The weeks preceding the event went by like all the other, check and prepare the vehicles, except Mike fitting power steering to his VW Fox. Everything went smoothly with the installation with one or two issues presenting themselves, understandable if you consider the MK1 Golf/Fox shell was never intended to utilize power steering. Saturday morning 6 o’clock arrived and we started our little journey to Piketberg, on our way to the little town we noticed outside temperatures of 3.5degrees, luckily we packed enough warm clothes to battle the temperatures.
On arrival at the Piketberg Municipal Testing Grounds, we found ourselves a very nice location next to the start/finish on the Piketberg hospital grounds which served as the pits for the day, this allowed us to have out Gazebo’s next to the vehicles which helps allot especially with the vehicles being used multiple times on a specific round with different drivers and navigators. We went about the usual, setup the gazebo’s unpack the gears etc., then moved onto the vehicles. A frames were removed, racing tyres installed and all necessary suspension changes made to accommodate the short bumpy route, seeing that it was so cold outside; tyre temperatures was very high on the list of preparation work. Being the first time that the Race-Tech crew were participating at the event, everything was new to us.
Pietie unfortunately had to cancel his entry with the Mazda F due to improvements currently being done on the vehicle, due to this he could focus on his FWD entry with Mike next to him.
Bjorn Venter and Jan van der Vyver in Class D VW Fox 1.4i – 1st in Class D and 1st Overall
Jan at last convinced Bjorn to start competing again and what a result he achieved with on his return, Bjorn drove magnificently throughout the day, the two of us even disputed his first time and was under the impression he received an incorrect time and waited for round 2, if he could match the time we knew the 1st one was valid. He finished his second round 2 seconds faster than the first round and to make matters worse for the quicker classes was that his time was one of the best for the day in a 1400 powered vehicle which left the rest shell shocked. To sum it up Bjorn slightly bettered his 2nd round time with round 3 and took overall victory on the day, 2seconds faster than the overall championship leader Izak van Zyl piloting the Dynotech turbocharged VW Golf. Quite frankly a shocking surprise but well deserved.
Herman Mathee and Mike Mathee in Class F Datsun 1200 – 1st in Class F and 6th Overall
Having been a quit day for me on the navigating side with only 3 vehicles, which was 6 positions from each other provided me the opportunity to watch some gymkhana for the first time in the last 2 seasons. After making some improvements on the Datsun’s camber/castor plates setup time was reduced considerably. Luckily for me Mike went out on the route before me and could provide with some vital information regarding the track conditions and a few heads-up. We launched nicely, as we moved thru the middle section of the course it became apparent that today is the day that the “Lil Datto” is going to spend a lot of time at 7500 rpm. The first run I used to get familiar with the route and track conditions. On our way from one corner to the next we were sitting on the limiter in 1st, just tapping of at corner entry and then the same all over again. We finished the route with a time of 1:15.26, which we were actually happy with as we knew their isn’t a lot more in the car. This time placed us in 4th in class after round 1. As I did my duties as a navigator the track became warmer and warmer, which could definitely been seen by the other competitors times.
We entered round 2 with the impression that if we could match or slightly better the time we would be happy as we just didn’t have the legs with the car and changing to 2nd could become a problem. We drove thru the route with the car more on the limits, actually started to feel quite sad for the poor thing, but being a A series Datsun motor that thought quickly disappeared. We finished the route with a very impressive improvement and ended posting a time of 1:11.26, which we found quite astonishing. This time promoted us to 1st in class provisionally.
Standing in the line waiting to get to the start was probably the most nerve wrecking to date, as I was currently leading class F with Mike’s car and it would be a first for the car if I could win the class. This particular car is really surprising us race after race, as it is basically just a bunch of slapped together parts that is actually working quite well together. As we pulled away my brain was just telling my arms and legs to do exactly what they did in round 3, but my thoughts was causing the chaos, constantly reminding me that I need to perform if I want to win the class as there was another round after this one. We had the car on its limits throughout the route, but only managed to post a time of 1:12.75, not as great as the previous one, this kept us in 1st place and .7 seconds in front of second place.
We were ecstatic with the day, but we still had one round to complete as
Selina Botes and Herman Mathee in Class D VW Fox 1.4i – 8th in Class D and 42nd Overall
Race after race Selina is getting more and more to grips with the entire concept of gymkhana, this is her first year competing after attending races last year with me, where I competed, she indicated that she also wants to drive at the end of last year, well what were we to say, we strapped her to the seat of Mike’s Fox one evening at Killarney racetrack and she were threw into the deep end. As time went on she started to realise that there is way more to the sport than just driving, here you have about 2 hours on average to learn the route as there is most definitely no time looking at a map while flying thru the course. With 2 very difficult routes after the opening event it sure was not easy. Although Selina is competing in the big boys class seeing that I’m navigating and encouraging her, if we compare her times with the al ladies class, she would have ended
4th in the class, a brilliant achievement none the less, only time will tell how comfortable she will become behind the wheel. A big thanks goes out to my brother who spend countless hours installing power steering into his VW Fox, which is making the live behind the steering wheel much easier for Selina.
