Nousias, Atkinson & Scheepers take VW Challenge class titles

Yotti Nousias is the 2023 Pabar VW Challenge overall and Class C champion, while Rory Atkinson and Hannes Scheepers cruised to another Class A and Class B title each at Zwartkops Raceway’s Regional Festival Grand Final on Saturday.

The day however delivered different winners, as Bevin and Wayne Masters each took a Class A win, Mo Karodia and Stelio Nousias won the B heats and Yotti Nousias and Andy Gossman took the C wins.

Charl Smalberger delivered a qualifying surprise as he put his Sabertek Polo onto pole position by a considerable 0.44 seconds from Wayne Masters’ Performance Maters version. Freshly renewed champion Rory Atkinson lined up third, another 0.014 seconds adrift in his BHT Industrial Transport entry, with Bevin Masters’ CPS Warehouse Polo fourth from, Waldie Meintjes, Miguel Dias’ PMO Polo, Chris Dale’s Blue Belt Pozidrive car, MDS man Mydi Mfana, Pabar driver Mike Barbaglia and Norbrake lad Dean Ross.

Yotti Nousias took a step closer to the overall title with the Class C pole position bonus point in his We Fix Cars Vivo from Andy Gossman’s brand new Gossmotorsport car, and Class B refugee Elna Croeser in the ATE Brakes Vivo. Insurisk duo Michael Zapheriou and Kyle Petersen were next from another Class B defector, Mitch Coetzee‘s JRT Vivo, Daisy driver Allan Pereira, Dino Smit, Cody Petersen, newcomer Anton Brandsma and Dimitri Zapheriou.

Stuart Mack put Nathans Motorsport’s experimental turbo 3-cyliber Class X Polo on pole position ahead of the Class B field topped by championship leader Hannes Scheepers Dainfern Dental car. That after a raceweek court of enquiry reinstated his points lost to a Port Elizabeth round issue. Scheepers thus arrived at the finale eight points ahead of Young gun Ethan Coetzee’s JRT machine, instead of behind it in the chase.

Hannes qualified best of the Class B field in second, 0.2 seconds ahead of the ever improving Shiren Rajpaul’s Dubcorp car, We Fix Cars lad Stelio Nousias back in Class B, rookie Anthony Lessing’s Csol-RM Polo, Jesus Saves’ Francois van Zyl, and Ethan Coetzee. Behind them, Charisse Piazza Musso’s Hot 102.7 FM Polo lined up ahead of Fast 5 lad Mohammed Karodia, Jacques Hayes, former Class C champions Pierluigi Muzzulini’s FSS car and Ian Walker’s Melo Vaio version, Milan Emslie, Elio Muzzulini, Chris Davison, and Martin de Beer.

Pole man Smalberger’s efforts came to nought when mechanical issues saw him pull off early on lap 2 after Atkinson had made a magnificent start to shoot into the lead. The Masters brothers however had none of it and Bevin was into the lead by lap six. Then Wayne moved up to second a lap later with the order remaining Masters, Masters, Atkinson to the flag. Waldie Meintjes cruised home fourth from Dean Ross, Mydi Mfana, Chris Dale, Mike Barbaglia, and Miguel Dias.

Behind them, Yotti Nousias led from lights to flag to all but wrap the overall championship up, although Andy Gossman kept him honest throughout. Kyle Petersen and Elna Croeser entertained with a great scrap for the final podium spot behind them, resolved Petersen’s way, with Michael Zapheriou, Mitch Coetzee, and Allan Pereira in chase. Dino Smit followed from Dimitri Zapheriou, Cody Petersen, and newcomer Anton Brandsma.

Stuart Mack’s Class X prototype romped off to take the other race win ahead of a most intriguing Class B scrap. The drama started when championship leader Scheepers failed to make the start after breaking a sideshaft on the warm up lap. Then Mo Karodia must have had extra vitamins with his breakfast as he scythed through the field from way back on the grid, overcame the lead battle and went on to beat Stelio Nousias, Shiren Rajpaul, Jacques Hayes and Charisse Piazza Musso to the win.

Ethan Coetzee was unable to capitalize on title rival Scheepers’ misfortune as he trundled home seventh ahead of Anthony Lessing, Ian Walker, and Chris Davison in tenth. Martin de Beer followed from Elio Muzzulini after son Pierluigi also failed to make the start, and Milan Emslie was excluded after failing a technical check post-race.

The second heats were combined into a wild single race for classes A, B and C after delays in the race program as storm clouds gathered with 35 cars on track. It stayed dark, but the rain never came as Wayne Masters made no mistakes en route to win the final race of the season from brother Bevin and Class A champion once again, Rory Atkinson. Charl Smalberger fought back to fourth from Waldie Meintjes, Dean Ross, Mike Barbaglia, Mydi Mfana, Chris Dale and Miguel Dias dicing with Stuart Mack’s Class X prototype.

Stelio Nousias made a triumphant return to Class B to take a close fought race 2 from overall winner Mo Karodia and Shiren Rajpaul. Anthony Lessing continued his impressive rookie form in fourth from Charisse Piazza Musso, while Hannes Scheepers was placed behind class title rival Ethan Coetzee in seventh to wrap up a second Class B title on the trot. Behind them, Ian Walker led Pierluigi Muzzulini and Chris Davison home, with Martin de Beer next up from Milan Emslie, a penalised Jacques Hayes and Elio Muzzulini.

Andy Gossman celebrated debuting his new car by rounding the Class C year off with a win ahead of new Class and overall champion Yotti Nousias. Class B migrants Mitch Coetzee and Elna Croeser followed from Kyle Petersen, Dino Smit and Allan Pereira with Cody Petersen next home from Anton Brandsma and Dimitri Zapheriou after Michael Zapheriou retired.

And so, with Yotti Nousias the overall Pabar VW Challenge and Class C champion, and Rory Atkinson and Hannes Scheepers once again Class A and B champions, the 2023 season draws to a thrilling close. And with much ado as drivers plan for next year, excitement is already building for the season ahead. See you in 2024!

*VW Challenge salutes its partners, Pabar Automotive Pressings, Habot Performance Lubricants, Dunlop tyres, Habot Performance Lubricants, ATS Motorsport Supplies, Platinum Wheels, Habot Synthetic Oils, ATE Brakes, Norbrake, Eco Simply Solar, Insurisk insurance brokers, Pozidrive, Eeziparts, Van der Linde Developments, MDS Consulting Engineers, FSS Logistics, and Bush & Buck.