increase that enthusiasm and interest.

“Commercially, too, following the successful recent announcement of W Series’ new multi-year sponsor-partnership with ROKiT Phones, the fact W Series will be even bigger and even better in 2020 than it was in 2019 will make the return on investment for our future sponsor-partners better and bigger, too.”

Dave Ryan (Racing Director, W Series) added: “Following the six W Series races that will be run in 2020 alongside DTM, who remain an excellent partner of ours, W Series’ two new Formula 1 support races in Austin and Mexico City will cap what looks set to be a brilliant second season for us.

“The Circuit of the Americas is a superb racetrack. Sector one is particularly spectacular, featuring an extremely steep uphill run into Turn One, and I’m sure that the W Series drivers will find it exciting yet challenging.

“Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez is also a fantastic circuit, older than the Circuit of the Americas of course but impressively updated, having hosted the Mexican Grand Prix since the race was reintroduced to the Formula 1 calendar in 2015 but having previously been the venue for Mexican Grands Prix as long ago as 1963.”

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Ross Brawn

Ross Brawn (Managing Director, Motorsport at Formula 1) says: “We are delighted to welcome W Series to two such spectacular events of the 2020 FIA Formula 1 World Championship such as those in Austin and Mexico City.

“In just one year, W Series has contributed significantly to increasing interest in the topic of diversity and inclusion in motor sport.

“We are convinced our sport must offer equal opportunities for men and women to compete together – it is no coincidence that improving the diversity of the F1 grid by supporting and promoting driver talent from under-represented backgrounds is one of our strategic objectives.

“The ability for the great crowds who traditionally attend the Austin and Mexico City Grands Prix to see these talented female drivers up close will definitely further raise the awareness of the importance of inclusion and diversity in motor sport.”

 

Pepper resigns with Bentley

Good news in the midst of all the sad, bad and depressing – South African racer Jordan Pepper keeps his seat with Bentley for the 2020 season in the Intercontinental GT Challenge, with the British automaker committing two cars for the season.

Pepper led the Kyalami 9 Hour race for more than an hour in November and the team has adjusted its Bentley Boy roster to be even more competitive this season.

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Jordan Pepper

Bentley, through its factory M-Sport squad will contest Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered Pirelli for a fifth consecutive season, having raced in the series since its inaugural 2016 campaign.

M-Sport’s racing activities will be solely focused on the world’s only global GT3 championship after previously contesting the Blancpain GT Series on Bentley’s behalf.

The team has also made several changes and additions to its Bentley Boy roster and pairings. Maxime Soulet returns for a sixth season, albeit with new co-drivers in the form of established factory aces Jules Gounon and Jordan Pepper.

Meanwhile, Oliver Jarvis – a Bentley Boy in 2017 who represented KCMG and Nissan last season – is joined by Alex Buncombe and Seb Morris. The latter has gained full factory status following four years with the manufacturer’s customer teams. Both he and Buncombe also enjoyed several Intercontinental outings with M-Sport in 2019.

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“It is actually been a textbook route from customer racing into the works team for me,” says Morris, who won the British GT title in 2017. “I first raced the Bentley Continental GT3 in 2016 for Team Parker Racing in British GT, which we went on to win.

“I then stepped up to the Blancpain GT Series with Team Parker, while still contesting the British series with JRM. Thanks to race wins with both, I was selected last year to join the works team at the Total 24 Hours of Spa and then again at Suzuka 10 Hours. Now, I stand here in 2020 as a fully-fledged works team driver. Bentley promised to nurture talent through its programmes, and I can’t wait to start my career as a Bentley Boy.”

Bentley’s Director of Motorsport, Paul Williams, added: “We have been very careful to grow and adapt our programme in a way that is sustainable for us and beneficial to both our new and old customers, and I am very pleased we have attracted teams that operate at the highest level. Bentley Team M-Sport has been instrumental in enabling us to grow our customer programme and build the Continental GT3s required for 2020, while also preparing for Bathurst 12 Hours and planning an extensive test schedule that will benefit all of our teams.”

