Round 1 of the 2023 Power Series presented by Wingfield Motors at Killarney International Raceway on Saturday 4 February delivered all the tension and drama a soap opera scriptwriter could ask for, on a day filled with epic contests, spectacular crashes and memorably close finishes.

Topping the bill in the Thermo Fires Clubmans Saloons were Steven Heydenrych, out for the first time in the I Marketing/FAT Racing Skyline, and ‘giant killer’ Raaziegh Harris’ Cool Touch Racing Golf 1. Harris set the bar with a 1min21.174 qualifying lap but was unable to maintain that pace in Race 1, as the all-black Nissan grabbed the lead from lights out and held it to the flag.

Harris hung on for the first four laps but had to give best to oval-track veteran Jesse Huggett (Rico Barlow Racing/Philwest Jetta 2) in the closing stages and finished third, just ahead of Class B leader Daanyaal Coetzee (A&M Plumbing BMW E46 M3), after Shane Smith (Truckport Logistics BMW E46) charged through the field up to third with a lap to go and then went out on the last lap.

Race 2 was red-flagged seconds after the start when Ewald Weiland (Alfa Romeo GTV) spun in Turn 1, right in front of Bruce Meyer’s Cape Industrial Flooring Polo. The resulting collision opened the side of the Alfa like a can-opener and double-flipped the Polo onto its roof; both drivers were lucky to walk away unhurt.

Heydenrych led from the restart, controlling the race from the front while Harris held off both Huggett and a hard-charging Craig Rapp (BMW 328) until three laps from the flag, when Rapp powered through to take second very briefly, and Harris went out. Huggett, always a threat at the death, demoted Rapp to third a lap later and it was all over bar the shouting.

Defending champion Jurie ‘Umpie’ Swart (Bullion IT Polo 6) dominated both Alert Engine Parts GTi Challenge races, despite an unexpected and very determined challenge from up-country rival Clinton Bezuidenhout (Volkswagen Polo), in his first GTi Challenge outing, who just got the better of Nathan Victor (Summit Racing Polo) for second in Race 1. Zaki Hendricks (Volkswagen Polo 6R) was the Class B leader in fourth overall, while Matthew Rowe (Veldt Reared Golf 1) led the Class C ‘brat pack’ home.

Swart pulled steadily away from the field in Race 2 to win by 6.4 seconds from Bezuidenhout, with Schalk Geldenhuys third after Victor went out on lap two. Kyle Visser (Charl Engineering Polo) stole Hendricks’ Class B thunder in fourth overall, while Rowe improved one place to win Class C in seventh overall.

Swedish visitor Kennet Persson in his thundering McLaren M6B and new entry to the Laude Classic Cars category Nian du Toit (Ford Capri Perana) turned the established order on its ear as they battled with Franco Donadio (Ford Escort Mk1) and Michael Hitchcock’s Cross Cape Forklift Services Mustang. They finished Race 1 in that order, within 2.051 seconds after eight superb laps.    

Du Toit’s Perana then added some extra drama to Race 2 when its oil-filter adapter let go coming out of Turn 2 on lap six; to his eternal credit Du Toit controlled the resulting misbehaviour and got off the circuit immediately. But his race was over, leaving the door open for Donadio and Hitchcock to get really serious about second in a dice that went all the way to the flag and ended with Donadio just 2.223 seconds behind the McLaren and less than a second ahead of Hitchcock.

Persson was back out in the Spitfire Sports & GT category, but neither they nor any of the local hotshots could stay with Mikaeel Pitamber’s MP17/Rico Barlow Racing Ligier JS 53 EVO 2; even defending champion Steve Humble in the Judd V8-powered Pilbeam MP91 was nearly a second a lap slower, as Pitamber scorched away to win Race 1 by 14 seconds, with Dawie Joubert third in the Rembrandt Racing/Wildrose Gin 911 and Humble’s Harp Motorsport team-mate Francis Carruthers fourth in his Pilbeam MP84. Persson was running a strong seventh in the 56-year-old M6B when it went sick on lap eight and he parked it on the crossover.

Four laps into Race 2 the engine of Pitamber’s Ligier let go big time going into Interceptor Corner; Humble, right behind him, was able to avoid the ensuing oil slick but a number of others were not as fortunate and the red flags came out.

The restart became a five-lap sprint, with Humble leading all the way from Joubert, Carruthers and Persson, after Clinton Thorne’s turbo Toyota powered Lotus 7 dropped back from third on lap one and went out on lap four.

Former Pirelli V8 Masters champion Fabio Tafani came out to prove a point after losing the No.1 plate to Sean Moore and led every lap of Race 1, despite the best efforts of marcel Angel and Jason Ibbotson, while Moore spun into the dirt in Hoals Hoek at the start of lap four, later to retire.

Two laps later Carl Nel went up the inside of Ibbotson in Turn 2; the two touched, and both went off the circuit. Ibbotson’s car wound up in the tyre wall at the entry to Interceptor Corner and the red flags came out. The results were taken as at the end of lap five, which, ironically, gave Ibbotson back his third place behind Tafani and Angel, with Nel fourth.

Tafani and Angel, the only two not affected by the earlier mayhem, took Race 2 by the scruff of its neck and pulled away from the (somewhat reduced) field at about a second to finish 10 seconds clear, just 0.168sec apart. Behind them Ibbotson, Moore, Nel and Rui Campos enjoyed a splendid tussle for third which saw them finish in that order with all four covered by less than three seconds.

Byron Mitchell put the Dolphin Engineering Formula VW on pole for the Formula Libre races, but the car went sick during qualifying and was not seen again on the day. That left Andrew Rackstraw (VW Reynard) to romp away to two emphatic wins from Storm Lanfear’s AMD Engineering/Investchem/RDSA Mygale F1600 (second in Race 1, third in Race 2) and Dee-Jay Booysen in the Dico Racing/Burner Factory VW Reynard (third in Race 1, second in Race 2 ). The Formula Vee midfield, as always, provided plenty of excitement, as Zane Amundsen (Repsol Lantis), Kelly Fletcher (Dolphin Engineering Forza), Richard Carr (Rhema), Donovan Ramsay (Kerston Foods Sting), and Nick van der Westhuizen (NW Logistics Lantis) mixed it up in both races, with Amundsen, Ms Fletcher and Carr taking the overall honours for the day.