Circuit racing rookies Fikile Holomisa and Bapi Rubuluza celebrated their first Cobra Challenge podium finish in the South African Endurance championship, bringing the ELB Equipment/Ndala Solutions Cobra sports car home in an excellent third place in the long-distance racing series’ opening round. It was only their second outing in the car, having cut their circuit racing teeth at the end of last year in the Cape Town Nine Hour.

This performance took place at Red Star Raceway near Delmas, Mpumalanga over four hours, kicking off at 3pm on Saturday 2 April, and ending at 7pm.

Despite the car’s power steering failing with an hour to go, Rubuluza brought the #11 entry home without further drama (but with aching arms), having taken over from Holomisa after approximately two and three-quarter hours.

The latter pitted a lap earlier than scheduled because of severe cramp in his right hand, the burly driver having had some issues throughout the practice sessions with the restricted cockpit. The timing was less than perfect – Bapi was away from the pits on a ‘comfort break’ when Holomisa roared down the pitlane, but by this stage their podium in the Backdraft Cobra-exclusive class E was secure.

Bapi started the race and despite minimal circuit knowledge – partly solved by using track coaching specialists, Stigworx, to speed up the learning process – rapidly started lapping much faster than he had in the practice sessions. The team’s strategy was to drive conservatively and be gentle on the car, and to be as consistent as possible throughout.

Thornton-Ellison panned

The strategy included a demanding middle session for Holomisa, with his time at the wheel extended thanks to two Safety Car periods while track authorities cleared oil spillages and attended to other incidents.

“Now that we’ve visited the podium, we definitely want more of the same and sponsors willing, we’ll be back behind the wheel for the next round, which is in Port Elizabeth on May 14,” said Holomisa

The Backdraft category was won by the distinctive black and gold Titan Racing entry of Colin Ellison and triple historic formula one champion, Greg Thornton, who drove an extremely well-judged race – though a problem with lighting in the closing stages nearly cost them the victory. Silver medals went to the Morgenrood brothers (sons of famed circuit veteran, Ben Morgenrood). Like Thornton/Ellison they completed 100 laps and less than a minute separated the two Cobras after four hours of racing!

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