Bentley are the fifth manufacturer to confirm a full-season Intercontinental programme following announcements by Audi, Honda, Lamborghini and Porsche. More are expected ahead of the championship’s opening round at Bathurst later this month.

Lamborghini confirms GT Challenge

Following a spectacularly successful 2019 season in the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Challenge, Lamborghini has decided to take the fight to the Intercontinental GT Challenge this year.

Lamborghini will contest the Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli full-time in 2020 after confirming a five-round programme spearheaded by ORANGE1 FFF Racing Team by ACM.

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The Italian manufacturer makes its debut as a full-season Intercontinental entrant during the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour on January 31 – February 2, while the Huracan GT3 Evo will also race at Mount Panorama for the first time.

FFF Racing join the championship following a standout 2019 season in Europe where the Chinese squad claimed both the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup Teams’ and Drivers’ titles, as well as the GT World Challenge Europe Drivers’ crown.

Italians Andrea Caldarelli and Marco Mapelli, who became the first drivers to win the Overall, Endurance and Sprint championships in the same season, will now attempt to add an Intercontinental GT Challenge title at the first time of asking. They’re joined at all five rounds of the world’s only global GT3 series by fellow Lamborghini Squadra Corse factory driver, Dennis Lind.

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The Dane is also no stranger to silverware after winning the Blancpain GT Series Asia Drivers’ and Teams’ titles with FFF Racing and Lamborghini in 2018.

“After the 2019 season, we are committed to take up another important challenge for this year,” says team owner Fu Songyang. “Together with our partners Lamborghini Squadra Corse and ORANGE1, the next step for our team is the biggest we could aim at, the Intercontinental GT Challenge. In a certain way, we already won in Asia in 2018 and Europe in 2019, so 2020 could be the right opportunity to take everything under the same name.

“Honestly, I think the challenge is going to be quite serious, as the level of the competition is very high, and we are going to represent one of the most prestigious manufacturers. Choosing Andrea, Dennis and Marco was a natural option and the continuation of the project started last year. They definitely are the best drivers we could have for this new venture.”

Lamborghini join Audi, Honda and reigning champions Porsche on the list of Intercontinental manufacturers already confirmed for 2020. More are expected to follow in the coming weeks ahead of Bathurst’s season opener later this month.

Visits to four more iconic circuits on as many continents then follow Australia’s international enduro: the Total 24 Hours of Spa (Europe), Suzuka 10 Hours (Asia), inaugural Indianapolis 8 Hour (USA) and Kyalami 9 Hour (Africa).

 

Killarney packs them in

Thousands of car freaks, racing fans and just plain adrenalin junkies poured into Killarney International Raceway on December 28 for the annual StreetFest in partnership with the City of Cape Town.

StreetFest 1

It was an international celebration of car culture featuring top Drag Racers from all over South Africa and as far afield as Namibia taking on the best of Cape Town’s quarter-mile crew, as well as Drifting, an IASCA Sound-Off, a Show ‘n Shine competition that highlighted some of the prettiest and most outrageous customs in the Western Cape.

The Deputy Mayor of Cape Town, Alderman Ian Neilson, braved the steep ladder to the commentary tower at the Drag Strip for the official opening of StreetFest 2019. He welcomed the visitors, local racers and the thousands of spectators lining both sides of the strip, saying that Cape Town, the Events Capital of Africa, was proud to host big motor sport events such as this, events that cater as much to grassroots enthusiasts as professional race crews.

There was music all day from the Coca Cola Gig Rig, a bewildering variety of good things to eat and drink, to wear and to upgrade your car, from custom wheels to high-quality suspension components and bolt-on custom bumpers, grilles and aero kits.

Most of the noise, the excitement and the tyre smoke, however, came from the Drag Strip, as top racers with screaming turbo-charged four-cylinder engines, howling sixes and thundering seven-litre V8s thrilled the crowds with huge burnouts before launching off the line to cover the 402 metres to the finish line as quickly as they could.

