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LTR heads south off strong Zwartkops run

Lee Thompson Racing enjoyed a positive start to its 2017 season with great results for all four of its drivers at Tuesday’s season-opening Northern Regions Comsol Volkswagen Challenge races in Pretoria, but the team heads straight to Cape Town for the first round of the SA National GTC2 and Engen Volkswagen Cup races at Killarney on Saturday.

Iain Pepper (Campos Transport Polo) was straight onto the pace as he qualified his Husqvarna Motorcycles Campos Transport Polo third on the grid in spite of not racing for the past nine years, while teammates Waldie Meintjes (LTR/Marty’s Body Polo) and Wayne Crous (Delway LTR Polo) lined up fifth and sixth in Class A. Shaun Crous meanwhile put his Ancro Building Projects LTR Polo Vivo a promising third on the Class C grid.

The first race saw Pepper and Meintjes running third and fourth behind Stiaan Kriel and pole man James Hurley early on, before Pepper and Hurley became embroiled in a fierce dice for second as they kept the Zwartkops crowd on the edge of its seats. Iain sneaked second at the end, also entertaining Meintjes who kept a watching brief as he brought it home fourth, while Wayne Crous fought back after a slow start to end up seventh.

The second Class A race once again saw Pepper and Hurley at it for second as Kriel controlled proceedings from the front, before Iain established authority on Hurley to bring it home second again to secure that position for the day. Meintjes repeated his fourth place ahead of his much happier Lee Thompson Racing teammate Crous as Pepper ended up second overall for the day, Meintjes fourth and Crous a happy fifth.

Shaun Crous meanwhile enjoyed a positive start to his Class C season, moving up to second off the start before enjoying a fraught scrap with Rory Atkinson, which saw Shaun ending up third behind Wouter Roos and Atkinson. Crous enjoyed a better run in the second heat, chasing Atkinson home to second to wrap up third overall for the day.

“I am pretty happy with that,” Iain Pepper smiled after the race. “I enjoyed two great scraps with James and I have a good idea of what to do to close the gap on Stiaan. “I’d say the cobwebs are now gone - I’m really looking forward to the next race and the rest of the season!”

Waldie Meintjes was upbeat despite being concerned by the pace up front. “It was a solid start, but we need to find a little more. “We go to Red Star next and I had a good run last time we were there, so I’m looking forward to working with Lee and the team to make sure we are right on it come end April.”

“I know I am being hard on myself, but it went okay today,” Wayne Crous admitted. “I had a very bad start in race 1, but my race 2 start was much better and I had a good dice with Delon Thompson and I managed to pass him for the number 5 spot with a few laps left. “I suppose this weekend was a step forward but I want more, so it’s back to the drawing board for me — more seat time is needed.”

“It was a great start to the season,” younger crous brother Shaun admitted. “Lee Thompson Racing got the car on pace and I’m happy to be driving the Ancro Building Projects LTR Polo Vivo — I am hugely thankful to my sponsor for everything they do for me. “With a little more practice we will be up to winning again next race at Red Star — that’s going to be a great race!”

The Comsol VW Challenge returns to Red Star on 29 April, but there is no rest for Lee Thompson Racing just yet as the team has another appointment at Killarney this weekend, where it runs Charl Smalberger’s iCorp Volkswagen Golf GTI 7 in Sasol GTC 2 and Simon Need in the Engen Volkswagen Cup at the Cape raceway for the national championship season opener this Saturday 25 March.

Smalberger won a couple of races on his way to third in last year’s GTC2 championship in an older GTI 6 and he’s looking forward to stepping up his new car, which Daniel Rowe drove to the championship win last year. “We have had a few test sessions — more than the usual and the car feels good,” Charl explained. 

“We did some suspension work — this car is different to what I am used to, but I am most excited to work with Lee — he’s the best in the country and I would like to thank him for all his efforts as well as my backers, Volkswagen, iCorp, OMP, Indy Oil and Sabertek, as well as my dad for everything — bring on Saturday - let’s do this!”

The team is also looking forward to running Mauritian Simon Need in his second season of the VW Polo Cup. “2016 was an eye opener to the exceptionally high standard of driving in South Africa,” Simon admitted. “It was my debut season in motorsport and all the circuits were new, so I focused on learning, but we had a good test at Zwartkops and the car feels great thanks to Lee and his team, so I’m confident that we can build on our first season and hopefully post some quicker lap times.

“Racing out of Mauritius is challenging, especially for testing, but as a foreign driver I feel that the VW Engen Polo Cup has accepted me with open arms — I feel very welcome and I can’t wait to be back in action in Cape Town this weekend.”

“It’s a bit of a mad week with us starting the season with two big meetings within four days,” team boss Lee Thompson concluded. “Happily it started well and all four of our VW Challenge guys enjoyed a positive weekend, but there is quite literally no rest for the wicked and we are heading straight to Killarney with Charl and Simon — Cape Town is always a pleasure and we’re looking forward to more positive results.”