|Elzane de Jager wins season opener|
|Written by Paul Bedford|
|Thursday, 03 September 2009 14:29|
Despite a few mistakes, Elzane de Jager showed why she is regarded as one of South Africa's best drivers when she won Vaal River Carnival Emerald F1 Powerboat Grand Prix on Sunday. In a fitting end to Women's Month, Elzane became the first female to take an overall victory in a South African Formula 1 Championship event.
Brett Stuart on top of the time sheets in qulaifying on Saturday afternoon just ahead of Tim Fetherstonhaugh, who was making a welcome return to the F1 grid. Norwegian visitor Marit Strømøy lost the initial battle of the fairer sex, qualifying just behind Elzane. Steven Zungu ended the session fifth ahead of Robert Shepard. Terri Mitchell, the third lady on the grid, set the seventh fastest time. An overnight engine change resulted in Shepard having to move to the back of the grid.Brett Stuart used his pole position to good advantage at the beginning of the first heat and set about building a comfortable lead. A minor coming together between Elzane de Jager and Tim Fetherstonhaugh at the second turn buoy allowed Marit Strømøy to slip past de Jager and take third behind Fetherstonhaugh. Stuart looked to be headed for a comfortable win when engine problems forced him to slow. He dropped down the field eventually crossing the line in fourth place behind Fetherstonhaugh, Strømøy and de Jager. Robert Shepard end the best of the rest ahead of Steven Zungu, Andre Kemp Snr and Terri Mitchell.
There was drama as the drivers were launching for the start of the second heat. Tim Fetherstonhaugh had problems with his starter motor and his crew could not get it changed in time for him to line up on the grid. This effectively promoted Marit Strømøy to pole position with Elzane de Jager on her outside. The visiting Norwegian lady driver made no mistake at the start, taking the lead and holding it to the end. De Jager hounded Strømøy until the flag but, despite her best efforts, had to settle for second. An engine change after the first heat meant Brett Stuart had to start from the back of the grid. An excellent start saw him get up to third but he could not make any impression on the two ladies in front of him. Behind Stuart the battle between Steven Zungu and Robert Shepard continued, this time with Zungu coming out on top. Andre Kemp Snr claimed sixth ahead of Terri Mitchell. Fetherstonhaugh did manage to get his boat going albeit at the back of the field but mechanical problems saw him drop out about two thirds of the way though the heat.
When the boats lined up for the final heat, the day's pole position jinx reared its ugly head again. This time it was Marit Strømøy who was the victim with hydraulic problems leaving her with no trim on her motor. Brett Stuart and Elzane de Jager took full advantage of this and went around the first turn buoy side-by-side. A minor error by de Jager saw her spin her boat through 180 degrees and left her stranded while the field, with the exception of Strømøy sped past. In one of the most incredible drives seen on South African waters, de Jager put her mistake behind her and she charged through the field. By the eleventh lap of the race she had worked her way up to second. The remaining four laps were not enough for her to get past Brett Stuart at the head of the field. Steven Zungu crossed the line in third but was docked 1 lap for missing a buoy dropping him down to sixth place. Robert Shepard ended up in third ahead of Tim Fetherstonhaugh and Andre Kemp Snr. Terri Mitchell finished seventh with Strømøy in eighth.
Elzane de Jager's incredible drive from second last to second in the final heat was enough to give her overall victory for the day ahead of Brett Stuart. Marit Strømøy, despite her bad luck in the final heat, claimed the final podium position.