BOX 5, Westhoven, 2142
The fearsome East London Grand Prix Circuit, in the Eastern Cape, played host to Toyota’s GR Cup on the weekend of 5 and 6 August, 2022, with Thomas Falkiner reaping maximum points in the hotly-contested formula. At the same time, Ashley Oldfield managed to limit the damage to his sizeable championship lead, despite apparent lack of pace in both races.
It looked like ‘business as usual’ for the experienced Oldfield, who managed to take pole position by 0.8sec on Saturday morning. The GR Cup leader seemed in full control, and ready to add two more wins to his growing list. Things didn’t work out that way, however, as Oldfield’s car was seemingly down a few kilowatt.
“Everything felt fine during quali,” said Oldfield after the weekend. “But the moment we started Race 1, I could feel there was something wrong. As a result, I tried to make up time in the braking areas, holding on to track position as best I could. In the end, I finished 4th in Race 1 and 3rd in Race 2 – not the results I wanted, but in the circumstances, I’m happy to bag those points.”
Qualifying saw a surprise result in the form of stand-in driver, Riaan Esterhuysen. The Toyota Motors SA Product Communication Manager was drafted in at the last moment, to stand in for Wiele2Wiele’s Jeanette Kok-Kritzinger, who was unable to compete due to illness. Esterhuysen is clearly no slouch, posting the second-fastest time in qualifying. Falkiner was in third, just 0.07sec behind Esterhuysen. Sean Nurse, Mark Jones and Lerato Matebese completed the grid.
With Oldfield out of the running for victory due to the problems he experienced, Falkiner powered on to win both races. But it wasn’t plain sailing – he still had to pass Esterhuysen who took the early lead when the flag dropped, but managed to do so early in the opening lap, and maintained his first position until the chequered flag, six laps later. Behind him, Nurse had managed to squeeze past Esterhuysen for second place, with the PR man in third. Oldfield had to settle for fourth place, with Jones and Matebese finishing in fifth and sixth respectively.
Race 2 got under way significantly later than planned, with the GR Cup taking to the track after official sunset. This made conditions challenging, and the organisers decided to shorten the race to just four laps. Falkiner started on pole, but struggled to spot his brake-markers in the gloom, letting Nurse past early in the opening lap. But the Sunday Times scribe fought back and re-took the lead, managing to hold off all challenges to take his second win of the day. Nurse finished in second, with Oldfield completing the podium.
The GR Cup is a one-make formula contested by six South African motoring writers in stock Toyota GR Yaris road cars. The cars are fitted with roll cages and other safety equipment, but are otherwise in showroom trim. The series follows the Global Touring Car (GTC) calendar, with the next race scheduled for 17 September at the Killarney International Raceway in Cape Town, Western Cape.
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