Pietie Erasmus and Mike Mathee in Class D VW Fox 1.4i – 2nd in Class D and 12th Overall
Ruan Reynders and Herman Mathee in Class F Datsun 1200 – 4th in Class F and 13th Overall
Mike Mathee and Pietie Erasmus in Class D VW Fox 1.4i – 4th in Class D and 23rd Overall
Rudolf Marais and Mike Mathee in Class F Mazda 616 – 7th in Class F and 40th Overall
Jan van der Vyver and Bjorn Venter in Class D VW Fox 1.4i – 7th in Class D and 41st Overall
Work was frantic on the VW front within the camp. Power steering on the Golf and Fox was the only topic discussed, luckily for me Ruan returned back from his absent due to work commitments in Zambia, at least now I have someone to talk about building our two big project cars, but later more about that. Mike and Jan toyed with the idea of power steering on a VW Golf MK1 shell for a long time and finally decided that they had enough of trying to turn 7″ and 8″ slicks in anger, the time has come for power steering, Jan volunteered to take his motor and gearbox out to help the design process for the modifications, after allot of measurements they could start. Mike spend endless hours in front of the computer designing all the mounting brackets and hardware for the kit to work, after the positive feedback Jan provided after the 5th Fairbridge Mall Brackenfell Gymkhana where he used his newly installed power steering for the first time, Mike started with the Fox, having to make a few changes due to different donor racks, everything looked on track to have the Fox turning with ease at the Piketberg Gymkhana.
Since Ruan’s returned the two of us tried at every possible occasion to catch up on all the car and life related discussions that we missed out on the last two years. Seeing as his car is the one that started this whole idea of racing was standing on blocks half way stripped, there was no possibility for him to use it to compete, Mike was generous enough to allow him to use “Lil Datto” to have some fun with us. Having a set of extra rims and slicks he no longer was going to use on the new and improved Escort, he had there PCD changed for use on “Lil Datto”, this however meant the two off us had some work to do to use these wheels on the “Lil”. The amount I extended the track on the car makes it difficult to use wheels with almost no offset. At the end of the day we had to cut a little more out of the front part of the fenders to get them turning to the maximum at full down travel.
Selina unfortunately injured her back on Friday and was unable to compete, every time I got to the gazebo I could see the pure frustration on her face, sitting and watching everyone else compete was getting the better of her. A few physio sessions later and she will be able to compete at the next event.
Herman Mathee and Mike Mathee in Class F Datsun 1200 – 2nd in Class F and 15th Overall
My track record at all the events that I participated at Flamingo’s speak for themselves, this isn’t my favourite venue and for some or other reason I just can’t do to good here, maybe it is the surface, slicks not working or just pure driver errors like hurting my arm and then driving over tyres, route errors, I don’t know. This particular route had in everything that I love in a route, fast flowing sections into slow and technical corners etc., a little bit of slow and fast sections is always nice. The route was covered with a new layer of asphalt, something we all looked forward to, as the old asphalt was prone to very high tyre wear. The first few cars onto the route posted some very good times, but from about the 5th car we started seeing the asphalt breaking up and getting the characteristics of a gravel road. As Pietie was only coming thru later on the day I had to navigate for Mike, his starting position is 10 and right from the get go, we noticed that the route had no whatsoever grip. This had me going for a while as “Lil Datto” is quite tail happy exiting a corner when stepping on the gas to much, with the gravel conditions this was either going to be a lot of fun or a huge frustration.
The 1st round went well considering the grip levels, the time was in line with the other fast class F runners, knowing there is huge potential for improvement as the run was very conservative to get a feel for it. Ruan went out with me next to him for his first time this year and also his first time with “Lil”, I must say with a little encouragement from my side he really started driving the car as a RWD should be driven, tight lines with the rear on the border of stepping out. Standing in the line for the start, me and Mike had a discussion around keeping the lines tight to get the times lower. Pulling away and on the route everything went well with Mike keeping me in line very nicely, the rear shifting only marginally from time to time, keeping everything under control and what felt quite fast, then all of a sudden I made a mistake entering a left hander to wide and all hell broke loose when I shifted
to second not realising I was off the clear line starting to form. Once the clutch pedal was completely released and my right foot totally down on the fuel pedal the rear stepped out at which was around 60km/h, Mike shouting all sorts of things at me that sounded quite strange, as he was sitting in the suicide seat it probably looked rather bad from his viewing point as we were approaching a tyre barrier on the right. Luckily I just kept my foot planted in a desperate effort to get the “Lil” under control, once this was done we over shot the braking point by at least 2m, with a combination of a poor man’s ABS braking, Mike on the handbrake we made it, a little wide but safe, the video footage was going to be interesting.
Seeing that the route was cleaning and a racing line was forming on the gravel, times started coming down, as we posted a time 2seconds faster than the first run. We were allowed a fourth run on the day, I was lying in fourth at the end of round 3. We went out not really trying to post a even better time, just wanted to drive the car to its limits as fast as we and the route would allow; and this is exactly what happened, we posted the second fastest time for class F for the day and brought “Lil Datto” home in 2nd position for the day with Ruan marginally behind me in 3rd. I must say he really adopted quit fast to the lesser power levels of “Lil” compared to his Escort. This was the best day of racing this year, hopefully the rest of the events can also compare to this memorable event.
