Cronje impressive in initial Champ Car outing
Plainfield, IL – Throughout a varied career that has ranged from karting world championships, to desert off-road racing in his native South Africa, to European Formula 3000, Gavin Cronje [pronounced Cron-yaa] has demonstrated a remarkable ability to quickly adapt to new circumstances and challenge for race wins. (Photo courtesy of A1GP)
That trend continued last week at Motor Sports Ranch near Houston, as the 27-year-old needed less than a dozen laps to reach competitive speeds in a Dale Coyne Racing Lola-Cosworth, then went on to complete a successful two-day test in his first time behind the wheel of a 750-bhp Champ Car.
“This [Lola Cosworth] is by far the most powerful car I’ve ever driven,” Cronje said at the conclusion of his first run on Thursday, “it’s fantastic!” Cronje went on to complete167 laps over the two days, hampered only somewhat by misty and foggy conditions on Friday morning. “I’m very grateful to Dale Coyne and his entire team for the effort they put forth on my behalf. This is my first visit to the United States and I can honestly say I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. I’m ready to move tomorrow to make my career here!”
Veteran driver Roberto Moreno, on hand both days as an observer, came away equally impressed with both Cronje’s initial speed and his long-term potential.
“I couldn’t believe he had never driven a Champ Car before today,” Moreno said. “He was up to a competitive speed almost immediately, in just a few laps, and I’ve never seen that before. He obviously is very quick, and demonstrated a willingness to listen and learn. I believe he could have a great career ahead of him in Champ Cars.”
“Gavin has great speed and obvious potential” team owner Dale Coyne said at the end of the test days. “He’d be a great addition to the Champ Car World Series and I’d like to have him in one of our cars. I’m hopeful we can put a program together and be on the grid for the season opener at Las Vegas.”
Cronje’s varied career includes a half-dozen South African karting championships, and the Rotax Max World Championship in both 2000 and 2001. In 2002, his first year of South African FF1600 racing, he also elected to take part in the famed Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch, where he won the final qualifying race and placed 18th in the final. A tryout with the Castrol/Toyota South Africa rally effort led to a full-time position with the team, where he finished third in the South African Rally Championship in 2004.
All this in spite of being diagnosed as a Type 1 diabetic in 1993, meaning the Cronje must continually monitor his diet and blood sugar levels.
Last year, Cronje tested for Team South Africa in the A1 GP series, where he currently serves as one of three drivers; and drove for BCN Competition in the European F3000 championship, finishing 10th overall in his first season of European racing, including a second-place finish in Hungary.