Diary of a rookie racer: A hard lesson in motorsport

The GR Yaris Cup cars on the track at Aldo Scribante.

The GR Yaris Cup cars on the track at Aldo Scribante.

GR Yaris Cup driver Sean Nurse shares his challenges at Aldo Scribante racetrack in Port Elizabeth, the first time for him at the race venue – and Round 3 of the national series.

Round 3 of the National Extreme Festival saw the GR Yaris Cup head to the iconic Aldo Scribante circuit in Geerah in the Eastern Cape.

This was my second outing in the SN Automotive GR Yaris and, indeed, the first time I had raced at Aldo, so I knew there would be challenges.Learning the circuit

We arrived in the Eastern Cape on Thursday evening as the first practice session was scheduled for just after 8 am on Friday. It was raining when we arrived, and despite the forecast reading clear skies on Friday and Saturday, I knew the track surface would be wet when we arrived for practice. My thoughts proved to be correct and upon arrival at the track, there were wet patches around the 2.48km circuit, which on cold semi-slick tyres is certainly no joke.

READ | Diary of a rookie racer: First race with a win in the bag

I headed out for my first session and immediately noted how loose the rear-end of the car felt, with far more oversteer than I have ever experienced onboard the Yaris, which was both fun and mildly terrifying at the same time. I ended the session with a best time of 1min13.1, a good result considering my car would not go into fourth gear most of the time.

racing, aldo scribante

Sean Nurse racing in Round 3 of the GR Yaris Cup at Aldo Scribante.

The frosty start to the day quickly turned into a hot one, and in practice session two, I managed to go faster after a few laps, getting down to a 1min12.9, but then my front left tyre completely delaminated, something seen on Mario De Sousa’s car and Thomas Falkiner’s. I am thoroughly impressed with the Dunlops, with my set having done nearly 200 laps in their lifetime, including two sessions at the infamously abrasive Aldo Scribante circuit, which I now affectionately call Scrub-bante.

The good news was that everyone now received two new front tyres, but in a bizarre turn of events, everyone was slower on the new tyres in the final session as the Dunlops require some scrubbing-in time to get to their best.

Race day

After a peaceful night’s rest, I arrived at the track ready for the qualifying session, which was scheduled for 8:25 am. Again, the track was wet in patches from condensation caused by the chilly evening temperatures. Despite the slippery conditions, I felt good in the car for the first couple of laps before witnessing my fellow driver Marios De Sousa run wide at turn 1 and subsequently make contact with the tyre barrier. Thankfully he was unharmed, and I managed to get one flying lap in, which I wasn’t satisfied with but knew I still had five or six laps left.

Unfortunately, I felt a strange sensation coming out of the Conti Esses before a full-on tyre failure going into Hanger, the fastest right-hander on the track. I immediately pulled into the pits, which was the end of my session. I was gutted, knowing I would be near the back for Race 1. I had qualified sixth and knew that overtaking would be tough at this circuit, so I challenged myself to go out and have fun.

gr yaris cup

GR Yaris Cup, Round 3.

The rolling start in Race 1 was a mixed bag, with me getting the jump on the cars ahead of me and the possibility of hopping up into fourth place by the first corner, but again, I could not get the car into fourth gear and found myself last going into the first corner. My assumption that overtaking would be challenging was correct, as getting past Lerato Matebese took five laps, with me gaining through some turns and losing out on the straights without a fourth gear.

Once past Lerato, I went about reeling-in Jeanette Kok-Kritzinger and spotted someone having gone off the track, it was De Sousa, who had a brake issue, promoting me to fifth, but fourth was on the cards with me catching car number 142 at a rapid rate. Unfortunately, I could not get past on the final lap and finished in fifth place, a tough pill to swallow.

I was optimistic about Race 2. I was starting fifth and had the inside line to take fourth into turn 1. I managed to get it done into turn 1 and then tried to pass Mark Jones in third place.

We had a great battle, with Jones even taking to the dirt down the main straight at one point, with my lack of fourth gear again not allowing me to capitalize on his mistake. After four laps of intense pressure, Jones put in one clean lap and had a few car lengths gap until the end of the race. This meant fourth place overall for me for the weekend. I had accepted the issues that plagued me throughout the weekend as an authentic motorsport experience; from the intense highs of Zwartkops to the lows of Scribante, I learned valuable lessons and was satisfied that my SN Automotive Yaris will live to race another day.

What’s next?

The National Extreme Festival is headed to RedStar Raceway in Delmas on the first weekend of July, and we hope to see you there!