Jan van der Vyver’s view:
Jan van der Vyver and Herman Mathee in Class D VW Golf 1.4i – 1st in Class D and 10th Overall
Mike Mathee and Herman Mathee in Class D VW Fox 1.4i – 2nd in Class D and 11th Overall
Ruan Reynders and Herman Mathee in Class F Datsun 1200 – 3rd in Class F and 16th Overall
Pietie Erasmus and Mike Mathee in Class D VW Fox 1.4i – 3rd in Class D and 21st Overall
Rudolf Marais and Mike Mathee in Class F Mazda 616 – 6th in Class F
Weather indicated that this event could turn into a wet one, the possibility presented itself that it could be the same as last year’s event at Neelsie Stellenbosch gymkhana, an event that I really enjoyed since it was something completely new and a different challenge to drive on a drenched track. Friday night we as a team went down to the venue and helped to get all the fences
in place to ease the duties of the organiser for Saturday, this also allowed us the opportunity to have a look at the track and get our heads around it, which really helped at the end of the day. Back at home we packed every last bit of wet weather clothing we could as we were convinced it is going to be a wet one.
Saturday morning we got up and to our disappointment it was looking as if a wet track was out of the question, oh well, can’t get everything in life that you want. We moved down to the Fairbridge Mall and went thru the norm of setting up the Gazebo and prepping the vehicles for some fun before we started the usual walking and learning of the track, again I must add using a bicycle for this purpose is a real benefit.
Herman Mathee and Mike Mathee in Class F Datsun 1200 – 5th in Class F and 24th Overall
This was a particular busy day as I had to navigate for 4 other vehicles, two of which is for Kobus Wilson Snr that sure as hell know how to drift a car in very confined spaces, I’ll even put money down that he will put many RSA drifters to shame when the space available is limited. On this particular day Mike and I decided to lend “Lil Datto” to Kobus Wilson Jnr as his bakkie wasn’t available for the particular event, we did this as good sportsman and provide him the opportunity to
gather points for his championship campaign. To date the organizers have decided not to allow him to keep the points that he earn on the day for 2nd place in class f, which left a particular nasty taste in our mouths. Gymkhana being an entry level category into motorsport where participants help each other and try to grow the sport, but the above actions is not the way in which good deeds should be awarded.
Throughout the day I struggled to get the times needed that the other participants was posting for the class, round 1 and 2 was off by about 2-3sec per round from the fastest times for the day, the front suspension felt spongy and i was just unable to drive around this. Kobus was actually able to post times 2sec faster with the Datsun. The last round of the day I was determined to post a time good enough to slot into 3rd place for the day in the class, on the start line my foot slipped on the clutch, for this error under pressure I was awarded with a 10sec penalty which ended my day, at least it provided Mike with the opportunity to really test the handbrake of the Datsun. At the end of the day I’m really disappointed with my results, but luckily I can look back on the day and learn from the mistakes.
Jan van der Vyver’s view:
Jan van der Vyver and Herman Mathee in Class D VW Golf 1.4i – 2nd in Class D and 12th Overall
Text to follow shortly
Mike Mathee and Pietie Erasmus in Class D VW Fox 1.4i – 1st in Class D and 11th Overall
Pietie Erasmus and Mike Mathee in Class D VW Fox 1.4i – 3rd in Class D and 15th Overall
Selina Botes and Herman Mathee in Class D VW Fox 1.4i – 7th in Class D
The route layout was what we called easy compared to the Vredenburg routes which was a pretty difficult and a nightmare for new competitors. Throughout the day Selina was nervous but full of confidence regarding the route and this started to show with her times. During the day she started to drive harder and harder which will turn into real competitive times as time goes on.
Pietie Erasmus and Mike Mathee in Class F Mazda 1000 – 7th in Class F
Rudolf Marais and Mike Mathee in Class F Mazda 616 – 8th in Class F
During the weeks that passed since the last event all focus was on the preparation of the vehicles with many long nights clocking the hours in, in the garage. Mike decided that this would be the ideal time to fit the 2nd hand 1.4i VW Golf motor to the Fox, this was one of his best ideas to date, but also one of the worst, as this machine had a mind of its own.
To sum it up, after the fires was put out and everything working off it went to DynoTech for some seriously needed mapping on the Gotech side. The map that Jan and Mike developed on the road was quite good and very driveable, until the first power run on the dyno, it was very apparent that the motor had a lot more to offer, they start the process and Izak van Zyl quickly whipped it into shape. Before Izak got his hands on the car it had a sound of a sluggish rotor motor, which I particularly enjoyed, but Izak thought it good to get the motor to its full potential rather than letting it sounds as sweet as it did.
