There was a dream debut class T win for Mandla Mdakana of Johannesburg in the Castrol MINI John Cooper Works in race two of the fourth round of the Bridgestone Production Car Championship in East London on July the 5th. Race one was won by team-mate Lee Thompson, his second victory this year.
Mdakane, a 20-year-old student at Crawford College, chose his first outing at the ultra-high speed and daunting former grand prix circuit alongside the Indian Ocean to announce his presence in the country’s leading saloon car category after success in karting and Volkswagen Cup locally as well as the Asia Cup and VW Formula Masters China overseas.
He finished a creditable fourth in the opening eight-lap sprint race behind Thompson after qualifying fifth, seven tenths of a second off Michael van Rooyen’s pole position lap time. Thompson qualified third, a tenth of a second off pole. The grid for race two, scheduled for 12 laps, saw the field line-up in reverse order of current championship positions, with Mdakane on pole.
Driving with great maturity and showing the benefits of his overseas experience, he held off the challenges of his more experienced rivals before former champion Gary Formato finally found a way past. The MINI driver then came under pressure from defending champion Graeme Nathan.
Mdakane led Nathan at the start of lap 10, but the two made contact soon after Nathan had got past and Nathan went off the circuit. His hot car set the dry grass on fire. The race was red-flagged and the result calculated according to the order at the end of the previous lap. This gave Mdakane second place behind Formato, who was subsequently disqualified for a technical infringement involving his car’s boost pressure. Nathan was credited with second place at the end of the day.
Any chance of Thompson, 34, claiming back-to-back victories as he so memorably did in Cape Town in round eight in October last year were dashed when he experienced gearbox problems on the warm-up lap and was unable to take the start.
“Another big disappointment,” said a crestfallen Thompson as he assumed the unwanted role of spectator. “We have a great package in the Castrol MINI and it feels really good. We’ve put in a lot of hard work to get it handling and braking as well as it does. Congratulations to Mandla on a most impressive performance this weekend.”
Mdakane was understandably thrilled with his results: ”I couldn’t have wished for a better start to my relationship with the team. They have made me feel very welcome and given me loads of encouragement, particularly Lee. The technical crew did a great job and I am over the moon to finish on the podium at my first race meeting in the Castrol MINI, let along take a win.”
In addition to principal sponsor Castrol, the team enjoys support from MINI John Cooper Works, EPS Courier Services, Powerbrake and Sony Playstation. In addition, ADF has secured a deal with one of the world‘s leading sponsorship and brand engagement agencies, Octagon.
The next round of the championship is at Phakisa Freeway in the Free State on August 2.