Cape Town, South Africa: Killarney Raceway in Cape Town came alive to the sound of the Sasol GTC Championship this weekend when the new season got underway under clear blue skies.
Gennaro Bonafede (#32) started his 2017 campaign strongest of the field, dominating proceedings from the first practice session on Friday. The Sasol GTC Racing Team driver claimed pole position, won both races and took the fastest race lap in both 12-lap races, taking home a maximum points haul.
The qualifying session provided a glimpse of what race fans could expect when the top six GTC runners all qualified within one second of each other, with supporters pouring into the circuit in their thousands.
Simon Moss (#38 Engen Xtreme Audi A3 GTC) took a pair of second place finishes after two race-long duels with Johan Fourie’s #14 EPS Couriers BMW GTC. The race for the second and third podium places was thrilling, with Moss under constant attack from the local favourite. In the first heat, Fourie managed to slide past the black Audi, only for Moss to re-claim the position on the following lap.
In the second heat, Fourie piled on the pressure as Moss spun while trying an overtake manoeuvre. Despite going to the back of the GTC field, Moss subsequently took his place back when Fourie received contact from GTC2 competitor Charl Smalberger, sending Fourie into a pirouette into the sand tracp.
The defending champion Michael Stephen (#1 Engen Audi A3 GTC) had a weekend to forget when his car’s engine broke in qualifying. He started the race in eighth place with a brand new out-of-the box motor and quickly rose through the order to fourth when his motor tightened up, forcing the Audi out for the rest of the day.
The Volkswagen Jetta GTCs had a fantastic tussle in the first heat, Mathew Hodges (#57) and Daniel Rowe (#11) in a fierce dispute for fourth place. The teammates swapped places several times over the course of the race, with Rowe ahead of Hodges. Halfway around the final lap, Rowe’s motor cut out without warning, allowing Hodges into fourth place while the disappointed Rowe was classified fifth.
Michael Van Rooyen (#95 Rustenburg Steel Construction BMW GTC) and Sasol GTC Team newcomer Robert Wolk (#41) both retired early after experiencing engine gremlins in race one, leaving both drivers sidelined for the rest of the day.
The GTC2 field provided exciting, edge-of-the seat racing between the top four Volkswagen Golf GTi drivers. Mandla Mdakane (#44) and debutant teammate Keagan Masters (#18), in their factory entries, raced side-by-side and passed and re-passed each other throughout the two races. As the warring VW pair slowed each other as they successively attacked and defended, Trevor Bland (#5 TB Racing Golf GTi) caught the pair and made his victory intentions clear. On the final lap of race one, Bland passed Mdakane, finishing a scant 0.145 seconds behind Masters.
The frenetic racing continued unabated in race two, Masters ending ahead of Bland by 0.138 seconds, after 12 breathtaking laps of action.
Charl Smalberger (#15 Volkswagen Golf GTi) drove two steady races and took third overall on the day in spite of his inadvertent collision with Fourie in race two. The MINI John Cooper Works team made their debut and Chris Shorter (#33 Champion MINI) took fifth in class, using the races as an extended opportunity to achieve optimum performance.
Bradley Liebenberg (#12 Ferodo MINI) crashed into the wall at turn three in the morning warm-up session, causing extensive damage to the car, resulting in a premature end to his race weekend.
The second round of the Sasol GTC Championship takes place at the Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit on 21st and 22nd April.
[ISSUED BY SASOL]