On Thursday evening Mike and Bjorn took the car to our test area to put it thru its passes in order to give the go ahead for competition, and all of a sudden I was called upon to bring the recovery vehicle as there were a strange rattling sound coming from the motor, first thoughts turned to main or big end bearings, but the sound was not familiar. Once back home we hook all the gauges up and started it again, after some time the sounds was diagnosed to be coming from between the gearbox and motor. Jan being Jan and only needed about 4 hours sleep a night, he persuaded Mike to get the spanners and start stripping to get the box from the motor.
Many hours later, too much coffee further and the gearbox was back in its place, and the culprit in the bin and replaced with a new one. The culprit turning out to be a 8mm bolt about 9mm long holding the dust cover behind the pressure plate and motor that came loose. The poor replacement being fastened with enough super strong Loctite to never come loose again. Friday evening the last of the loose parts, fittings and hoses was replaced and the car started up with no strange sounds, all this drama for one bolt.
It was quite busy on the “Lil Datto” front, after some very hard thinking and analysing sessions, I decided to stretch the track on the front suspension to start matching the rear E30 parts, seeing as this could be the mayor factor in contributing to the bad front end grip. After a visit to “Datto” I decided in raiding the bigger brother of some custom made front suspension bits like, adjustable lower control arms and track rods. Armoured with the correct parts, poor “Lil” was stripped and the conversion started to get the new parts in. Unfortunately I could only stretch the track by 35mm per side as the steering arms between the inner and outer tie rods was too short to allow more. Deciding that this will be the best for the time allowed I went ahead with the transformation using my race cars parts. After making new stills and mounting points for the anti-roll bars “Lil” was put back on its wheels, poor thing had a tear of happiness in its eyes as it starter to look less like a Frankenstein car and more like a car which rear wheels will follow in the same track as the fronts. Not yet 100% in line with the rears, but as close as time would allow, fenders was cut to allow the wheels to turn as a result of the strut being moved out and to the front.
Saturday morning 04:00am, way too early for comfort, still feeling very unrested from the previous late nights, we packed the cool bags, washed our faces more than once to wake up. We preheated the tractors and got the 6 vehicle convoy going, all 3 of the tow vehicles being diesels. We arrived at Vredenburg just after 07:00 and started with the pre event preparations, I had some space available in the bakkie and decided the morning to load a mountain bike for some transport around the venue, this turned out to be one of my better ideas as I will never again attend an event without it. The track route that we were presented with at documentation, really messed with my head, after a few rounds on foot I decided it is time to tackle the route with the bicycle, man oh man, what a difference did it make.
At about 10 o’clock the event started off and more or less at the same time we realised that this was going to be one of that very special warm days down at the Weskus Mall Vredenburg just outside Saldanha.
Mike Mathee and Pietie Erasmus in Class D VW Fox 1.4i – 1st in Class D and 10th Overall
Mike was the first Race-Tech member to navigate his VW Fox thru the route, he posted a very surprising good run, something we did not anticipate. He also entered the Fox in a non-scoring run to gain experience with the new engine combination, Selina was asked to navigate for Mike to gain some experience and get a feeling of grip. After the first run, Selina must have been in shocked as she was unable to stand on her own and had to press down on the car to keep her balance. Personally I think she was shell shocked at the speed Mike went thru the course, it is quite something to sit in the navigators seat with an fast driver, especially if his times is 15-30 seconds faster than your own, it is at that exact point that you get that feeling that in the next minute you will hit something/die/roll/pee yourself etc. The expression on her face was priceless after the run, just being exposed to the speed and commitment it takes to post fast times in Gymkhana. On Selina’s own runs se made very good progress thru the day, slashing a massive 15 seconds off her 1st run, with her last outing on the route. With a little more shell shocking and practise the team will get her very competitive one day, being motorsport and not a second nature, time will only reveal the true mystery.
Throughout the day Class D was rattled and shaken as Jan, Pietie and Mike battled it out to get to grips with the cars, the day ending in making history for Race-Tech. Pietie drove the Fox to 3rd place, Jan forced his Golf into 2nd spot and Mike literally trying to destroy the Fox into 1st, out of all the previous difficulties with the conversion, This result ended in being the 1st time that Race-tech managed to occupy the complete podium in Class D. This accomplishment was the Highlight for me personally.
Herman Mathee and Mike Mathee in Class F Datsun 1200 – 2nd in Class F and 8th Overall
After struggling with front end grip the 1st round of the Witzenberg Gymkhana championship at Flamingo’s, I was very positive in regards to the track changes made to the Datsun. I decided to
use the same front 13″ semi slicks as at Flamingo’s to truly see if the changes had any considerable effect on the grip, one option was to use wider more sticky rubber, but that idea was scrapped for the bigger picture as I’m using “Lil Datto” as my Ginny pig this year to learn the 1200’s handling characteristics and carry that info over to its bigger brother “Datto”. On my first run, entering the 2nd corner I immediately knew something was feeling familiar, but better, front end grip, a smile crept in and I was able to take corners as hard and fast as with the bakkie, a feeling that I really enjoyed in the past. Immediately I knew all the hard work was paying off. The 1st and 2nd round was rough on the car, my brother and myself, every corner was over braked, overdriven, sloppy lines, but boy was it fun to have a car with front end grip, a Limited Slip Differential, a Datsun motor that is very responsive and a overjoyed driver that was enjoying wagging the tail around. The times was very good, but not good enough, I know this car has a lot more in it, it must just be found and that was exactly what I set as my next goal. This meant forget about the “lekker” and start concentrating on precise lines. Just before round 3 I told Mike that let’s try driving this round as tight as possible, and that is what he had to keep telling me. Somewhere deep very deep within me I just naturally found the ability to drive very precise lines, which resulted in a few scratch marks on “Lil” and a few leaves attacking Mike, this didn’t concern me once we heard the time, a full 2 seconds faster than our “lekker” runs. At the end of our 4 runs for the day, Mike and Myself managed to get the car to the finish 8th Overall and 2nd in Class F. My best Overall placing to date.