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Jannie Bezuidenhout’s Mk1 Golf prepares for a hot run.

It sounds simple, but the launch is crucial. Most drag races are won and lost in the first second of the run; as a combination of brute force and precision car control it is unmatched in any other form of motor sport.

The fastest time of the day was set by local hero Ralph Kumbier in Suspect, Shaheen Barmania’s twin-turbo Chev Lumina Ute bakkie, who laid down a superb 9,356 second pass at 227,68 km/h, closely followed by Shaun Zurich in his immaculately prepared Honda Civic, reputedly the quickest normally aspirated front-wheel drive car in Africa.

His best effort of 9,483 seconds at 230,95 km/h was good enough to win him Class OA for modified normally aspirated cars, well ahead of Hennie Watkins’ Toyota Corolla (11,173 seconds at 192,07 km/h) and Lyle Africa in a Honda CRX (11,195 seconds at 199,65 km/h).

Third overall, and second in Class OS for open force-fed machines, was Rudy Roode in an all-wheel drive Volkswagen Golf Mk2, with a 9,831 second pass at 234 79 km/h, just two hundredths of a second ahead of petite 20-year-old Yuresa ‘Yuri’ Naidoo from Durban, the fastest lady on the day in an Audi TTRS.

Sadly, Tiaan van der Merwe from Mpumalanga in Fireball – a mid-1970s Ford Escort with a seven-litre Chevrolet crate engine by Steve Schmidt of Indianapolis, Indiana – was unable to make good on his stated ambition of breaking into the nines on his first visit to the coast, although he came tantalisingly close with a best effort of 10,449 seconds at 187,92 km/h.

And that’s all motor, the commentators reminded the crowds, without forced induction or chemical assistance!

Even more disappointed was Shawn Dziire out of Johannesburg, who got even closer to the magic 10-second mark in his raucous turbo-charged BMW E30 with a 10,194 second pass at 195 423 km/h before its differential failed.

Class 4A went to Moeneeb Parker in a Nissan Champ bakkie with an 11,573 second run at 194,08 km/h, while Dziire made up for his Class OS disappointment by taking Class 4S in his Opel SuperBoss with a best effort of 11,814 seconds at 193,10 km/h and Class 6S was won by Herman Mostert in a Toyota Corolla fitted with a straight-six 2JZ engine, who laid down an astonishing 9,503 second pass at 223,76 km/h.

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Reece ‘Buddy’ Robertson’s Suzuki was the fastest bike on the day.

The quickest times of the day, as always, were set by the motorcycle competitors, led by Reece ‘Buddy’ Robertson, (Suzuki GSX-R1000) with a best run of 8,684 seconds at 254,78 km/h. He was the only rider into the eights on the day, well ahead of a pair of BMW S1000RRs in the hands of Edson Almeida and Irrvinne Bruinders (9 150 seconds at 250,43 km/h and 9, 453 seconds at 240 22 km/h respectively). Fourth was 16-year-old Stephen Lottering from Port Elizabeth, with a very creditable 9 528 second pass at 238, 76 on a brand new Kawasaki ZX-10R.

Top quad rider was Kyle Johannes (Yamaha Banshee), who caused a stir when he laid down the only sub 12 second run of the day on a quad at 11,967 seconds and 166 95 km/h.

StreetFest 4
This superb Ford Mustang won its class in the Show ‘n Shine competition.

 

Stepping up

Local rallycross drivers will step up onto the world stage in a big way when they take part in the 2019 SABAT World Rallycross of South Africa at Killarney International Raceway on 9 and 10 November in two fully-fledged support classes for the first time.

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There will there be races for conventional two-litre front wheel-drive rally and rallycross cars, as well as for the high-revving ‘big sixes’ of the E36 Cup – three litre rear wheel-drive BMW 3 Series luxury sedan dating from the late 1990s that enjoy a cult following among South African petrolheads.

