Despite qualifying sessions being delayed by mist, numerous safety car deployments and a couple of red flags, the large crowd that made their way to Zwartkops Raceway today were treated to a brilliant spectacle at the opening round of the 2016 Extreme Festival.

Rui Campos leads Dawie Olivier

Image by Paul Bedford – Action Images

Top billing on the day went to the G&H Transport Extreme Supercars. Rui Campos signaled his intentions early on when he set the fastest time in qualifying to claim pole position in his Sandton Auto BMW 335i. Anton Cronje was not far behind him in the fast but fragile AF Hydraulics Subaru WRX but he could not take his place on the grid as his car cried enough shortly after setting his fastest lap. Greg Parton (Drizit Environmental KTM X-Bow) was next up ahead of Willem van der Westhuizen (Stradale Ferrari F430) and Christo Lotter (Exceed Gear Manufacturing Lamborghini).

Dawie Olivier (G&H Transport BMW) was quickest of the class B contingent with Andre van der Merwe (Evapco South Africa Ferrari F360) leading class C. Zimbabwean Darren Winterboer claimed the class D pole in his Barons Motor Spares BMW 335i.

It didn’t take long before the safety car made its appearance in the first race. Lotter’s Lamborghini was helped into the kitty litter on the outside of turn four by one of the Ferraris. Once the marshals had removed the stranded Lambo Campos continued his march to the chequered flag. He was followed home by Olivier and van der Westhuizen.

Campos also took the win in a shortened second race – it was stopped after six laps when Thouca Mechanicos slammed his ETL Mercedes C55 into the pit wall. This time Campos was followed home by Jonathan du Toit (Trans Africa Racing Ferrari 430) with Olivier on the final podium step.

There were also a couple of national championship categories on the bill. First of these was the Engen Volkswagen Cup, where the new cars were competing in anger for the first time.

Brad Liebenberg leads in opening stages of the first Engen Volkwagen Cup race

Image by Paul Bedford – Action Images

Keagan Masters (Champion) claimed first blood with the new car when he took pole with just the narrowest of margins over Chris Shorter (Payen / Hollard / Turn 1) and Brad Liebenberg (Ferodo). The qualifying times were so close that the first five competitors were separated by a half second and the top 12 by a second.

The first race victory for 2016 was claimed by Chris Shorter with Masters and Juan Gerber (Glasfit / Ctrack / XCT) filling out the rest of the podium. Gerber was the first of the Masters competitors to appear on the podium for the season – but not the last for the day.

Lap one of that first race saw an incident between Brad Beningfield (Nashua), Justin Oates (Glasfit / Ctrack / XCT) and Kuda Vazhure (VW Motorsport). Beningfield carried a bit too much speed into the final corner of that first lap, causing a tangle between the three.

Race two saw the chequered flag taken by Trevor Bland (Universal Health Care / Phoenix) with Masters in second and Shorter in third spot. Bland’s victory saw him the second Master on the podium, but there was no keeping Masters or Shorter off the podium at that first race day.

The pole sitter for the second race, Clinton Bezuidenhout (Universal Healthcare / Phoenix Signs), didn’t finish that race when a water pipe came off his engine after some robust racing between himself and Jurie Swart (Ferodo).

Third and final race results for the day put Masters back at the top of the podium, with Liebenberg between him and third-placed Shorter. Those race results were enough to put Masters in first place overall with Shorter second and Gerber in third spot. Gerber’s overall win in the masters class for the day sees him move into the lead in that championship after round one – a performance that had started right at the beginning of the day.

Battles raged throughout the field during the third race – including a father/son battle between Gary van Heerden (Nutritech / Motul) and Ethan van Heerden (Nutritech / Motul) with Gary winning, despite his son claiming that he kept getting in the way and slowing him down.

Dean Venter

Image by Paul Bedford – Action Images

The second national category to take to the circuit was the Investchem Formula Fords. An indication of what was to come was provided in qualifying where the top four drivers were separated by less than half a second. Julian van der Watt (Investchem Mygale) led the way from Bevan Williams (MAD Racing Mygale), Dewald Brummer (MAD Racing / Fuchs Oils / Anglo Trucks Mygale) and Werner Scholtz (Investchem Mygale).

