Following two rounds of the hotly contested Oettinger Polo Cup at Pretoria’s Zwartkops Raceway, the series that is renowned for dishing up close racing moved to a new venue for the first time in 2020, albeit in front of empty stands at the Red Star Raceway as a result of the strict Covid-19 regulations. Fans did however receive the opportunity to follow all three races live on social media and those who did tune in were treated to the type of action that made this series so popular in the first place.
The Friday practice sessions confirmed what everyone already knew. Racing in the Oettinger Polo Cup is always a close affair, and round three of the championship at the Red Star Raceway near Delmas was not going to be any different with only tenths of separating the majority of the field. Qualifying is therefore extremely important as a good starting position can go a long way when it comes to winning races in a field so tightly matched. Capetonian Dario Busi came to Delmas as the man with a big target on his back as it is his name that appeared at the top of the championship standings, but with that position comes great responsibility. “I would like nothing more than claiming another win or two, but our objective this weekend was to see the bigger picture and protect the lead that we have on the championship points ladder,” said Busi before the Saturday morning’s qualifying session. The Oates twins Justin and Darren were second and third on the points table respectively going into the Red Star weekend. The weekend also provided the opportunity for another youngster in the form of Leyton Fourie to make his mark as his name consistently appeared near the top of the standings throughout the weekend. Busi made a good start to his weekend by setting the third fastest time in the Superpole qualifying session with the impressive young Fourie going second fastest in only his second ever Oettinger Polo Cup race meeting. Pole position however went to Natalian driver Clinton Bezuidenhout who set a time of 2:10.633 around the four kilometres of tarmac that make up the Red Star Raceway. This was just 0.142 seconds faster than Fourie, but sometimes a tenth of a second is all you need.
When the flag dropped, Bezuidenhout managed to keep his nose out front to claim a flag to flag victory with a full field of Polo drivers in hot pursuit. The man on a mission was Matt Shorter who fought his way up into second after starting down in fourth. Busi did his title aspirations no harm by finishing third, just ahead of Fourie who dropped a few spots down into fourth.
Race two provided vintage Oettinger Polo Cup action with tens of equally matched Polos all fighting to occupy the same stretch of tarmac. And while this was all happening, Matt Shorter got the break he needed and disappeared off into the distance to take an emphatic win. Bezuidenhout emerged from the pack in second position, just ahead of Busi who recorded another podium finish, collecting valuable championship points in the process. Bezuidenhout managed to make it two from three by claiming the final race win on a very busy day, again with Busi piling up the points, this time with a second place finish. In the Oettinger Polo Cup, the overall winner on the day is decided by adding the times it took to complete all three races. Shorter’s dominant victory in the second race meant he took the overall win by a mere 0.666 seconds over Bezuidenhout with Busi in third. Fourie completed an impressive weekend with a fine fourth position ahead of Arnold Neveling, Chris Shorter and the first master in the form of JP van der Walt.
“The Oettinger Polo Cup once again proved why it is so popular and successful,” commented Mike Rowe, head of Volkswagen Motorsport. “We have a bunch of young guys with great talent in identical cars going bumper to bumper. It’s what motorsport is all about.”
Rowe was impressed by the performance of a number of drivers; “Clinton had a great weekend with two race wins that are very hard to come by. Dario drove very maturely to manage his position at the top of the championship points table, and youngster Leyton certainly made his mark as a star of the future. I can’t wait to see how this series is going to pan out at the last round,” he concluded.
The last round of the shortened 2020 Oettinger Polo Cup championship is scheduled to take place at Port Elizabeth’s Aldo Scribante racetrack on 30 and 31 October.