Eighteen-year-old Kwanda Mokoena and teammates Andrew Rackstraw and German Audi works driver Luc Engstler didn’t put a wheel wrong throughout an incident-packed Cape 9-Hour endurance race at Killarney International Raceway on Saturday December 10.
They reeled off 376 laps of the historic circuit in their Into Africa/Amandla C Audi R8 during a drama-filled 540 minutes of racing to win the seventh and final round of the 2022 SA Endurance Series and clinch the SA Endurance Drivers’ title for Mokoena.
The race was punctuated by brutally heavy crashes, mechanical failures galore and a brief but heavy shower of rain that sent a number of competitors into the pits for wet-weather tyres, only for the circuit to dry out within 20 minutes and force them back into pit lane for fresh slicks.
The race was also slowed by frequent safety car periods, while Killarney’s famous clean-up crew cleared the circuit of bent, broken and even out-of-fuel competitors – although pundits were quick to point out that this year’s 9 Hours was nowhere near as bad in that respect as the 2021 edition, when the safety car, an inoffensive little Hyundai hatch, completed so many laps at the head of the field that it actually featured in the computer print-out of the results.
And through it all, the Into Africa/Amandla C R8 kept running sweetly, its motley crew lapping consistently (when they were allowed to) at less than 70 seconds a lap and leading all but 11 laps of the race – the only times they surrendered the lead were briefly during driver changes in the first four hours.
But that’s not to say they had it all their own way. The Into Africa Lamborghini Huracan of series promoter Xolile Letlaka, SA racing legend Tschops Sipuka and Stuart White – who holds the ultimate lap record for this circuit in the legendary Ginetta G57 – were consistently on the pace, posting the fastest lap of the race at 1:08.439 in the seventh hour.
Had they not been hampered by an enforced early pit stop for tyres, the winning margin might have been even less than the three laps that separated them from the Audi at the finish.
Third, only four laps further adrift, was the BBR GT3 of Hein and Henk Lategan and Verissimo Tavares. The grey Porsche circulated smoothly at about 83 seconds a lap throughout the afternoon and evening, seeming to spend less time in the pits than most of its Class A rivals – and it paid off.
By contrast, Mo Mia and Lee Thompson’s Toys ‘R Us Porsche, newly rebuilt and from which so much was hoped, endured all manner of drama including a pit-lane collision that ruled it out of Thursday’s night practice to finish fifth on 346 laps. Those laps included a best effort of 1:11.893, a full second faster than the BBR Porsche’s best lap, to show that the pace was there; what’s needed now is consistency.
That also eluded local heroes Team Africa Le Mans, only one of whose Ginettas was still running at the end of the evening – but after more than an hour and a half in the pits with alternator problems the #50 car of former F1 star Emanuelle Pirro and his sons Cris and Goofy wasn’t classified as a finisher. The #555 Ginetta of Western Province Motor Club president Dr Greg Mills, chairman Tim Reddell and F1 and Le Mans star Jan Lammers succumbed to differential gremlins after only 61 laps while the #505 machine of Hennie Groenewald, Anthony Reid and Murray Shepherd went out after 150 laps due to overheating.