The second round of the South African Rotax Junior Max Championship went down at Vereeniging’s Laserfiche Raceway this past weekend and Joseph Oelz was out to continue his challenge for the number 1 plate in this extremely competitive class. It was in the late Saturday afternoon’s qualifying session where he laid the foundation for a successful weekend.
Qualifying, running as usual to allow each driver two flying laps saw Oelz head out with only one goal in mind and that was to be starting race 1 the following morning from pole position. Did I mention this class was competitive? A mere 4 tenths covered the top 10 grid spots and it was Oelz who emerged at the top of the stack beating out Aqil Alibhai by 66 thousandths of a second! As much as it was a job well done for the afternoon, Joseph knew it was going to be extremely tough to emerge victorious come Sunday with a number of very quick drivers aiming to spoil the party.
The following morning, as the lights went out for race 1, Joseph made the most of his 1st place on the grid to lead out during the early jostling. Brake issues appeared for Oelz soon thereafter, by lap 3 he had barely any brakes and struggled to keep the pace and come lap 6, a lunge from Daniele Patrizi relegated Oelz down to 5th. In this sort of close racing, one move can mean the difference between gaining and losing a number of positions but Oelz fought back valiantly having been a second adrift of the leading bunch. By lap 9 he had caught up to Jayden Els in 4th and the two traded positions a few times before Oelz started the final lap in 5th. With the checkered flag looming, Els and Patrizi had a coming together with only a few corners to go, in turn handing Oelz P3. Not the result he was looking for, but none the less good points for the championship.
“It turned out we had a solid piece of copper running through the one side of the brake pads and it melted onto the disk” explained the team after the race.
Race 2 saw Joseph start from the second row and as the flag dropped he followed Leyton Fourie as they caught the rest of the field napping and it would be Fourie followed by Oelz into turn 1. It remained that way for the first lap as Charl Visser kept himself interested from P3. On lap 2, into the left hander at the end of the triple treat, Oelz made a decisive move to snatch P1. He didn’t see a rear bumper for the rest of the race as he opened the gap by around 2 tenths a lap to take fantastic victory. Alibhai came home in P2 nearly 2 seconds adrift.
Setting the 2nd best lap time in race 2 gave Oelz the outside of the front row for the 3rd and final race of the day. Charl Visser started from pole and that’s how they exited turn 1, Oelz hot on his heels and searching for a second win for the day. Almost as if race 2 was a dress rehearsal, Oelz again favoured the overtaking opportunity at the end of the triple treat to claim 1st before the opening lap had even concluded. He then set about checking out for the win, which he did in fine style, Visser could only manage P2, a healthy 4 seconds behind.
To conclude a quite fantastic day’s racing, Joseph Oelz left Vereeniging with the overall victory in Rotax Junior Max. With half the season down he looks a hot shot favorite to challenge for the title, especially with his home track Killarney Raceway in Cape Town next up on the calendar.