A weekend (17-18 November) of twists, turns and drama at Zwartkops Raceway saw Leon Loubser take his maiden BMW ///M Performance Parts Race Series title at the season finale in the last race on the 2023 Extreme Festival roster.
On Friday afternoon, Loubser took the Dunlop Pole Position for Saturday’s first Class A, B & C race, with Bob Neill on the front row. Josh le Roux, who had dismal luck in his previous two outings, elected to move to Class A. An engine failure saw him miss the qualifying session, but the Fast Developments outfit replaced the power unit before Saturday. Andreas Meier, who had to withdraw from the event for medical reasons on Wednesday, was declared fit on Thursday, which resulted in his subsequent return. He took the Class B pole position ahead of points leader Nek Makris. Debutant Ryan Naiker did the same in Class C ahead of Bennie Luyt.
Neil Reynolds set the fastest time in the Class D & E session but broke out and elected to move to Class C. This saw George Economides take the ATS Pole Position, with points leader Reinhardt Miller joining him on the front row. Arri van Heerden also broke out of Class E but elected to take a Joker with his 30-second penalty applied to his Race 1 time. Mike Grobler joined him on the front row.
Saturday’s first Class A, B & C race delivered drama on Lap 3 when Hein van der Merwe retired after a failure that saw him drop oil on the fast part of the circuit between Turns 3 and 4. This also saw fellow Class C competitor Alan Hilligenn spin-off, but more drama was to follow moments later with the Class A field closing in. First, Loubser went off track and into the barrier at Turn 4, but the kitty litter broke his speed, with the damage not too significant. Neill was not so lucky, as he spun around and slammed into the barrier inside the corner at 220 km/h, which destroyed both his car and the barrier and resulted in an hour delay.
Loubser was able to make the grid, albeit with some damage. From the restart, Makris held off Renier Smith for the race and Class B win after Meier had to abort the start due to a turbo failure. Le Roux was in close pursuit and, after making his first start, recorded his first finish by taking the Class A win. Rob Gearing completed the Class B podium ahead of Mansoor Parker. While Nicholas van Zyl crossed the line fifth in Class B, the classification was based on aggregate results for the two portions of the race, which saw Jaco Storm ahead of him.
Loubser took second place in Class A after circulating with a damaged car. Anand Naidu celebrated his first Class C win, with Naicker and Luyt rounding out the podium. Fourth-placed Anwar Levy crossed the line ahead of Luyt with Neil Pillay in tow. At the end of the race, just over a second separated this five-car tussle, with Nicholas Fischer in sixth place.
Following the incident and delay, the event promoter moved the second race for this group to the end of the day’s programme.
The first Class D & E race also provided an excellent tussle up front. Economides took the Class D win, but as Invitational Driver, he didn’t take the associated 10 points, which went to second-placed Miller. Nicholas Herbst crossed the line in close pursuit with Lenard Archer in fourth place. Debutant Jacques Smith trailed the leaders over the line, while Claudio Jardim, who broke out of Class E on Friday, completed the top six.
Arri van Heerden was the first Class E driver to cross the line, but his 30-second penalty relegated him to fourth place, with Mike Grobler taking the win. Debutant Jacques Classens and Mariaan Emmenis completed the podium. Caren Nienaber finished fifth.
After a lengthy break, which included some rain, the second races concluded the day’s programme with Classes D & E first to take to the circuit. Miller needed just four points to secure the title, while Van Heerden had an outside chance should Miller fail to score. Archer held the lead throughout to win his maiden race, but the real drama happened behind him and second-placed Economides. At one point, Miller dropped to sixth place, which, with Economides removed from the calculation, was enough to take the title. However, he was insistent on not leaving anything to chance and clawed his way back to fourth in the running order while locked in a good battle with Nicholas Herbert. Craig Herbst and Cobus Bohmer completed the top six.
In his battle with Herbst, Miller broke out of Class D by a fraction and took a 30-second Joker penalty. This saw him finish the year as Class D Champion. Van Heerden won Class E ahead of Grobler, Emmenis, debutant Willie Kok, Classens and Nienaber. Van Heerden tied with Miller on 114 points while winning the Class E title, but with one less win to his name, he slotted in behind Miller in the pecking order.
The Class A, B & C group ended the season with one of the best races of 2023, but at that point, all eyes were focused on one competitor only: Loubser. With only two competitors starting the race in Class A, a second-place finish would’ve been enough to secure the title, as that would’ve seen him join Miller and Van Heerden on 114 points but with a superior win count. However, Loubser was unaware of this, as his race started before the news of Miller’s breakout hit the pit wall chatter. He simply delivered another dominant effort to win, while Le Roux pitted and rejoined with issues to finish second in Class A.
The win saw Loubser, aged 73 and another BMW Car Club Gauteng Northern Regions Time Trials graduate, take his maiden series title,
Renier Smith fended off the new Class B Champion Makris for the win, while Storm took the final podium spot following a battle with Van Zyl. Oz Biagioni and Parker completed the top six. Pillay took his first Class C win ahead of Levy. Naicker made it two podiums to end off a solid debut weekend. Troy Cochran finished fourth, ahead of Bernard de Gouveia and Varish Ganpath’s brilliant battle for fifth place. Nicholas Fischer crossed the line in seventh place. While his reign as Series and Class E Champion ended, he was crowned the new Class C Champion. He became the only 2022 title holder to feature on the 2023 Champions’ list.
Issued by Brandsponential on behalf of BMW Car Club Gauteng
Photography by: Jason Hanslo
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