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LTR's Charl, Simon score against the odds

Lee Thompson Racing ended a hectic double-header week of motor racing at a dramatic opening national race meeting at Killarney on Saturday with encouraging results against all odds. Just days after a successful regional race day at Zwartkops Heritage Day Tuesday, Thompson’s GTC2 driver Charl Smallberger ended up third against all odds, while Simon Need enjoyed a positive pair of Engen Volkswagen Cup races.

Smallberger endured a torrid build-up to the weekend through which he was forced to miss qualifying, but he bounced back to deliver an unexpected third overall on race day “The objective Friday morning was just to get a feel for my new iCorp Volkswagen Golf GTI 7 and I ended up 3rd on the time sheets. “Then disaster struck when the gearbox broke while driving down pit lane and the replacement ‘box was not compatible, so I missed the rest of Friday’s running including qualifying.

“We learnt a lot about the car’s ECU, but we could not resolve the issue. “Then we sourced the correct transmission late Friday evening, so it was an early start for Lee and the boys as they fitted the new box Saturday morning. “Then warm-up only lasted a couple of laps before being red flagged and then we had an over-boost issue and had to tune the car for an over-boost issue on the backroads of Killarney!

“I started Race1 from the back, but I made a lightning start and made up 2 places at turn1 and I was up to fourth by the end of lap 1 so I set about chasing for a podium, but I never quite had the pace to challenge for 3rd and had to settle for 4th. “Then one of my rivals incurred a post race technical infringement and I inherited third after all.

“I had another good start in race 2 and passed the Mini around the outside of turn1 before I chased down the top 3 competitors and started to challenge Mandla Mdkane’s works GTI for third and we enjoyed a great side-by-side battle until the very last corner where the two of us and Johan Fourie, who was lapping us in the GTC BMW, went 3 abreast where there was really only enough space for two and the BMW and I touched, which unfortunately cost Johan a position.

“Still considering all the drama, we finished third overall, which was a positive end to a weekend that started disastrously, so special thanks to Lee and the guys for all the effort in making it happen.”

Lee Thompson Racing’s Volkswagen Cup entry, Simon Need’s Photonics Polo had an equally adventurous weekend, but it also all worked out in the end when the Mauritian gentleman driver delivered a positive 14th overall at the end of the day. “We had a driveline issue and had to replace the left front upright on Friday and then we had a gearbox issue on Saturday, so between my car and Charl’s issues, the team had their hands doubly full, so a special word of thanks to Lee and the lads.

“I was happy to find a little pace and move up the field a little through the day,” Need conceded. “I qualified 19th and climbed to 16th in race 1, but the second race was a bit more robust. “I had a little contact in turn 5 on the opening lap, but then I managed to climb up to 15th. “Sadly a last lap slip dropped me back to 17th, but with all the drama around me I was quite happy to end up 14th for the day.”

“That was a tough week,” Lee Thompson admitted. “We raced four cars in the VW Challenge in Pretoria on Tuesday, rushed to the Cape for Friday practice and spent two days fixing gearboxes and drivetrains, but somehow it all turned around in the race and both Charl and Simon had pretty good results. “We need a bit of a break to recharge but its back to work as soon as possible with the Kyalami national and Red Star regional coming up — and of course, we can’t wait to race again!”