Lee Thompson Racing ended it’s hectic 2017 race season off in style with a championship win, a runner up position and a generally positive day at a sodden Zwartkops Raceway outside Pretoria on Saturday.
Thompson’s team ran seven cars over three championships through the year, with veteran Iain Pepper emerging as Class A Volkswagen Challenge champion, Shaun Crous ending second in VW Challenge Class C, while Simon Need took third in the Engen VW Cup Masters race last time out and all Lee’s men ended up in their respective championship top fives.
“That was a busy year, but we ended up with great results all round,” team principal Lee Thompson pointed out. “Well done to Iain, Shaun and Simon on their title podiums and well done to the rest of the guys — all and all we had a good year and the team tried hard and learnt a lot about each other, so next year we will just be stronger”
Iain Pepper enjoyed a splendid comeback year, wrapping up his title win with double wins in his Husqvarna Motorcycles/Cornright Motors LTR Polo. “What an awesome return to circuit racing after 7 years to win the VW Challenge Class A Championship,” Iain admitted. “This was only possible due to Lee Thompson Racing’s great preparation of my car by and my sponsors, Husqvarna Motorcycles and Cornright Motors.
“Lee your preparation & advice was second to none, without which I could never have won this championship and I also have to say a very special word of thanks to my unbelievable family — Cheryl, Tasmin, Morgan and Jordan for giving me the time and all your support to go racing again!”
Zwartkops was also another positive outing for Shaun Crous who took his Ancro Building Projects LTR Polo Vivo to a couple of second positions to wrap up second in the VW Challenge Class C championship. “The racing at Zwartkops was one great day — I ended the season in second place in the Class C championship and I had so much fun in the wet!” Shaun explained. “I want to say a huge thank you to Lee Thompson for a great season — this certainly was one to remember, to my sponsor Ancro Building Projects and the series sponsors without you it wouldn’t have happened — and to God be the glory!”
It was a tougher day for Thompson’s other two drivers — both Waldie Meintjes and Wayne Crous went off in heat 1 before returning to hang on to their respective fourth and fifth positions in the final Class A championship. “I had a bit of an off in race 1 and that ended my challenge,” Marties Panel LTR driver Waldie admitted. “But we came back nicely to end up fourth in race 2, so I was able to fend off my teammate Wayne for fourth in the championship. “2017 was a tough year on track, but we made the best of it — thanks so much to Lee and the team for all they have done this season.”
It was also a mixed day for Wayne Crous and his Toshiba Tech/Delway LTR Polo. “I had my best-ever qualifying in second and made a great start to sit in second, but I made a small mistake and went off, the cam timing jumped and it bent valves,” Wayne explained. “Then I was fighting for third in race 2 and repeated my turn 5 mistake to drop to 6th, which was just enough to hold on to fifth in the Class A championship by one point! “I learned a lot this weekend and my year has been very good, especially the experience I’ve gained with all the help from Lee — he found the right setup to suit my driving style. “We’ll be back with Lee next year better and stronger!”
The weekend however proved a significant challenge for Charl Smalberger and his Unichip VW Parts LTR Golf GTI in the Sasol GTC2 races. Smalberger arrived at Zwartkops sitting third in the title race, but a series of issues ruined his races, allowing the two factory Minis to jump him in the championship race. “It started with over boost in practice, but we solved the problem just before qualifying and then it was under-boosting, so I struggled,” Charl rued. “Then in race 1 I battled to get the car turned in on the wet track before the windscreen fogged up so I struggled home at the back.
“That saw me on pole for the reverse grid race 2, which I led before I was pulled into someone else’s accident from behind and that bang knocked my car’s wheel alignment out, so I struggled home at the back again. “Not a good weekend, but we have learnt so much this year and Lee and me are working very well together. We are looking to coming back with a bang next season — bring it on!”
Lee Thompson Racing’s other drivers, Simon Need’s championship ended last month, while Delon Thompson sat the weekend out to concentrate on exams.