Clinton Bezuidenhout is 2022 CompCare Polo Cup Champion

Gqeberha lad Clinton Bezuidenhout grabbed a thrilling down to the wire 2022 CompCare Polo Cup championship by winning all three races of Saturday’s Extreme Festival Finale over three races at Zwartkops Raceway in Pretoria on Saturday.

Clinton and his Stu Davidson Construction machine fought Cape Town lad Charl Visser’s Universal Team Red Polo Cup off to take all three race wins on the day as Visser clinched the title second. Cape Bullion IT Racing Polo driver Jurie Swart overcame heat stroke to pip Mbombela youngster Dawie van der Merwe’s Universal car to the title third by a single championship point. Two more Cape drivers, Tate Bishop’s Angri Car and Giordano Lupini’s second Bullion IT Polo rounded off the championship top six.

The championship top three were split by just four championship points, with seven drivers still in the title hunt when qualifying started Friday evening. Leader van der Merwe scored the pole position bonus point from third in the championship Bezuidenhout, fourth man Visser in third and Squadra Corse driver Nathi Msimanga who sat seventh in the chase and still in with an outside shot, in fourth. Fifth in the title race, Tate Bishop and second in the championship, Jurie Swart were next up.

The top six then went into the one lap Superpole shootout, where Visser took the opening race pole position from Bezuidenhout, Msimanga, van der Merwe, Bishop and Swart. Behind them, Jason Loosemore was to start seventh in his Security Fencing & Alarms Polo from VDN Auto man Dean Venter, impressive Bucket List debutant Anthony Pretorius and Giordano Lupini’s second Bullion IT car in tenth. Universal rookie Jagger Robertson and Kalex lass Karah Hill, followed from Bryce Pillay, Nathan Victor, Mo Karodia, Jeandre Marais and Joseph Ellerine.

The first race was chaotic, but Bezuidenhout got the jump on Visser early on and managed to soak up the pressure to take a crucial win from Visser and van der Merwe. Tate Bishop made the best of the chaos behind to come home fourth from Jason Loosemore who drove a fine race to fifth from Nathi Msimanga who fought back after losing places early on. Behind them, Jurie Swart had a tough race, slipping wide early on before chasing Msimanga to sixth.

Dean Venter took eighth from Giordano Lupini, with Karah Hill in tenth after a final lap contretemps with Anthony Pretorius, who chased her home. Jeandre Marais was next home from Joseph Ellerine, a troubled Jagger Robinson and Mo Karodia, who survived a shunt that ended Nathan Victor’s race with a reprimand, while Bryce Pillay was also rendered hors d’Combat.

All of which meant that Bezuidenhout now led the chase by one point from van der Merwe, with Visser seven points behind in third from Swart another three points adrift and 9 clear of Bishop.

The headline of race 2 of 3 was pretty much a carbon copy of the opening heat. And the pun on heat is intended. It was hot! Visser went ahead but a small off saw him drop to third behind a fast starting Jason Loosemore, Bezuidenhout and Msimanga. Bezuidenhout soon found his way around Loosemore, followed shortly by Loosemore’s Universal teammate Visser. From there Bezuidenhout and Visser made off in front as Clinton once again lapped up the pressure to repeat the first heat 1-2 from Loosemore.

Jurie Swart meantime worked his way up to fourth to keep well in championship contention, disposing of Nathi Msimanga, Nathan Victor and Tate Bishop. Championship contender van der Merwe fought a determined Giordano Lupini off for eighth after he had to deal with a feisty Anthony Pretorius. Jagger Robinson ended 11th from Karah Hill, Jeandre Marais, Mo Karodia Bryce Pillay, Dean Venter who came back after being helped off, and pit lane starter Joseph Ellerine.

So Bezuidenhout opened his title advantage over van der Merwe up to nine points, with Visser three points further back, van der Merwe a couple further back, Swart three more behind and the lot of them covered by 14 points with 21 points left on the table as a strong wind brought the threat of possible rain…

Charl Visser made a break early on ahead of Msimanga, Bezuidenhout, Bishop, Swart, van der Merwe and Lupini, but the safety car was deployed while marshals cleared up the debris after Jeandre Marais clouted the pit wall. After that, Msimanga and Bezuidenhout both found a way past Visser, who made a last lap move to steal second back. Behind them Bishop took fourth from Swart and teammate Lupini, who did his bit to get past van der Merwe, who later slipped back to ninth behind Robertson and Hill. Pillay was tenth from Venter, Loosemore, Pretorius, Karodia, Ellerine and Victor.

And so the 2022 CompCare Polo Cup came to a thrilling end with Clinton Bezuidenhout a most popular champion from Charl Visser, Jurie Swart, Dawie van der Merwe, Tate Bishop and Giordano Lupini. Nathi Msimanga ended up seventh from Dean Venter and Jagger Robertson, who was crowned Rookie of the Year, and Jason Loosemore in tenth. Karah Hill was voted Most Improved Driver of the Year by her rivals. Polo Cup 2023 starts at the 9 Hour Weekend on 25 February. See you at Kyalami!