After an hour of action-packed racing at Brands Hatch where Simon Crain took a fantastic victory, Simsport Racing competitors returned to the track once again, this time at South Africa’s premier circuit, Kyalami, for round 2 of the Simsport Racing GT3 Championship Season 5.
The fans-favourite track, sitting just north of Johannesburg, would this time be the host of the first 90 minute race of the season, the first that would really test the endurance skills of the field of competitors, where consistency, patience and making the right calls at the right time would be key factors in being rewarded with a good result.
With the likes of Crain, Charlie Crossland and Reegan Mitchell amongst the ones to watch, Qualifying pulled up a couple of eye-catching results. Taking Pole was Mantas Povilaitis in the Porsche with the Aston Martin Vantage of Aivaras Mickus joining him on the front row following a terrific one-lap display. Charlie Crossland qualified well in third, whilst Championship leader Simon Crain could only manage eighth but could certainly not be ruled out. There was also good qualifying displays from Myles Dixon, Rich Smith and Dean Riley as Reegan Mitchell rounded out the top 10 and thoughts began to switch towards the race.
The race taking place at night and on a wet track would throw up a number of variables for our field of drivers to tackle, but created a stunning backdrop of headlights and reflections as the cars all headed towards turn 1 using all their skills and experience to make their way through safely under the cover of darkness.
With that, it was Crossland who adapted to the conditions well and took the early lead of the race with a terrific move on fellow fast-starter Mickus around the outside of Crowthorne.
As Crossland continued to lead out front from Mickus, Rich Smith almost took himself and Mickus out of contention having lost control following a pass on Karolis Sipavicius for third and missing his breaking point, with his Mercedes lucky to only nudge the barriers and avoid major damage. Mickus would certainly have breathed a sigh of relief as the Mercedes flew past only narrowly missing the front of his car.
Crossland’s lead at front wasn’t to last however, with the resurgent Mickus pulling off a great move as they passed through the Ingwe corner. Things then got worse for Crossland as he lost out to Sipavicius for second place as the Mercedes began to falter in the tricky conditions. Rich Smith meanwhile, had done a great job of damage limitation following his earlier erroneous moment and was running well in fourth.
Further down the field, Ranjiv Kalsi and Kieran Vidago both pulled off good moves to get past Pole sitter Povilaitis who had also began to slip down the field, whilst at the front, Karolis Sipavicius had hit the lead of the race and was sitting ahead of Crossland who had once again made his way into second place.
With an hour left on the clock, Crossland made a mistake which ultimately ended his chances of victory as he lost control and spun into the barriers coming out of the Mineshaft, with the Mercedes once again proving to be a handful in the conditions. As Crossland spun out in front, Mickus decided to attempt a brave dive down the inside of Rich Smith as they entered The Crocodiles, only to outbreak himself, run wide and give Smith some breathing space to go after the leader, Sipavicius.
In an exciting battle for twelfth, the BMW of Marc Neutelings and Bentley of Myles Dixon were involved in an epic drag race down the start/finish straight and through the kink, a race that only concluded when Neutelings caught himself out under breaking and ran wide at Crowthorne as Dixon won the battle of the GT3 powerhouses.
With just twenty minutes left on the clock and the field having completed their mandatory pitstops, Vidago and Martin Durgala enjoyed an epic battle with Durgala making his Ferrari as wide as possible and making use of every inch of the track to hold his position under immense pressure from Vidago’s fellow 488.
At the front, Simon Crain, who had used his pitstop very early on in the race, had done a terrific job of making his way back through the field and into second and was doing all in his power to chase down the Mercedes of Rich Smith. Unfortunately for Smith, his lead would soon be gone following a spin whilst lapping battling back markers which led to the door being left wide open for Crain to move past his stricken Mercedes and hit the front of the field to complete the most epic of comebacks. With just 12 minutes left on the clock however and conditions still difficult, Crain would have to concentrate, keep it on the road and ensure he made no errors if he was to take advantage of his unexpected gift and take the chequered flag.
And Crain did just that, crossing the line to take his second victory of the season with the most stunning of performances. Rich Smith trailed home in second and would have been kicking himself that his error cost him a shot at the race win, although he can be applauded for a great drive. Dean Riley rounded out the top 3 ahead of the impressive Mickus whilst there were eye-catching performances by the likes of Myles Dixon, Dave Hedges and Kieran Vidago to finish in the top 10. Reegan Mitchell meanwhile could only manage 16th but did a good job in a McLaren which was certainly unsuited to such tricky conditions.
The AM class was won by Luke Hanlon-Fitzgerald, with Durgala and Callum Cook rounding out the podium positions. Once again, Simsport Racing would like to congratulate all of our winners and podium finishers.
Next up, our field tackles Imola for another 60 minutes of high-octane action and as ever, you can view our Live Stream of the event from the Simsport Racing Youtube Channel. Be sure to hit the subscribe button and get involved for Round 3 of what is already becoming a fantastic Championship.
Can Simon Crain complete a hat-trick of victories or can anybody stop him? Be sure to tune in and find out!
Driver and Team Standings after Round 2:
Images courtesy of Mike Yau from Simply Race