Jan van der Vyver’s view:
Jan van der Vyver and Herman Mathee in Class D VW Golf 1.4i – 2nd in Class D and 11th Overall
When we got to the Weskus Mall, it was very clear that is a course like no other. The surface was of very good nature, but there was a few bumps that was not the norm. We quickly got the cars prepared and then started to study the course. The study process was helped on my using a bicycle. It took me the better part of the first 3 runs to settle down, this could be contributed to the heat and confusing course. Luckily there was a 4 run added to the event, in which I had very good runs with very good times, but it was not enough to beat Mike, whom was very consistent and up to par on this event. It was great to take the full D class podium on the day as a Race-Tech team.
Pietie Erasmus and Mike Mathee in Class D VW Fox 1.4i – 3rd in Class D and 15th Overall
Selina Botes and Herman Mathee in Class D VW Fox 1.4i – 7th in Class D
Pietie Erasmus and Mike Mathee in Class F Mazda 1000 – 4th in Class F
Pietie almost came 3rd, I’m pretty sure he isn’t too happy that we had 4 runs on
this particular day, as he was 3rd in Class until the beginning of the 4th, Anton managed to complete his first error free run for the day, which costs Pietie his 1st, 3rd place. A feeling that I know all too well, having lost my 1st, 3rd place at Mountain Mill Gymkhana in 2009 with an error on braking at the finish.
This opening event for us as a team was very excited, due to a 2 new cars that was build and our outfits. The idea of the shirts started a last year, we wanted to stand out a little between the crowds and decided we need some branding as we are currently 9 members that drive and navigate under the www.race-tech.co.za name. This all started with only two friends that have managed to convince out friends to come and enjoy the sport. New members to the team is Selina Botes (driving Mike Mathee VW Fox) and Rudolf Marais, last year while we were standing in the sun waiting for our next run, Rudolf was busy slaving away on his restored Mazda 616. The car was completely stripped down, sprayed in a very nice blue, motor overhauled and assembled again, know the mammoth task start to get it in shape. Having a nice looking car only score points with the crowd, not with your peers racing against you. “Performance and handling does more for good track times than looks…”
During the off season, my brother, father and I sure as hell was not sitting around waiting for our older days to come closer. I decided that I needed to sell the Datsun bakkie, rust was taking over, this wasn’t a very hard decision to make, as I have been busy building a new race car for the last year. Mike bought himself a Datsun 1200 last year with big plans for, but since my car is still under manufacturing, I took over his big plans and decided that we will race with it until my car is done. The 1200 was stripped and the complete running gear was swapped with the bakkie and a few other bits like pedals, seats, front suspension and a completely new rear suspension was added to the 1200. This kept us busy for more or less 3 months. All this while I continued with building my new cars roll cage, but I have to admit, the race car was the one collecting dust half of the time.
We arrived at Langebaan the Friday evening, setup camp and went down to Flamingo’s to walk thru the route a few times, we had about an hour before it was dark, the route was new and would present a few challenges the next day, but at least we had a head start on learning the track. Once back at the camp site Pietie arrived with his Mazda F on the back of a trailer, we were so eager to help him offload it, that we forgot a few essentials, after utilizing a few jacks and ramps we got the trailer unstuck and could offload the F, “some say this was wasting time, we say this was an adventure”.
The next morning was pretty busy with getting our vehicles in order, going thru documentation and scrutinering. We had the normal first event issues like ground wires that came loose on engine rpm limiters, installing tyres in the wrong sequence etc. After a hour we were back in the groove and got every vehicle race prepped. We had another opportunity to walk thru the route before drivers briefing and the event started.
Jan van der Vyver’s view:
Jan van der Vyver and Herman Mathee in Class D VW Golf 1.4i – 1st in Class D and 6th Overall
to have a great day. Running at number 33 gave the nerves sometime to calm down. My first round was an 1:08 and I heard something from the commentators side, about me and wondering what I had for breakfast (a Whole lot of nothing at that time). After the first runs was completed, I realized that everything started to come together on the golf, her lifters was even “clapping hands”. The second runs in the D and H class was great fun. The little sleep and not drinking enough water caught up with me in the third run with a cramp in my left arm, but still a good time.
