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
The week leading up to the event was spent under “Lil Datto” front suspension, having taken it completely apart, to widen the track more. Some interesting male/female extension pieces was machined to allow for further adjustment of the track. The original pieces was on their limits and didn’t allow for more adjustment, the steering arms, was adjusted to use only 10mm of thread, which isn’t considered to be very safe. But from time to time these extreme measure are needed to test a theory in the practical world in order to make the decision if it is worthwhile to spend money on the modification, luckily for me this proved to be a huge success and I went ahead. The end result was a front end which is +- 85mm wider per side.
Another early morning start at 04:00am, packed the cool bags, attached the race vehicles and off we were at 05:15. On arrival at Weskus Mall at 07:00 we immediately started with swapping tyres, adjusting the suspensions and getting everything in place ready for the action to start. Went thru documentation and scrutineering; then the mega task of learning the route started, the itself not that difficult, but the venue with all the little bushes making it very confusing. Once we started with the learning of the route we had absolutely no rest what so ever. Being the most intimidating venue that we have come across in Gymkhana to date, the rest of the season can only be easier. This venue is so bad, I bought myself a video camera, maybe some previewing of the venue would help in the future.
Mike Mathee and Herman Mathee in Class D VW Fox 1.4i – 1st in Class D and 13th Overall
navigate for 6 different entries on the day, the first outing is always the most important, my nerves was shattered and in the back of my mind I was struggling to keep the doubt under control as I was very uncomfortable with the route. Mike was the poor soul that was first on my list, placing the VW Fox on the line, we set off and all of a sudden the doubt cleared and we navigated thru the route with no navigation errors. On his first run he had to select reverse as his incoming line to a hairpin corners was completely off, something that I think was a first for me. Selina found it very difficult to remember the route thru the 30+ identical looking bushes, hopefully being the last time we compete at the venue this year, we can only looking forward to the other venues with their own challenges. The day continued with a straight battle between Mike and Jan for Class D honours, at the end of the day, the battle was decided with a very quick time from Mike on his last run which secured the title for the day. Hopefully on the next event Mike’s regular navigator will be back and for filling his duties next to my brother, as I really do feel additional concern in navigating for my brother and Jan in the same class when they are this competitive.
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 14th Overall
Herman Mathee and Mike Mathee in Class F Datsun 1200 – 2nd in Class F and 12th Overall
Starting the first round in “Lil Datto” at 5000rpm was a complete nightmare, as the vehicle launched hard and then all of a sudden the revs fell and I had to sit there and wait for it to pick up again; SU’s your days are numbered, going thru the first few corners I could feel something isn’t 100% correct, but once we got to the very technical side of things these concerns was highlighted, the front end felt slow to accept input. We continued thru the route and was the only vehicle in class F to have a clean run thru the route after the first round. Still trying to figure out what was causing the lack of response and front end grip we launched again for the 2nd round, with the revs higher and a little longer on the clutch it was much better. Having decided that we should drive much tighter lines and not overdrive the vehicle we swept thru the corners to stop at the finish line a full 3sec faster than before. Very pleased with this time, we came to the conclusion that the car really does not like to be overdriven and forget about the front end. The 3rd round I was very confident and determined to finish the day with a sub 1min 21sec time, this over confidence soon became apparent as I skipped a part of the course and had to turn around to correct it. Not very pleased with this I set off to have a little fun and practising my handbrake cornering, going thru a ditch and losing 1 bar of air pressure in the one rear wheel was a result of this. After the event when torqueing the wheel nuts on the street wheels, we realised that the front wheels had allot of play on, after inspection it became apparent that the front track rod bushes wasn’t tightened enough, causing the spongy feeling and lack of response.
Never the less, a very fun filled and enjoyable outing and one that will be with me for a very long time seeing that a made a big driving error and need to concentrate on it to rectify it, Lesson of the day: Listen to your navigator, it is there role next to you to keep you on route.
Selina Botes and Herman Mathee in Class D VW Fox 1.4i – 7th in Class D