- Close racing between evenly-matched Polos provides highlight of the weekend
- Devin Robertson claims Engen Volkswagen Cup title
- Lady driver Tasmin Pepper returns to winning ways
- Volkswagen's Kuda Vazhure records season-best 5th in Race 1
As has become the norm in 2017, the Engen Volkswagen Cup has once again provided the highlight at the Engen Extreme Festival, Round 7 of the 2017 championship. Thousands of fans at a full Killarney International Raceway in a very windy Cape Town were treated to top-class action throughout the weekend with the Polo Brigade putting up a great show.
After a few practice sessions on the Friday, it was the names of the usual suspects that topped the time sheets. This list included a few very fast drivers in the form of Juan Gerber, Jeffrey Kruger, Shaun La Réservée, Tasmin Pepper and championship points leader Devin Robertson, but for once, Robertson was not the one setting the pace. The name of Tasmin Pepper topped the time sheets in two of the day's three practice sessions as the lady driver made her intentions very clear. "It's been a while since I last recorded a victory," said Pepper on the Friday. "My pace seems to be good here in Cape Town, so I will no doubt be aiming for a win on race day."
All 20 drivers first had to settle a few scores during Saturday's qualifying session before the racing could start in earnest. After the first round of qualifying, Justin Oates joined Gerber, Kruger, La Réservée, Pepper and Robertson in the coveted top six, with Robertson turning the tables on Pepper by setting the fastest time. Part of the Engen Volkswagen Cup spectacle is the format of qualifying. After the initial 20-minute session, the top 6 go head-to-head in a superpole-style session which entails going as fast as possible for one lap only to determine the final grid for race one.
All eyes were on the battle between Pepper and Robertson, and the two did not disappoint. When the flag was waved it was Robertson who came out on top, but by a mere two thousandths of a second. "This is what makes the series so successful," commented Mr. Mike Rowe, head of Volkswagen Motorsport. "Two thousandths of a second over a lap translates into only a few centimetres. There was nothing in it."
The scene was set for a close race, and when the lights turned green all hell broke loose with twenty very fast Polos all barrelling down the main straight and into turn one. When they emerged from the first corner, it was neither the Polo of Robertson nor the one driven by Pepper that led the way, but the one with Jeffrey Kruger behind the wheel. Robertson's car developed a technical issue which forced him down the order, leaving the way clear for Kruger, Pepper and La Réservée to fight for glory. Kruger fought off the attack from Pepper until close to the end when the lady driver managed to squeeze her way past, but the incident allowed La Réservée to leapfrog them both. What followed over the last few laps was an epic battle between the two teammates with Pepper taking the victory by the narrowest of margins. Behind them, Kruger recovered to claim third, ahead of young Clinton Bezuidenhout and a season-best performance from Volkswagen Motorsport's Kuda Vazhure who drove a perfect race to finish in fifth.
The scene was set for an exciting second race. Robertson's technicians managed to fix the problem in his Polo between the two races, and this time, the championship leader returned to his winning ways by claiming yet another victory. Kruger got his revenge over Pepper by crossing the line in second, just ahead of Pepper with La Réservée and Gerber rounding out the top 5. Vazhure failed to repeat his race one performance with Jonathan Mogotsi recovering well to fly the Volkswagen Motorsport flag in race two.
But when the times were added up to determine the overall winners, it was Tasmin Pepper who took the overall victory on the day ahead of teammate La Réservée and Jeffrey Kruger. Tasmin Pepper may have won the battle on the day, but Devin Robertson won the overall war as the points that came with his victory in race two was enough to crown him as the 2017 Engen Volkswagen Cup champion.
"We are very pleased with the outcome of this weekend's racing," continued Rowe. "The series continues to provide huge excitement and produce the champions of the future. And speaking of a champion. We at Volkswagen would like to congratulate Devin Robertson on winning the coveted title. His performance this season in a field filled with such class was remarkable. He will be a worthy champion and we're happy that he achieved it from behind the wheel of a Volkswagen," he concluded.