I was over the moon with the results of 6th overall, 1st class D and 3rd in class H. This was the most successful outing for me yet, and we can only hope that the rest of the season stays on par. Thank you to my wife for supporting me, and to all the people who helped with the car (Herman, Mike, Stephan, Leon, Marius, Lee, Bjorn)
Herman Mathee and Mike Mathee in Class F Datsun 1200 – 3rd & 5th in Class F
the hard work of the last 3 months was at a end to get “Lil Datto” to where it is today, know it was time to get it on the track and start getting the feeling how the car handled. We only packed one set of tyres for the car, 14″ Bridgestone semi’s for the rear and 13″ Dunlop semi’s for the front. As we drive in n number order, I was the first one to take “Lil Datto” thru the route, and boy was it nice and also just as frustrating. As this was my first time driving a RWD vehicle with a limited slip differential on a gymkhana route, it took some getting used to, I’m pretty sure it will take a few events to get used to this. Our biggest concern was the exit speed out of corners and starts due to a long duration cam, but at the end of the day this proved to be a very nicely balanced setup, the concerns was with the front suspension, front end grip disappeared somewhere down the road, either during swopping the parts from the old bakkie to the car or while fitting the new rear suspension.
Getting the car thru slow speed corners was a complete frustration and allot of swear words were exchanged between driver and suspension, it was under steering allot, yes it has a LSD fitted in the rear that aids with under steer, but this isn’t just under steer, definitely a few other parameters also at work. Even thru the higher speed corners the front felt loose, this normally the being driven at full speed and total confidence. As the day went on, we stole the Fox 13″ slicks and Mike tried them out on his second run, this was even worse, at least this helped with the decision to scrap them as they were done. Afterwards Jan borrowed us a set of old 14″ semi’s for the front. This made a huge difference but was not the answer, we had to sit down and figure a way out to get front suspension working.
At the end of the day Mike was able to bring the car home a Class position of 5th and I 3rd. Never in my life have I seen my brother exit a route and smiling more than with this little car. Thanks Mike for providing me with the opportunity to use your car until “Datto” is done. We are very pleased with the car, for its first real event it did very good, personally I think the car has allot more to offer, you just get that feeling when moving thru the route, if time is on my side, I will rethink the front suspension and make the necessary changes.
More Pictures – 9th Flamingos Langebaan Gymkhana
Ruan was able to get his dates in order and secured himself a return ticket from Zambia to South Africa to come and enjoy his first race of the season. Just after arrival at the Neelsie Student Center in Stellenbosch, we set of with changing the street tires to some serious rubber in the form of slicks for the bakkie, Escort, Fox and a set of semi’s for the Golf. The usual small talk was made and just at the end of changing the tires around someone started mentioning that they are feeling some water, we obviously laughed this of, and figured it would be the 3mm of water predicted, o man was we in for a surprise. The 3mm predicted rainfall turned out to be 97mm of rain during the entire day of competing, something that we were not prepared for.
Jan van der Vyver’s view:
Jan van der Vyver and Herman Mathee in Class D Golf 1.4i
The morning started of with changing tires in rain, which was not any fun.
On the first class D run, we under estimated the amount of heat two bodies can produced, this ended up with fogged over windows and us not really able to see the track. The golf had us running al over the place in the wet weather. After the second run a few other D class vehicles changed to normal road tyres, for some more grip, but we new that the time lost on the second run was due to braking error on the driver side. So the decision was made to stick to the semis on front and back, now it was time to see if it works on the last run. With an spectacular run we ended up 3rd for the day in class D.
Jan van der Vyver in Class H
The class H run was used to learn to understand the wet weather driving a bit better, at the end of the day on the third run, the golf ended up to be the 5th fastest car on the day, which was al beautiful end of the day.
it is very very wet and slippery out there, I made a decision to swop over to normal road tires on the front and rear. Slicks in my mind was just not really a option, front end grip is very important to my style of driving and with already so much wheel spin to keep under control Semi’s at the back was just not a option for the amount of water on the track. The first run ended UP in being a crowd pleasure, we pulled off. From the start line and we had to
gain momentum with a huge amount of wheel spin, exciting the first corner the rear of the bakkie slipped out, at this particular point i decided it is time to play and started working on my drifting abilities. The second run went down much beter as I tried driving without the back stepping out or wheel spinning, the times also reflected that this is the style needed for the conditions. After the 3rd round we managed to finish 3rd in the Class.
Ruan Reynders and Herman Mathee in Class F Escort MKII
As Ruan is a big believer in you use racing tires for racing and street tires for street use, I kept to his initial decision to compete with slicks, a decision I thought is crazy as the water was standing in puddles on the track. We went out the first round and had the usual wheel spin and confidence levels was low in the wet, something new to us, this car is built for dry condition, even my shoes was wet after the 1st run. Personally I think the biggest challenge for Ruan was to get his head into the game, driving in this sport is only a pièce of it, learning the track is môre important. During the course of the day Ruan got his confidence back behind the steering wheel after a absence to the sport for almost 9months, our times came down and manage to keep the car in one piece and place the car in 2nd place.
