Round three of the Engen Polo Cup held at Zwartkops Raceway on Saturday was a day of mixed fortunes for the three-car Signature Motorsport Team. On one hand, Darren Oates raced his Payen Polo GTi to a maiden podium for the team in the first race while on the other end of the spectrum Clinton Bezuidenhout (Glyco Polo GTi) was involved in a nasty accident that saw his car written off. The youngest member of the team, Altan Bouw (Champion/Ferodo Polo GTi) showed another marked step forward with his season-best qualifying and race result.
The scene was set for a competitive showing after Clinton and Darren topped the timesheets after the third free practice session. This translated to pole position for Clinton (which became second place after the superpole shootout) and fourth for Darren after official qualifying and the superpole shootout. Altan qualified a career-best 11th.
The first race was red flagged after a massive first corner crash. Clinton got the jump Tasmin Pepper at the start but got tagged into a spin in by Jeffrey Kruger heading to turn one. As the Glyco Polo rotated in front of the pack, the inevitable happened and the helpless Clinton was hit by five other cars.
After the re-start, Darren held third place, tucked in behind Pepper and Kruger. He hounded the second place car, closing right up under braking for turn four but was unable to make a clean pass and settled for his first podium in the new Polo Cup era.
Altan had a big moment avoiding Clinton, forced to take to the grass. At the re-start he had too much wheelspin and lost a place off the line. He was in a fierce fight with Benjamin Habig and Paulus Franken and bested both of them with a solid move through turns four and five.
From sixth on the grid in race two, Darren scorched into third place but lost a place to his brother Justin. The two Oates brothers raced hard but fair with Justin crossing the line half a second adrift after 24km of hard racing.
Altan continued his racing lesson in his unconventional classroom; he kept a tight line through turn one and was passed by two rivals on his outside. He passed Habig in turn six but on the next lap he missed a gear and promptly dropped two places. He was stuck behind Simon Need and finished 13th.
From the cockpit:
Clinton Bezuidenhout (#38 – Glyco): “My qualifying time was the first time a Polo has gone around Zwartkops in under 1 min 12 seconds. I was tapped by Kruger going into turn one and spun in front of the pack. I got hit by four or five cars; the damage to my car is extensive. The roll cage is bent and I will need a new shell”.
Darren Oates (#13 Payen): “I know I could have done a bit better in qualifying; I was braking a little too early. In the superpole shootout I tried too hard. I pushed Kruger hard in the first race but couldn’t make a safe pass. I’m very happy with my first podium and the massive jump in my performance”.
Altan Bouw (#11 Ferodo and Champion): “I narrowly missed Clinton in the turn one incident and had to take to the grass. I had too much wheelspin at the restart and lost a couple of places. Habig went wide at turn four so I passed him easily and had a good run at Franken into turn five. I made a great undercut and got my places back. In the second race the guys ahead of me were slow into turn one and a couple of guys went around me. I missed a gear going into turn five after passing Habig so dropped to 13th. It was a good weekend for me as I learnt so much”.
The Signature Motorsport Team heads to the Eastern Cape and the East London Grand Prix Circuit on 16th June
Story by David Ledbitter – Signature Motorsport