31. March 2016

Speed Stars – South Africa

The final race

After 12 episodes and 24 celebrities, it was former international rugby referee Jonathan Kaplan, 5fm’s Rob Forbes and former Springbok captain John Smit who emerged as the three fastest celebrities in the first season of Speed Stars, and with it a position on the grid for the season finale.

With the leader board reset, it was all square going into the finals, but who would finish on the top step of the podium as South Africa’s speediest star?

The finals were contested over three unique challenges at the Zwartkops Raceway:

Gymkhana on the Skidpan

Hot Lap on the Main Circuit

5 lap race on the Kart Circuit

With each of the challenges timed, the objective was to set the fastest time possible in each. These times were then combined, ensuring that the winner of Speed Stars was not a one lap wonder, but rather the most consistently fast driver across the three different driving disciplines.

It was Rob Forbes who got off to a winning start, completing the gymkhana course in 45.07 sec. Jonathan Kaplan was actually the quickest across the wet course, but knocking over a cone saw him incur a one second penalty, pushing him down to second place with a time of 46.05 sec. John Smit would have some work to do after his time of 47.02 sec saw him finish at the back.

Setting a quick lap time around Zwartkops is something our three stars were very familiar with, as it was their Hot Lap times that got them into the finals. Things were changed up for the finals, with the Opel Corsa Sport replacing the super fast Opel Astra OPC. With a 1.4 litre turbocharged engine, the Corsa Sport is a lot less powerful than the OPC, so to set a quick lap time our finalists would need to be smooth and carry speed through the corners. Jonathan Kaplan made it into the finals as the fastest star and backed it up with a 1 min 31.44 sec, the fastest time in the finale. John Smit came back strongly, lapping the circuit in 1 min 32.12 sec, securing second place, with Rob Forbes finding himself at the back of the pack with a time of 1 min 33 sec.

The final challenge, a 5 lap kart race, would be the first time our three finalists have gone wheel to wheel, and as expected, there was action and drama aplenty! Not wanting an on track incident to decide the winner of Speed Stars, it would be each finalist’s fastest lap time within the race that would be added to their times from the gymkhana and the hot lap. Karting is very weight sensitive, so to ensure we had a fair contest, ballast was added where necessary to ensure all three finalists and their karts weighed in at 250kg.

Rob Forbes emerged as the clear winner of the race, but it was second placed Jonathan Kaplan who actually set the fastest lap time in the race.

After three fiercely contested rounds, the overall results couldn’t have ended any closer, with less than one second separating first and second place. Finishing third, with a combined time of 3 min 32.06 sec, was John Smit. Rob Forbes was the runner up in a time of 3 min 28.83 sec and the winner of the first season of Speed Stars, with a time of 3 min 27.97 sec was Jonathan Kaplan!

Besides the bragging rights as SA’s speediest star, Michelin handed over a cheque to the value of R30 000 to Animal Allies, the charity Jonathan was supporting. He also received a Fortis timepiece to the value of R28 000 from Heavy Metal Watches.

With Jonathan soon to become a father, he handed over his ticket to Rob Forbes, who will now join Michelin as a VIP guest at the world’s greatest circuit endurance race, the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June. Sometimes finishing second does have a silver lining …