Bjorn Venter and Jan van der Vyver in Class D Golf 1.4i
Finished the day 1st in Class D
Ruan Reynders in Class G Escort MKII
Finished the day in 5th place in Class G
Kobus Wilson Snr and Herman Mathee in Class E BMW 535i
Finished the day in 5th place in Class E
More Pictures – 1st Neelsie Stellenbosch Gymkhana
This is just one of those events that I enter light heartily, never have I arrived at this event and felt that confidence needed to achieve, properly because this is the one event on our calendar that has a track record with me. If the tarmac does not break up thru the day, it tries to tear my arms out of it sockets or has that ability to let small mistakes creep in that ends up in one little bakkie flying over truck tyres. One day
is one day that I will get to grips with you. On a more enjoyable note, I love the camping and travel that this event provide, nothing like a weekend away from the city.
Herman Mathee and Jan van der Vyver in Class F Datsun Bakkie
Herman Mathee’s View:
The day started of with the usual, setup the gazebo, help with the track preparations and get the track in-bedded in your head. After about 7 times around the track on foot I was confident I had.
Racing started and from the get go I was not lucky with the front end grip, tyre pressure up and down, but no difference, the set of slicks on the front was done, unfortunately I did not pack spare as this is away race and space is limited, I need to get tow vehicle. Luckily I was able to get 2nd in my class for the day. Navigating in the BMW and Skyline of which the owner and driver is Kobus Wilson Snr is always something to look forward to, or should I say sideways.
der Vyver and Herman Mathee in Class D Golf 1.4i
Jan van der Vyver’s view:
More photos of the day: 7th Uniref Langebaan Gymkhana
The season opening event turned out to be one of the busiest events for me on the driving side but the most time was used on navigating for some superb vehicles. This event also turned out to be the one that would change our lives, as it became the event that we won our classes, this particular day will not be forgotten soon.
The day started of with the usual changing tires, doing the necessary setup work on the vehicles, entry and getting into the spirit of fun and competitive racing. This reminds me, I need to get a easier way of changing tires, maybe I’m just getting more and more lazy, but hell it aint fun anymore that I can promise you.
The day started of with Jan competing in Class C (FWD up to 1400cc) and me navigating for him, from the first run we knew this is going to be a special events, no driver errors and no navigation errors that I know of. Well so much happens in a car on this tight technical course that I would not be able to pickup all the mistakes. As the day went on Jan’s times improved to the point were he took victory in the class, his personal best to date, good work Jan, this sort of achievement just helps to built the confidence and make the whole experience more fun. Not that it is not fun, but you can also have more fun. Jan also competed in the single seater class that really helped him figuring out the correct lines which in my opinion was the needed boost to give him that all important first class win.
The bakkies first run with Jan besides me doing the navigating turned out to be the second best time of the day. Normally the first run is used to get used to the track conditions and learn the lines. The second round was about 1sec down on
the first run, tire pressures was crucial on the day, to soft and the rubber flex to much, to hard and the grip is down on the tight stuff, on the 3rd run we got it right and was the best time for the day. The whole day it was a battle to keep ahead of Anton Smit with his Toyota 4AGE powered bakkie. Luckily for me, my 3rd run was good enough to keep me ahead of Anton to give me my 1st Class win with a total time of only 0.33 sec faster for the day. On another note, do not go racing with a cellphone in the glove box, on my 4th run accelerating hard towards a pavement the low battery warning went of and we had quite
a laugh, the time for the 4th run reflected that if you’re distracted, you will lose time.
The rest of the day was used to navigate for Kobus Wilson Snr in his sideways BMW 535i and Nissan Skyline GTX fitted with a Ford V8, navigating int these sideways beasts was almost as good as winning my first Class win. Navigating for new comer and friend Riaan Snijman in his self build Lotus 7 kit kar fitted with a very nice Ford Kent machine took the edge of thinking what to do to keep ahead of Anton. This was the weirdest car to navigate for yet, it is so loud it is almost impossible to look at the road and also talking in the direction of the driver.
More photos of the day: 3rd Fairbridge Mall Gymkhana Photos
Photos from www.wbmk.co.za
What a assume day it turned out to be for racing, the night before when me and Jan walked and learned the track the wind was hauling. The sky was clear and not a single cloud in the air that would spoil our day of fun and some serious racing.
At the end of the day, this event turned out to be one of my best to date. Everything just went good, excellent navigating from Jan, 50% of my achievement on the day could be contributed to his excellent navigating skills, the other 40% went to the excellent setup on the suspension that kept me and “Einstein” awake way past our bed time the weeks before the event. The other 10% went to our support group of friends, I was just there to hang on for dear live as the bakkie was picking up inside wheels
left right and center threw the fast passed corners of Mykonos.
Just to give you an idea, the rear suspension on the bakkie was stripped and re assembled 3 times in a weeks time before this event, after each practice session it was stripped and tuned. On the Golf a lot also changed before the event. A set of coil overs for the front and rear was imported. I also made a front lower strut brace to stiffen things up a little more. The coil overs was fitted and I can promise you, this is what VW needed to do to all Golf’s, these coil overs transformed this car from cheap transport to something you can actually give to your children to get to school and back. On the downside, it is just a little bit on the hard
side for every day driving, but a absolute pleasure to drive from a handling aspect. I truly believe Jan is as excited as I am about the future of this vehicle.