In the opening race it was van der Watt and Williams who had the crowd on the edges of their seats as they fought for position in almost every corner. Unfortunately it didn’t last – Williams ran out of brakes on the final lap and clashed with van der Watt, putting both of them out of the race. This left Scholtz to take a very unexpected victory from Dean Venter (MAD Racing / Fuchs Oils / Anglo Trucks Mygale) and Brummer. Alex Gillespie (Mboyti River Lodge Mygale), Allen Meyer who was piloting the only Van Diemen in the field, and Rick Morris (Investchem Mygale) rounded out the top six.

Van der Watt wasted no time in the second race, opening up a gap early on and then managing things from the front. He was followed to the chequered flag by Williams with Venter claiming the final podium spot. Gillespie was again fourth, this time ahead of Morris and Andrew Horne (Investchem / Xena Chemicals Mygale).

George Smalberger

Image by Paul Bedford – Action Images

George Bezuidenhout (Accolade Nissan Primera) won the opening race for 111 Speed & Sound Sports and Saloon Cars, leading home George Smalberger (Shield Golf GTI) and Chad Wentzel (Alfa Romeo GT). Wentzel won the next heat, ahead of Bezuidenhout and Ryan Quan-Chai (RDG BMW M4 Coupe).

In both races class B went the way of Bruce Turner in the Kalex BMW. Gawie Marais (Sign Wonder / Titan Products VW Golf and Robyn Kruger (Steamsure Combustion VW Polo) shared the class C wins. Mark Harvey (Adapt / Crystal Creek Porsche 924) and Wayne Wall (RAT Porsche 924) were double winners in classes D and E respectively.

Graeme van Breda

Image by Paul Bedford – Action Images

Graeme van Breda (IVID) won both Red Square Kawasaki ZX10R Masters Cup races. In the opening event he was chased home by Johan le Roux and Sven Grune (Page Property Developers). In the second race he was able to open up a substantial gap and took the flag over five seconds ahead of Grune. Kyle Robinson (Fantech) took third.

Sheridan Morais

Image by Paul Bedford – Action Images

In the opening Dunlop Thunderbike race it looked like Sheridan Morais (Yamaha R1) was going to run away with things at the head of the field but electrical problems slowed him and Greg Gildenhuys (Kawasaki ZX10R) took the win from Anthony Shelley (Supreme Licensing / ARS / Shop 74 Yamaha R1) and Steven Odendaal (Petra Racing Yamaha R6). Steven Steenkamp (PTA Noord Toyota Honda Fireblade) claimed class A while class B, and the Masters category, went the way of Gavin Ramsay (Suzuki GSXR). Justin Gillesen (BMW S1000RR) emerged victorious in class C.

In race 2 Shelley and Garrick Vlok (Diamond Core Drilling BMW S1000RR) fought it out at the head of the field, Shelley just managing to be in front when it counted. Gildenhuys was a couple of tenths further back in third. Steenkamp again took class A with Gavin Upton (RSA Racing / Turn Skill Kawasaki ZX10R) victorious in class B. Lady racer Janine Mitchell (Monroe Racing Kawasaki ZX6) claimed the class C win.

As was the case at the opening round at Red Star a month ago both of the Kawasaki ZX6 cup went the way of Aidan Liebenberg (Fercor Construction Kawasaki ZX6) with Cydney Farinha (Dent Doctor Witbank Kawasaki ZX6) chasing him home on each occasion. Matthew Herbert on the Vyfster Carriers supported bike was third in both heats.

Lance Marais leads Sarel Marais

Image by Paul Bedford – Action Images

The first race for Silverton Bolt & Nut Motorcycles went to Robert Morf (Morphine Kawasaki ZX6). He was followed by Sarel Marais (Bike Addict Honda CBR) and Lance Marais (Mobile Max Kawasaki). Lance Marais took the second victory, ahead of Sarel Marais and lady racer Landi Sinden (Yamaha R6).

The Extreme Festival moves to Cape Town for the next round where the racers will be in action on Saturday, 16 April at Killarney Race Track.