Each class will compete in two qualifying races of four laps for five cars on Saturday 9 November and one on Sunday morning, 10 November, in front of thousands of local and visiting enthusiasts. The top six cars from qualifying in each class will then go through to a six-lap final on Sunday.

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The World Rallycross and second-tier RX2 class cars, however, are all four-wheel-drive, while local competitors have either front or rear wheel-drive, depending on their class.

This means that the techniques of driving on the 60 percent tar, 40 percent gravel circuit will be very different from each other, as well as from the World Rallycross competitors – possibly resulting in some unconventional racing lines, particularly in the dirt sections.

Having home-town heroes taking part in this world championship event at Killarney International Raceway will give local motorsport fans even more to cheer for.

See-saw finally settles

The see-saw battle that has raged all season long in the Falken Polo Cup series came to a head at the weekend when Bradley Liebenberg emerged victorious over arch rival Jeffrey Kruger at the Red Star Raceway, Delmas.

Liebenberg wiped out a 4-point deficit to become the 2019 Falken Polo Cup champion to beat the defending champion Jeffrey Kruger after a season-long battle that saw both drivers lead the way at various stages of the fight.

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Kruger had the upper hand in the first few rounds, but the momentum swung heavily in Liebenberg’s favour following a great run in the middle of the season. Kruger however fought back and after Liebenberg was penalised for mistakenly using a Push-to-Pass on the opening lap of a race in Cape Town during Round 7, Kruger was the one with a slender advantage going into the final round.

The advantage however was only 4 points which made the calculations easy. Whoever beat the other one on the day would come out on top. The two title hopefuls proved once again that they were the ones to beat as their names topped the timesheets in every practice session leading up to Saturday morning’s qualifying.

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If anything, Liebenberg was slightly quicker than his rival. The youngster then managed to convert his pace into provisional pole position when he set the fastest time in the initial qualifying session. To add to the excitement of the Falken Polo Cup, the top six in qualifying each gets one flying lap to determine the final starting grid. This is when Liebenberg missed a gear and handed pole position back to his rival Kruger.

It was clear both title rivals were in a class of their own as they managed to open a slight gap at the front of the field. It didn’t take Liebenberg long to squeeze his way past Kruger and into the lead which he managed to hold onto until the checkered flag was waved. Add the points that come with setting the fastest lap of the race and we had a tie at the top of the championship points table with just one race to go.

Starting positions for the final race was determined by a numbers draw and this time luck was not on Kruger’s side. The defending champion drew number five while rival Liebenberg would start the final race from third on the grid. Kruger’s only chance was to make a move early on and it nearly paid off in the first corner, but when the dust had settled, it was Liebenberg who managed to take the race lead while Kruger fought his way up into third position behind the Polo of Arnold Neveling.

This is all that Liebenberg needed as he raced off to claim double victory on the day as well as the coveted Falken Polo Cup title.

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“It was a perfect day,” said Liebenberg after the finish of Race 2. “We had an epic battle with Jeffrey all season long and to come out on top with two race victories on the day is the best possible way to finish it.”

Kruger was graceful in defeat. “We had a fantastic battle throughout the season and it all came down to the wire and the last race. We tried our best but Bradley was just to quick on the day.”

Behind the title fight, Arnold Neveling enjoyed his best day yet in the Falken Polo Cup with a third place overall, ahead of Keegan Campos and Clinton Bezuidenhout. Capetonian Dario Busi was classified sixth on the day ahead of the Shorter brothers Matt and Chris. Volkswagen Motorsport’s Jonathan Mogotsi finished the last day of a trying season in 12th.

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“The Falken Polo Cup once again lived up to its reputation as the most exciting form of racing,” commented Mike Rowe, head of Volkswagen Motorsport. “It is extremely competitive with just tenths of seconds separating nearly 20 drivers. This makes it the championship that every driver wants to win most. Well done to Bradley for doing so and also to Jeffrey for taking the fight all the way to the end,” he concluded.