Luckily for us, the previous night all our friends started to chip in and we made short work of prepping the vehicles for the following days racing, tires, camber etc was done in record time and a lot of laughter provided by Mr. Colbrin. This gave as the opportunity to use all of our time before the action started to concentrate on getting the track correct.
The day turned out to be very tough on me physically, having to drive my own vehicle, navigate for Jan and Kobus Wilson with the very rapid Nissan 1400 bakkie asked me to navigate for him in the bakkie and his sisters Golf. But it was worth it, never have I enjoyed a day of racing more than this.
The times looked good for the bakkie and on the Golf, with each round and the confidence growing, the times came down, which is good on Mykonos as this is the one event that could catch you out faster than you think with all the side walks and fences. We struggled a lot with the Golf’s setup, especially in the rear department, with the beast breaking away on hard cornering, Isak van Zyl from Dynotech was kind enough to lend Jan a set of semi slicks to use on the rear, which made a huge difference. This meant Jan had to jump on his piggy bank to get some money for a set before the next event. Jan was able to place to place the Golf just out of a top 10 position. The second outing for Jan and the Golf, a very good result, keep up the good work.
The first event were the bakkie did not suffer from excessive wheel spin, due partly to the layout of the track, the full slicks in front, semi’s at the back , the suspension and experience starting to kick in, why only now, but yes, it takes some time to learn this sort of thing under the conditions. When the final round arrived we already knew we have the 3rd place in Class F sealed, we approached the starting line, not knowing if we are going to attack or just drive to finish, with all the nerves settled we pulled away, what a lap, it was hard, smooth and very fast, until we came out of a sweeping left hand corner and just heard a sound like spanners falling around in the back of the bakkie. We took the caution decision to retire the from the round. It ended being a wheel spacer that snapped. The bakkie performed very well against vehicles with 1600 motors, limited slip diffs, etc. Our best time was only 0.30sec slower than these vehicles.
Thanks to everyone that provided a hand, some advice, a cold-drink when we needed it the most.
A special thanks need to go out to my Father that attended the event, without you, I would not be the owner of this bakkie and to “Einstein” for all the hard work when the garage doors close and Autocad is fired up.
We look forward to the return of Ruan and the very quick Ford Escort for the next event at Flamingos Langebaan, Saturday 28 November.
What a event this turned out to be, not only the fun part of racing the Bakkie and the Golf but the planning, building of it to. Me and Ruan learned the hard way to not work on vehicles the week before a event, everything should be done and tested a week before
the event, but NO, this time I ignored my own advice and did a lot of work in the week before the event.
All started with the new front suspension the bakkie received a week or two earlier, we struggled with front end grip, once that was sorted it resulted in either the driver or navigator on the other one’s lap or a face against a window, the standard seat and seat belts just wasn’t up to the task to keep occupants in there place to concentrate at the job at hand.
On Friday, the day before the event, Jan and I drove threw to Worcester, finalized all the paper work and learned the track, after that we where buy until 12 o’clock the evening adding another 25mm of height to the seats to allow me a better view of obstacles around the nose of the bakkie.
The day kicked of with everything on time and running very nicely, the bakkie went out first and I felt very unsure about the rear stepping out with the slicks on the very nice tarmac. After the run I did not know what to do, drive it harder, softer, I was lost. The golf came out a few minutes after me, Jan drove some good lines for a person that was competing in his first ever gymkhana,
not making one mistake on the route, always the first objective for a new person in the sport. He had a lot of trouble with shifting from 2nd to 1st.
The day continued without any problems, this was the first time that I navigated for a front wheel drive vehicle, and boy I can tell you one thing, I was scared shiitless when we entered a few of the corners on normal street tires, we actually hit the tarmac with the outer lip of the wheels, leaving some nice fresh marks on the alloys. I was just reminded why we spend a lot of money on good racing tires and try to get rid of body roll, it is just not fun hanging on when you need to concentrate on driving or navigating. After the first run with the Golf, it was decided that a the poor little Golf need at least 2 Semi Slicks in front, that will help a lot with traction and confidence.
After the second rounds was done, we where informed that there is only time for a third, automatically this meant that the last round was the most important one, and indeed it turned out to be exactly that, The bakkie had to get a time in the 1m 6sec bracket to finalize a 3rd place. I was so excited as this would have been my first 3rd place. As I completed the run I knew the time was good, but then, I stopped 20mm to far and received a 10sec penalty and lost 3rd and had to settle for 4th place in my class. Jan finished the day with a 5sec improvement from his first run to his last one, indicating that he learned heaps on the day.
Lessons learned: Always compete against your own abilities and never against other people or there times. Mistakes are way to easy to make.
Please feel free to have a look at a in car lap of the bakkie going around the route. Link
Ruan indicated that he will be present at the next event in Langebaan @ Mykonos Casino as he is deprived of the smell of racing in Zambia. We look forward to the event and hope that all will be in order to make it a very memorable event for us.