Riding high after achieving his goal of becoming national champion last year, Oslo Beach-based Gutzeit was intent of making a statement in the 2017 series opener and looked in good nick with a second in qualifying. The event, however, would go on to be turned on its head.
Friday marked the beginning in which a full day of practice ensued; all have been waiting for the first round for a few months now, and the series has not been back to MonsterMob since 2015.
This event – endorsed by Northern Cape Tourism – would be a combination of the Western Cape Regional second event as well as the first event of the national series, meaning that the drivers would be gaining double points from that region, as this would add to their first-round scores in the Regional, and then placing them into the first round of the Nationals.
Needless to say the pit area was pretty much filled with the drivers from Cape Town, with a handful of the Regional drivers making it to the first round. Sadly, a few drivers could not make it due to some unfortunate circumstances, and this would have resulted in one of the largest group of cars to hit the track.
One of the drivers who were not able to race was former National Champion, Jason Webb, as all hoped to see his 2017 drift machine, namely his Roush Ford Mustang 5.0. fully custom built by himself and Matt from CVP and Smoke’m Garage.
Other drivers who did not make the first event were Mikey Skelton, Mathys Naude, Margate trio Gavin, Brendan and Trevor Puren, Vic Pardal, Fayaaz Alibhai, Azgaar Raiden, Zein Raidan and Oslo Beach veteran Des Gutzeit.
With Friday’s practice out the way, the drivers found the track surface to be seriously abrasive as they went through tyres like a kid in a candy store, only managing to get in about two to three runs, not a cheap exercise at all.
The track layout had drivers pushing an entry speed of 120km/h, kicking the clutch and power sliding into a long left-hand corner; one of the longest on the Series in 2017. The rest of the track was a little slower but the layout in turn made for massive smoke areas, especially on the last corner which would summate in good style points from the judges.
Day two started out with a long morning of practice before heading into qualifying at about 2:30pm. One by one they pitted their drift machines against the harsh surface to pull out their best runs and try getting those maximum qualifying points.
With 28 drivers heading into qualifying only 16 drivers managed to get high enough points for the top 16, leaving a small field to run a Silver Cup Challenge. This would see Sean February go up against Clare Vale in the Silver Cup final. In the second run, Vale’s steering rack broke, which led to her losing the front end and sliding into the dirt, handing the win to February.
Top 16 time, and this is where things started going sideways and not just in the drift sense, but for the drivers’ abilities. Now as most know, when a track surface gets cold it normally gets super slippery, however, this is not the case at Monstermob’s track. When it gets cold, the surface gets a lot more grip, which is not ideal for drifting and drivers soon found out as they headed out against each other.
When Chris Long and Juan Stemmet went out to battle, Stemmet found himself in all kinds of trouble at the initiation and found way too much grip and swung him into the tyre wall at about 110km/h, writing his Nissan 200sx off.
This was just the first victim as Chris Landsberg found himself in the same situation as he went up against JP van der Spuy, luckily not such a bad accident and his car was saved.
This however would see the Top Eight drivers call a drivers meeting to make a decision on whether or not to carry on the event or come to a consensus to call the event. This would mean that all eight driver would finish the round with an equal eighth position and score eighth-position points going into round two, along with their qualifying points.
Not all where too happy with the decision but as safety is the number one priority, the call was made and the event ended early.
As a result, Gutzeit, Chris Long, Paolo Gouevia, Shane Green, Otto Graven, Van der Spuy, Daniel Blaser and Jim McFarlane will all head into the second round with an eighth place along with their qualifying points.
The second of the six-round national series will take place at Dezzi South Coast Raceway on 26-27 May.