As many of you may know, Gumtree has sponsored racing veteran Mike Schmidt’s season. Saturday was our very first race and the entire Joburg team came out to support him.
Race day dawned cold with clear blue skies. Having entered the car in two different categories it was decided that although we were going to focus on the Historic Saloon Championship round, Mike would in fact qualify for the Trans Am race as this would give us an excellent opportunity for some extra track time and a chance of warming the car up really well for the main races.
Mike tells the story in his own words: “This decision proved almost disastrous, as I had a massive spin in the early laps of the Trans Am qualifying session that almost ended with a trip into the crash barriers at Wesbank corner. The fault was entirely driver related trying too hard on a very cold track with very cold tyres. The next qualifying session was for the main Historic Saloon race and it must have been an amazing sight to see 60 cars all taking to the track at the same time. From a driving perspective it was incredibly difficult to find a clean lap to register a good time. I struggled for almost all of the session and managed on the very last lap of the session to create enough space to record a lap that was good enough for pole position.”
“As the racing began I took to the track for the first Trans Am race as planned, merely to warm the car up for the Historic Race which was scheduled to follow directly afterwards. Again the decision proved to almost disastrous. As I entered the back straight on lap one the engine suddenly died and I was forced to coast to a stop some way from the pits. I tried frantically to get the car restarted but this proved unsuccessful and I was forced to sit on the side of the track knowing that if I was unable to get the car back to the pits in time, the pole position that I had achieved in qualifying would be lost.
“The track marshals were amazing and worked with me to ensure that I was back in the pits with enough time to sort out the problem and after a nail biting few minutes the Gumtree crew were able to locate the problem and the car fired up. As I rolled down pit road to take my place on the grid the red pit lane light came on which signals that the pit lane is closed and all cars coming after that time would have to start from pit road. This effectively put me at the back of the biggest grid of cars in recent history!!! I was really devastated. Anyway I got my head down and by the end of the race I had managed to work my through the enormous field of cars to finish 6th overall and 3rd in Class C. This would then be my starting position for the final race of the day. At the end of the 2nd Heat having started from 6th on the grid and after a really fantastic race with one of South Africa’s all time greats, Willie Hepburn driving a similar Capri V8, the Gumtree Capri was placed 2nd overall and 1st in Class C for the day.”
Not a bad debut for the new Mean Green Gumtree Machine! The next round of the series takes place at Phakisa in Welkom on August 16th. Hope to see you there!