This past weekend’s (20-21 October) penultimate round of the 2023 BMW ///M Performance Parts Race Series had no shortage of on-track action at Red Star Raceway despite the weekend being overshadowed by the passing of series-regular Vigen Naidu.
A Sad Start to the Weekend
Friday afternoon’s proceedings were brought to a sudden and unfortunate halt when Naidu, aged 47 and entered to compete in Class C, suffered a heart attack in the paddock shortly after completing the second official practice session. This resulted in him being transported to the hospital. However, it was already too late to resuscitate him.
“This is a sad occasion for us all” said Bernard de Gouveia, Chairman of the BMW ///M Performance Parts Race Series. “Vigen, who joined our series two years ago after competing in our Time Trials Championship for two years, will always be remembered for his passionate approach and helpful attitude. Our series is known for a high spirit of camaraderie, and Vigen was always one of the best ambassadors of this, on top of being a very good friend to us all. His family and loved ones are in the thoughts and prayers of all our drivers, the Management Committee and support staff.”
Subsequently, the BMW ///M Performance Parts Race Series dedicated Saturday’s race day to Naidu’s legacy, a decision supported in various capacities by all the Extreme Festival categories on the roster.
Classes A, B & C
Saturday morning saw the commencement of the weekend’s business end with the qualifying sessions. First up were Classes A, B & C, where Leon Loubser took the Dunlop Pole Position to head up his Class A rivals, Bob Neill and William Einkamerer. Andreas Meier, who recently fitted a turbocharger to his BMW E36 Super Touring Car, headed up Class B ahead of Renier Smith and Lyle Ramsay. Anwar Levy set the fastest Class C time, with defending Champion Nicholas Fischer and Gary Martins in tow.
While Loubser took a comfortable lead off the line, Neill hardly got going before he was forced into retirement. Class B’s Jaco Storm only completed one lap before retiring as well. Meier had a good tussle with Ramsay in the early stages but also parked his car on Lap 4 due to an electrical issue. Martins took an early lead in Class C, but Lap 4 also saw him sidelined. Meanwhile, Einkamerer lost positions, while Ramsay lost the Class B lead to Smith.
However, the sixth of eight laps saw all sorts of carnage when Nek Makris could not apply the brakes in his BMW E46 335i Turbo due to a brake fluid leak into the cockpit, which resulted in him making contact with Ramsay, with the latter left pointing in the wrong direction on the inside of the corner. Ramsay started to drift backwards and into the path of Einkamerer, who unsuccessfully attempted to take a tighter line to avoid him. Meanwhile, Makris deposited oil onto the circuit due to an oil cooler failure, with various competitors spinning off track due to the lack of grip.
Soon afterwards, and with Loubser on his penultimate lap, the race was red-flagged. However, the countback to the last lap completed by all competitors meant that it would need to restart to meet the minimum required distance of 67% to constitute a result. After an initial clean-up attempt, the drivers started a warm-up lap, which was aborted, with the circuit section requiring extensive clean-up.
Nearly an hour later, the field set off again, but they only managed to complete a solitary lap before Bennie Luyt’s Class C BMW M3 E46 caught fire, resulting in his retirement and swift exit out of the car. This resulted in the race being red-flagged for a second and final time on Lap 7.
The Race 1 classification, based on aggregate times for the two portions, saw Loubser take the Class A win from Einkamerer. Smith won the Class B from Mansoor Parker, Anton Pommersheim, Oz Biagioni and Fabio Fedetto. Levy took the Class C honours, with Fischer as runner-up. Luyt, having completed six laps, took the final podium spot, with Hein van der Merwe and Troy Cochran completing the top five.
Race 2 delivered less drama but without compromising on action. Loubser, the sole Class A competitor left, had an easy win at the front of the pack while the rest of the field battled it out for their points from the reverse-grid rolling start.
Pommersheim held the early lead in Class B before Smith took the position en route to his second win of the day. Meier made up ground to settle into third place and record his first finish in four starts while holding off Parker., with Biagioni crossing the line in fifth place. However, Pommersheim was found to have jumped the start, resulting in 30 seconds added to his time, which promoted Meier, Parker and Biagioni.
Early Class C leader Van der Merwe retired on Lap 6. Before this, Levy had already taken the position and took the win, with Fischer and Varish Ganpath in close pursuit. De Gouveia finished fourth, while Shane Grobler completed the top five.
Overall, Loubser’s two wins gave him the Class A win, with 16 points due to the number of competitors who entered in the class. Einkamerer finished the day as runner-up with six points. Smith’s full house of 20 points saw him victorious in Class B, six ahead of Parker. Oz Biagioni took third place, tied on 10 points with Pommersheim, but with a better accumulated time. Levy’s full house gave him the Class C win, with Fischer second, trailing by four. De Gouvaia and Van der Merwe tied on eight points. However, De Gouveia took third on account of completing the full race distance of 14 laps, as opposed to Van der Merwe’s 11.
Levy delivered a level-headed, victorious performance on his first visit to Red Star Raceway and took the ITOO Driver of the Day award.
Classes D & E
Reinhardt Miller topped the morning’s qualifying session to take another ATS Motorsport Pole Position, with Theuns Nel joining him on the Class D front row. Neil Reynolds was third-fastest. Dewald Smith headed up the Class E grid from Claudio Jardim and Arri van Heerden.
Miller set the pace in Race 1 to take a lights-to-flag win from Nel and Reynolds. Nicholas Herbst beat Cobus Bohmer in a good tussle for fourth place.
Smith took the Class E lead off the line and held the position until a spin saw him losing ground. This gave the place to Jardim, who won his third successive race. Van Heerden finished as runner-up, while Mike Grobler completed the podium. Smith crossed the line in fourth place. Debutant lady races Mariaan Emmenis completed the top five and held onto the position despite a post-race 30-second jump-start penalty.
Race 2 saw Nel and Miller jostle for the lead, with Miller clinching his sixth win of the year, with a 100% win ratio from this year’s four Red Star Raceway starts. Nel crossed the line in close pursuit but was found to have jumped the start, resulting in 30 seconds added to his time and an seventh-place finish. This promoted Herbst and Bohmer to the final two podium positions. Manny Ribeiro was fourth, while Lenard Archer, who replaced the gearbox on his BMW E46 330i into the late hours of Friday night, completed the top five.
Van Heerden took a relatively easy win in Class E, his fifth of the year. This came after Smith again spun from the lead before finishing third. Second-placed Jardim separated them. Emmenis beat Caren Nienaber in the batle of the ladies.
Miller took the Class D honours for Round 7 with 20 points, now seeing him take the net lead of the overall championship. Herbst, with 13 points, finished second, while Bohmer’s better accumulated time saw him break the 10-point tie with Nel. Van Heerden and Jardim tied at the top of Class E with 18 points, but Van Heerden recorded the better accumulated time. Third place went to Smith, seven points adrift.
The 2023 BMW ///M Performance Parts Race Series season finale will take place at Zwartkops Raceway on 17-18 November. This will be the third visit to the circuit for the series in the eight-round season.
Issued by Brandsponential on behalf of BMW Car Club Gauteng
Photography by: Willie Pretorius and Marius Gerber
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