Season opener a bit of everything for Chemical Logistics Racing

Chemical Logistics Racing endured a bittersweet weekend of racing at the season opening Global Touring Car races at Kyalami over the weekend.

It started on a frightening note for the team when practice was marred by a major accident on Thursday. Julian van der Watt‘s Chemical Logistics Ford Focus RS GTC appeared to suffer a failure of sorts and ploughed into the Turn 13 barriers. Julian was extracted from the car and rushed to hospital with multiple fractures. He was in a stable condition at the time of writing and scheduled undergo a series of operations.

“Our thoughts and prayers remain with Julian and his family in this difficult time,” team boss Ian Schofield confirmed. “Motor racing is dangerous, but when something like this hits so close to home it is so much more difficult. “Get better soon Julian.

“The rest of the weekend was an interesting one. While Robert Wolk and Andrew Rackstraw had race meetings to forget, it was an incredible dream come true for our young rookie Formula 1600 champion Josh Le Roux, who scored an unexpected but brilliant debut GTC victory. “Well done Josh and chin up to the rest of you – its only three weeks to Killarney.”

The weekend started well but soon fell apart for both champion Robert Wolk and his Chemical Logistics Toyota Corolla GTC and Andrew Rackstraw and his Sparco RDSA Investchem VW Golf 8 GTC. But it was a dream come true for 16 year old Le Roux.

“That was an exciting, if overwhelming weekend!” 16 year old Josh explained. “I was thrown into the deep end on my GTC debut in my Master Stairs Investchem Audi S3, the last of the older specification GTC cars still racing. “I’m still learning the car and I also had to learn Kyalami, which is a pretty daunting track, so I came into the weekend looking to finish top five 5. “I definitely never expected this result!”

“I took it easy early in race 1, but after I saw Michael van Rooyen spin, the extra adrenaline got me going. “I pushed faster and faster every lap until I got past Andrew Rackstraw. “He managed to get back by, but driving behind him showed me that I was strong in the technical sections, where I kept up in the corners, and only lost time down the straights.??

“Race 2 was definitely one to remember. “I started on the front row of the reverse grid, but they all took advantage of my slow straight line speed and shot past me. “My handling pace was good, so I kept close to the pack and was beyond excited to pass two cars that had issues a little later. “Then it got even better… three laps on, I found myself running in second!

“All I needed to do was to keep the car on track and stay out of trouble, which is exactly what I did. “We were not sure of the overall result, because everyone had trouble somewhere along the way, but I was in total disbelief when I discovered that I had won the day overall on my GTC debut!

“To be honest, I’m overwhelmed with joy and super happy and thankful. “I just kept out of trouble, did not make any mistakes and the weekend came to me! “It’s also a huge pleasure to be part of the Chemical Logistics WCT team. “Everyone is really friendly and so welcoming and the vibe in the team is always great.

“The team does as much as it can to improve the cars and make us go faster on track, but it’s not just about racing. “There’s such great friendship, morale, and support here, which already feels like my racing family. “Thanks so much to the whole team! For an incredible and unforgettable weekend.”

While Josh Le Roux quite literally went from zero to hero, the weekend went the other way for his teammates. Champion Robert Wolk qualified on pole position in his Chemical Logistics Toyota Corolla GTC, but it became an increasing struggle from there on in.

“I had a great run through to qualifying, but we picked up a boost issue after I put it on pole,” Robert reported. “We could not get on top of it from there, so we knew that the races would be a challenge. “Somehow I managed to hang on to Saood Variawa once he’s inevitably passed me in the first race and I brought it home second for a good points haul despite the issues.

“With continued boost issues in race 2, Nathi Msimanga was trying to overtake me on the outside of turn 1 and our wheels clashed on the apex. “That snapped my steering arm and forced me to pit. “The team did a great job to get the car out so quickly and enable me to finish the race in the points.

“Unfortunately, we did not capitalise on our pace advantage this past weekend, but it’s a long season and we look forward to the next round at Killarney where we have historically been strong.”

It was equally frustrating for teammate Andrew Rackstraw and his LTR prepared Sparco RDSA Investchem Volkswagen Golf 8 GTC. “We had a decent qualifying and carried that pace into the first race where was enjoying a great dice among the top four. “Sadly my gearbox started playing up and I struggled to find gears and could not use sixth.

“I dropped back to sixth position at a point while I figured out how to drive around the problem and then found a little pace back to fight back to fourth. “Race 2 started really well and I was running a strong second, fighting off Saood Variawa, when he jumped a kerb while trying to pull off an impossible move.

“I gave him as much room as I could, but he lost it on the exit, hitting me resulting in us both spinning off, ruining both our races. “I managed to get going again and somehow limped fourth. “That became third when Saood was penalised, but it could have been so much better for both of us had he not been so desperate.”

“Fourth for the day was not so bad after all and the championship is still very close. “It’s my home race next and I’m really looking forward to Killarney and with a little luck, a less complicated weekend. “Bring it on!”

“This was one of those weekends we generally want to forget,” WCT Engineering team boss Stuart Thompson concluded. “First and foremost on behalf of the entire team, or thoughts are with Julian for a fast recovery. “For the rest, it really was a bittersweet weekend, even if its nice when a bad weekend still yielded a decent points haul for both Robbie and Andrew.

And Josh, what can we say except a huge congratulations to a young man who has just had a dream come true with a spectacular dream debut. “Well done lad!”