The mathematics was complex, but the goal was clear – win the inaugural SupaCup Championship in the final round that ran at Zwartkops Raceway at the weekend, and Bradley Liebenberg did that, winning by just one point.
Liebenberg claimed pole position by 0,003 seconds from Jeffrey Kruger, a narrow margin that ultimately proved to be the decider.
The two rivals came to the final round at Pretoria’s Zwartkops Raceway with a difference of just eight championship points between them. Liebenberg had the advantage following a near perfect weekend of racing just seven days earlier during the penultimate round at the Aldo Scribante circuit in Port Elizabeth which saw him open up a slight lead at the top of the points table.
The difference between winning a race and finishing second is three points with a further point available for setting the fastest lap in each of the day’s two races. A bonus point is also awarded for setting the fastest lap in qualifying.
Mathematically, there were therefore nine points available to Kruger should he be able to qualify in pole, win both races and set the fastest lap in each race. A monumental task, but the former Polo Cup champion is historically extremely fast at Zwartkops and such a result would be tough, but not entirely impossible.
It started well for Kruger as his name topped the qualifying timesheets for most of the session, until Liebenberg showed his class by going fastest. The difference between the two championship rivals was a mere 0,003 of a second. It did however earn Liebenberg an extra championship point, something that would prove critical a little later in the day as it took his points lead over Kruger to nine.
For Kruger, the objective was clear. He had to win both races, set the fastest lap in each, and hope that Liebenberg would finish lower than second place in at least one of the two races. He was quick to take the lead early in race 1, a lead that he was able to maintain until the checkered flag was waved 12 laps later.
Liebenberg was experiencing technical issues inside his SupaCup Polo but still managed to cross the finish line in second position ahead of Volkswagen’s Jonathan Mogotsi and the identical Polos of Jason Campos and Saul Hack.
Kruger did, however, also claim the extra championship point for setting the fastest lap in the race reducing the overall points deficit to Liebenberg to just five points with one more race to go.
From Liebenberg’s perspective, all he had to do was stay clear of the rest of the field in the last race of the shortened 2020 championship, and that’s exactly what he did. Kruger was untouchable as he disappeared off into the distance to take his second win on the day, but Liebenberg kept his nose clean as he stayed ahead of the chasing pack. Kruger again earned the bonus point that came with setting the fastest lap, but in the end, it wasn’t enough as Liebenberg’s second place was all he needed to take the crown with a single point.
In hindsight, one can argue that the 0.003 of a second that gave Liebenberg the bonus point during the morning’s qualifying session also earned him the title.
“This was too close for comfort,” said an elated Liebenberg shortly after finishing the last race of the season. “Jeff was too quick for us on the day, but I knew that second place would be enough to win the title, albeit by one point. And that’s what we managed to do. It is a great feeling to be crowned champion in what has proved to be a very competitive series.”
Kruger was graceful in defeat: “I did everything I could on the day in an effort to try and beat Bradley. But you don’t win or lose a championship in a single day. In the end one can say it got as close as 0,003 of a second, but Bradley drove well all season long and did exactly what he had to do to take the title.”
The battle for third on the points table was just as fierce. After scoring the same amount of points for taking a third and fifth place finish in each of the day’s races respectively, it was Volkswagen’s Jonathan Mogotsi who ended the season in third, just three points ahead of Saul Hack.
“We are extremely excited about the success of this new series and the performance of these SupaCup Volkswagen Polos,” commented Mike Rowe shortly after the last race. “In only its first season, the series has dished up some of the best racing action you’ll find anywhere, and one could not ask for a better championship fight.
“Well done to both Bradley and Jeffrey who drove superbly throughout the season. Although they are fierce rivals, it is great to see how they respect each other both on and off the track and that is what motorsport should be all about. If this was what SupaCup delivered in its first year, we can’t wait for the 2021 season to get underway,” he concluded.