BMW ///M Performance Parts Race Series

BMW ///M Performance Parts Race Series battles steal the Zwartkops show

The BMW ///M Performance Parts Race Series delivered four spectacular races at Zwartkops Raceway this past weekend (27-28 January) to see Leon Loubser, Andreas Meier, Hein van der Merwe and Dave Rehse emerge as early points leaders after Round 1.

With 57 entrants, the grid was split into separate races for Classes A, B & C and Classes D & E. As is customary at the start of the season, a host of class changes occurred throughout the weekend. Another change for 2023 saw the reverse grid rule for Race 2 changed, with only the top five and not the entire class, having their Race 1 positions inverted.

Loubser set the fastest time in Friday afternoon’s qualifying sessions to take the Dunlop Pole Position for the first Class A, B & C race. He was joined on the front row of the grid by Carlo Garbini, one of two Class B drivers who broke out in the season. The second, Lorenzo Gualtieri, lined up next to him, ahead of debutant Leyton Fourie. Andreas Meier set the fastest Class B time, ahead of Lyle Ramsay, while Dewit Oosthuizen and Hein van der Merwe headed up the Class C field.

Loubser, at age 70, comfortably controlled the pace at the front of the field in the first race, setting the fastest lap of the weekend on his way to the race and Class A victory. Further back, Garbini was pursued to the flag by Gualtieri, with Fourie also in close contention. With only four drivers in the class, the latter’s jump start penalty did not cost him a position.

Things were more spread out in Class B, where Meier victoriously opened his account for the season. Further back, Ramsay and Makris consolidate their starting positions to complete the class podium. Arrie van der Berg, who moved back into Class B after changing to semi-slick tyres, made up a host of places to finish fourth, while debutant Mansoor Parker completed the top five.

Class C saw a good tussle for the lead in the early stages, with Van der Merwe taking the lead from Oosthuizen on Lap 1. The latter remained in close pursuit but was sidelined with front-end damage on Lap 3. This allowed Allan Hilligenn and Jan Eversteyn to gain positions while Van der Merwe went on to take the win. The split-grid format created a unique scenario where the driver who took fourth place was not in the race. Vigen Naidu, who broke out in the earlier Class D & E race, was classified in the position based on his race time, ahead of Troy Cochran.

In Race 2, Gualtieri took the lead, with Garbini and Loubser also wasting little to get past Fourie. A lap and a half later, Loubser settled into the lead, while Garbini pursued Gaultieri in a cat-and-mouse battle. However, the closing stages delivered a dramatic conclusion to this quartet’s battle. Gualtieri retired on Lap 8, while Garbini and Fourie made inroads into Loubser’s lead. On the final lap, Fourie passed Garbini and set out after Loubser, who was still lapping slower than before. The reason for this sudden lack of pace soon became apparent when Loubser parked his car on the inside of the circuit, but not before taking his second win for the day. Fourie finished as runner-up ahead of Garbini, with Gualtieri classified fourth.

Makris headed up a three-way battle for the Class B honours, with Ramsay and Meier in pursuit. Meier made two calculated passes to take the lead and build a slight advantage on his way to victory while the other two continued their tussle. This time it was Makris who beat Ramsay to the runner-up spot. Van der Berg held off Parker for fourth place, but Parker received a penalty for jumping the start, which promoted Oz Biagioni to fifth place.

Van der Merwe, who earned the ITOO Driver of the Day award, made it two-from-two in Class C. Oosthuizen crafted his way through the field to finish in second place, holding off Eversteyn. Cochran followed them over the line in fourth place. Further back, reigning champion Nicholas Fischer, who broke into Class C on Friday, held off Naidu to record his first finish of the year.

The Class D & E races saw Jaco Storm taking the ATS Motorsport Pole Position while Riaan Lubbe made a welcome return. Following a host of Class E breakouts, Rehse beat Dewald Smith to the front of the class by only 0.001 of a second.

Storm delivered a level-headed performance to start his season with a win-from-pole in Class D. Newcomer Gary Martins initially pursued him, but a puncture halted his efforts just after the midway mark. Shaun Dodd slotted into second place after making up no less than six positions in the opening laps. Nicholas Herbst also had to make up ground to complete the podium, holding off Lubbe and debutant Andre Diedericks.

Rehse won Class E, keeping two Class D competitors between himself and runner-up, Smith. Cobus Bohmer completed his maiden race on the podium, with Caren Nienaber in fourth place on her debut.

In Race 2, Diedericks almost completed his debut weekend with a win, but on the penultimate lap, when Lubbe passed him. Lubbe took the Class D win, albeit with a broken pressure plate. Herbst and Storm’s tussle for third place saw them both eliminated from the race on the final lap, allowing Dodd to make it two podiums for the day. Manny Ribeiro finished fourth, with Reinhard Miller in fifth place.

Class E provided a closer battle this time, with Rehse clipping Arri van Heerden to the line. Smith and Bohmer were in close pursuit. Nienaber, who retired, completed the minimum distance to be classified in fifth place.

The second round of the 2023 BMW ///M Performance Parts Race Series will form part of the Kyalami 9 Hour, at Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit, on February 23-25. A full-capacity 55-car entry list is already confirmed for the event.

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