Review: Engen Polo Cup, Rd 1, Kyalami – 24th March
After winning five Polo Cup championships in the past six years, including the last three in a row, Signature Motorsport has gone back to its roots for their 2018 campaign, fielding a team of three very young drivers in an attempt to discover the next big name in South African motorsport.
Featuring all-new turbo-charged 2 litre motors in the Polo GTi campaigned this year, the off-season changes and workload in the workshop has been substantial.
Joining Clinton Bezuidenhout after a successful campaign in his Glyco Polo last year is Darren Oates carrying Payen colours and 15-year-old Altan Bouw in the Champion and Ferodo machine.
For Bezuidenhout, the first round of the Polo Cup was his first ever drive in a turbo-charged car and he had a steep learning curve to get up to speed, qualifying 12th, 0.186 seconds ahead of his new teammate Oates, who struggled to find a comfortable set-up for the dry conditions. Altan, who has a background in karting and Inxs Legends racing, qualified 21st on his debut at Kyalami, having never driven the track before.
Clinton had limited seat time during practice after a gearbox broke, but soon got to grips with his new car and stayed out of trouble in the tightly contested midfield pack to end in tenth place. In race two, Clinton, from ninth on the grid, scorched past three of his rivals to end a commendable sixth
21 year old Tuks Mechanical Engineering student Darren went into turn one and thought better of trying to out brake Clinton and lost momentum as a result, losing a couple of places before clawing them back to finish behind Clinton. Darren had a ‘family drama’ off the race two grid: his brother Justin, directly ahead, jumped the start then braked, which forced Darren to back off; he was swallowed by the pack but fought back and was involved in a titanic battle with Daniel Duminy. Try as he might, he could not find a way past and crossed the finish line in tenth place.
Young Altan was tapped into a spin through Sunset corner in the first race but recovered to end his maiden Polo Cup race in 17th position. From 22nd on the grid, Altan enjoyed a clean race and made his way past a third of the field to end in an encouraging 14th position.
From the cockpit:
Clinton Bezuidenhout (#38 – Glyco): “The new Polo GTi is not an easy car to drive. I have to re-learn how to carry speed into and through the corners, while the new car is 100kg heavier than the old one. It’s the first time I have driven a turbo-charged car so I have some learning to do. A bit more seat time will allow me to find a comfortable set-up and I expect Cape Town will be another story”.
Darren Oates (#13 Payen): “I knew the new Polo GTi would not be that easy to drive but it was trickier than I expected. I’m enjoying the extra power but I can also feel the extra weight of the new cars. I thought better of trying to pass Clinton into turn one and I lost a couple of places when I backed out of the move. In the second race, I have to brake on the grid to avoid colliding with my brother who started to move before the green light and braked to avoid a penalty. That would have been embarrassing. I enjoyed my battle with Duminy – no quarter was asked or given”.
Altan Bouw (#11 Ferodo): “This was my first time at Kyalami so I had a lot to learn. I thought we were only allowed to do two flying laps so I pitted after I did mine. It was a miscommunication on my part with the team. I made up places in both races so I’m generally happy with my performance.”