The opening round of this year‚Äôs WesBank Super Series at Zwartkops Raceway on Saturday (March 3) will carry all the expectation and uncertainty normally associated with the first event of the year.‚Ä®‚Ä®A long off-season break also fires up enthusiasm for a pipe opener with competitors and enthusiasts itching to get back into action. The silly season and musical chairs associated with the off-season lull helps fuel expectations, and drivers and riders who harbour title aspirations will be looking to be quick out the starting blocks.
Gate entry at Zwartkops will be R80 per adult and R60 per student with children under 12 free.
Bridgestone Production Cars The Bridgestone Production Car championship will have a familiar feel about it at Zwartkops ‚Äď but after that will undergo some radical change with new interesting faces and new machinery.
The Xtreme Team run by Terry Moss Racing remains the same with reigning champion Michael Stephen and Tschops Sipuka again out in a pair of Audi S4 entries. The team has a solid and settled look about it, but there is plenty of opposition from other Audi squads with former champion Johan Fourie (IndyOil Audi S4) always a threat along with Melvill Priest who switches camps to link up with Vic Maharaj in another Audi S4.
With Priest on the move the Afrox BMW team have lured Etienne van der Linde out of what one always regarded as a tenuous retirement. Former champion Anthony Taylor and van der Linde will be out in last year‚Äôs cars at Zwartkops, but BMW plans are understood to involve new models ready for round two at Killarney and an expanded team with the Beemer brigade growing to six cars during the course of the season.
Multiple South African champion Hennie Groenewald and Richard Pinard will again be out in a pair of Subaru WRX entries with backing from Sasol. Groenewald is another of those drivers who can never be left out of calculations, and Pinard showed flashes of form last season that suggest he can spring a surprise or two.‚Ä®‚Ä®Class T will also have a familiar feel about it at Zwartkops with reigning champion Gary Formato and Shaun Duminy out in the BP/Castrol Ford Focus entries. Old foe Graeme Nathan (Kaye Eddie/Indy Oil VW Golf6), youngster Gennaro Bonafede (Ferodo VW Golf6) and Michael van Rooyen in the Williams Hunt Opel OPC will provide the opposition.
Class T, however, is also due for a shake-up as the season progresses with new machinery and new drivers set to see the winds of change sweep through the championship.
V8 Supercars The V8 Supercar ‚Äúbig bangers‚ÄĚ will also have a familiar look about them with the Auby family taking on all-comers with Jimmy Auby succeeding younger brother Brandon as champion in the Super GT category.‚Ä®‚Ä®Veterans Ben Morgenrood (BM Auto/Indy/Oil Ford Falcon) and Franco di Matteo, in the Varta Batteries Jaguar, were in championship contention over most of the latter part of the season, and one would expect to see them once again providing stern opposition. The Correia brothers, Danie and Jaco, in the Omega Corvettes, could also ruffle a few feathers.‚Ä®‚Ä®Reigning GT Class champion Larry Wilford (Fuchs Ford Falcon) had an up and down season, and when he was good he was great and when he was bad the results spoke for themselves. Fortunately for Wilford‚Äôs championship effort consistency was a commodity that also eluded challengers.
Engen VW Cup The Engen VW Cup championship again has the makings of a highly competitive and interesting series.‚Ä®‚Ä®There is a blend of established stars and up and coming young guns that is certain to lead to plenty of action. Reigning champion Devin Robertson dominated last season‚Äôs title race but might find the going a little tougher this time around.‚Ä®‚Ä®Former champion Mathew Hodges is back in harness but it is a crop of hungry young guns who will command most of the attention. Kosie Weyers, joined in the Xtreme Team by Terry Moss Racing development driver Mandla Mdakane, will be a championship contender along with Kelvin van der Linde, in the Ferodo VW Polo, and other youngsters like Jordan Pepper, Dewald Brummer and Chad van Beurden will be watched with interest.
The progress of talented Andre Batea will also come in for special attention in a category that could turn into a star performer in the WesBank Super Series line-up.
Formula VW/Formula Midas 1600 With a couple of promising exceptions the Formula VW and Formula Midas 1600 menus will be pretty much the same as last season.‚Ä®‚Ä®On the Formula VW front reigning champion Jayde Kruger, Robert Wolk, former champion Simon Moss and Tasmin Pepper form the backbone of a series that last season saw Kruger take control of matters late in the year. Early indications are that Rotax Max kart champions Cristiano Morgado and Caleb Williams will return to the fray and that will pep up proceedings no end.
Formula Midas 1600 champion Mathew Merton is believed to be taking a sabbatical with Nicholas van Weely heading for the Formula VW ranks. That shifts the attention to the likes of Jason and Keegan Campos, in the Etana Mygales, James Temple in the GWM Mygale, Werner Scholtz (Investchem Mygale) and Richard Bonneschen in the Angorand Van Diemen.
There is again a little added incentive for the Midas champion at the end of the season. This comes by way of a fully sponsored drive in the Formula Ford festival at Brands Hatch, or a Formula VW package for the 2013 season.