The sixth round of the 2017 Sasol GTC Championship saw Johan Fourie and his EPS Courier Services BMW team continue their steady progress towards the front of the field. Their hard work throughout the weekend paid off with Fourie celebrating a second place overall after a thrilling Sasol Race Day at Zwartkops Raceway outside Pretoria on Saturday, August 12.
During the Friday’s free practice sessions Fourie regularly posted top-three times, but practice opportunities were limited due the condition of the tyres from Round 5 used for the practice day. The team however felt positive about their lap times as they knew that their tyres sustained more damage than those used by their rivals in Port Elizabeth and eagerly awaited the qualifying session scheduled for later the afternoon.
The Qualifying session proved to be a closely contested affair with Fourie in the group of five cars who set fastest laps within 0.189 seconds of each other. Fourie found himself a mere 0.153 seconds down on the pole-setting Robert Wolk to qualify in fourth position for Saturday’s first 17-lap heat.
Saturday’s first heat saw Fourie in a close battle with the Volkswagen Jetta of Mathew Hodges. After the opening laps he also had a different battle on his hands to find traction, but still persevered and kept in touch with Hodges. Early leader Wolk developed a problem and slid down the field. On the thirteenth lap while Fourie was lapping the GTC2 runners he also made contact with a retiring Wolk which swayed battle between himself and Hodges in the latter’s favour. Fourie finished the race in fourth position.
As has become the custom. The second heat’s starting grid consisted of an inversion of the first heat’s finishing positions which would’ve seen Fourie starting the race in fifth position. A gearbox problem which was identified shortly before the start of the race resulted in him not making it onto the circuit in time to take up his position, but following some swift work from Freddie Pretorius and the Fast Development team he was ready to start from pit lane. This would however not deter him from putting on a strong show and he sliced his way through the field; despite developing a water leak during the race as well. He made his way through to second position by the time that an incident between GTC2 competitor Bradley Liebenberg and Wolk brought out the Safety Car on the fifteenth lap.
The restart saw Fourie pursuing the leader Michael Stephen, but with only two laps remaining it would take a valiant effort to successfully catch and pass him. The proverbial red mist set in and Fourie took on this challenge; in the end finishing a in a close second position after this battle which brought the crowd to their feet. The accumulated race distance and times resulted in Fourie finishing in second position behind Stephen who won both races on the day.
A visibly elated Fourie addressed the media following the Race 2 podium ceremony: “This is certainly a good end to the day for us. We had some concerns at the start of the race and of course the water leak also didn’t help, but we pushed through. The last few laps after the restart was certainly adrenaline-packed and I’d like to congratulate Michael on a well-fought victory. I’d also like to thank my team, Philip Serfontein and Freddie Pretorius for their efforts throughout the weekend.”
Fourie still finds himself in fourth place in the championship on 264 points. He will have his sights set on Simon Moss in third place on 347 points with three rounds remaining in the championship.
The seventh round of the Sasol GTC Championship will see the EPS Courier Services team head to Fourie’s backyard in Cape Town. The second visit for the series to the Killarney International Raceway will take place on Saturday, September 9.
[Issued by Johan Fourie Racing]