Quintin van Jaarsveld
A new king ascended to the throne in the biggest and best Dezzi Invitational Challenge to date at Dezzi South Coast Raceway on Sunday.
An enlarged star-studded field of 46 drivers included the legendary Peter Lindenberg, Jaki Scheckter, Leon Loubscher, Willie de Beer and Wilhelm Baard and produced a thrill fest unlike any the Oslo Beach track had seen before.
Crisp conditions and cold tar meant times were slower than last year, but that did nothing to detract from the spectacle of witnessing South Africa’s fastest cars blaze around the home of KwaZulu-Natal motorsport.
Ferrari, Porsche, McLaren, Lamborghini, Mercedes, BWM, Nissan Skyline GT-R, Subaru and Shelby Mustang machines were among the beastly cars vying for a place in Sunday’s top 10 shootout.
Compelling sub plots developed throughout qualifying on Saturday and Sunday morning with new contenders rising and favourites fading.
One such sub plot was how dark horse Blake Gutzeit, son of track owner Des, would fare. One of the best enduro motorcycle riders in South Africa, the 21-year-old (pictured below) made his four-wheel racing debut in his brother’s GT-R R32.
Despite having minimal track time behind the wheel, he fought his way onto the bubble in 11th place. He watched on anxiously from the reserve spot to see whether a place in the top 10 would open up, but it was not to be.
Having entered without any real expectations, young Gutzeit said he was satisfied with his showing.
“To race against South Africa’s top drivers is quite special. I didn’t expect to make 11th, so I’m pretty happy with that,” he told eHowzit.
“It’s a lot different to what I’m used to. The car handled really well…it was so fast that I was shaking every time I got out of it. I loved it; the atmosphere built and the tension built towards Sunday, you could feel it in the air. I’d definitely do it again if it doesn’t conflict with my racing schedule.”
Another local, Galloway’s father John’s race ended before it began as a damaged radiator saw him blow the motor of his GT-R after two practice runs on Friday.
Event co-sponsors BB GT-R’s Baard, meanwhile, fired an ominous warning to the rest of the top guns with an unrivalled qualifying run of 1:17.384 in his GT-R R35 on Saturday. He, however, ended up not making it to the shootout thanks to a broken rear differential.
Dawie Joubert was the other standout qualifier, screaming around the track in the only other sub-18 run (1:17.748) in his Lotus Exige.
Two-time defending champion Mike McLoughlin had a proverbial target on his Backdraft Cobra and made a good fist of it in the face of adversity.
McLoughlin booked his spot in the top 10, however, his hopes of completing a hat-trick of wins were curtailed by mechanical problems.
After much drama and excitement, it was finally time for the shootout on Sunday afternoon with the intensity levels reaching its peak. One by one, the top 10 blasted off the line in pursuit of glory. In the end, the stars aligned for De Beer, whose time of 1:18.219 saw him dethrone McLoughlin as King of the Dezzi Invitational Challenge.
“I’m over the moon. Our competition was very tough and the racing was great…I loved the comradeship between the drivers,” he told eHowzit.
De Beer’s win was a fairytale story of sorts – a triumph of old school class over new school muscle, as he claimed the crown in a 1995 Porsche 993 GT2 Evo.
“You rock up with a 750hp car and you’re competition are running 1200hp plus, so we only hoped for the top 10, not a first,” he laughed.
Making the victory even more remarkable, the two-decade old machine had been standing for the last four years and endured mechanical issues right up to the decisive run.
“We broke a rocker in the engine with a lost nut somewhere in the engine and the clutch was slipping after selecting first gear not third on Saturday. We only had one chance, so we didn’t do a run until the very end.”
De Beer added it was a weekend to savour. “It was an awesome event. Thanks for our followers and the crowds – they were great. Thanks to Des, Shane, all the marshalls and anyone we might’ve missed. We’ll be back to defend our title in a Porsche next year.”
Joubert was unable to replicate his blistering qualifying run, finishing second, while Loubscher (BMW 335 Race Car) completed the podium.
Galloway finished just off the podium in his return to his South Coast roots in fourth, Steve Clark (Mitsubishi Evo 7) finished fifth and Stuart Kidgell (Ultima GTR) secured sixth place.
McLoughlin had to settle for seventh, while Willie Hepburn (Opel Rekord), Peter Zeelie (Lotus Exige) and Sun Moodley (Porsche 911 Cup Car) rounded off the top 10.
Des said there was no doubt the 2016 edition of the event, which also featured demos by the Legends, was the best yet.
“What a marvellous weekend. There were a lot of spectators, the cars were tremendous, the drivers were fast and it was a nail-biting top 10. It was fantastic to have some big names involved and also to have a few local drivers in action again,” he told eHowzit.
With the Dezzi Invitational Challenge continuing to grow from strength to strength, Gutzeit added petrolheads can expect exciting additions to the raceway’s marquee event in 2017.
“We had eight more drivers than last year and overall this year’s event was a big step forward. Next year, we want to go up to 60 drivers, do a motorcycle time attack and bring go karts into the mix.”
Racing photos by Andre du Toit/Envisions Photography