The 2017 Sasol GTC Championship got off to a perfect start for the Sasol GTC Racing Team after Gennaro Bonafede left Killarney Raceway in Cape Town with all the points on offer.
The 2016 championship runner-up squeaked onto pole position by 0.156 seconds to get his weekend off to a successful start after featuring at the sharp end of the timesheets throughout Friday’s free practice sessions. The top six was covered by less than a second in official qualifying, pointing to a pair of closely contested races.
Team newcomer Robert Wolk sat in his BMW GTC race car for the first time on Friday did exceptionally well to slot into fifth place on the starting grid for his first GTC race.
In the opening race, held under sunny skies in front of thousands of race fans, Bonafede rocketed off the line and built up a comfortable cushion as he reeled off the 12 laps, ending a comfortable 4.9 seconds ahead of Simon Moss (Audi) and Johan Fourie.
Wolk retired his BMW on lap four with an overheating engine, a safety precaution to prevent possible damage to the motor. With insufficient time to change the engine, Wolk sat out the rest of the day.
A fan grid walk ahead of race two saw Bonafede swamped by well-wishers and was in high demand for photographs with fans. When the serious business got under way, Bonafede repeated his race one performance and never put a wheel wrong while his nearest rivals, Moss and Johan Fourie (BMW GTC), both spun during the race, allowing Bonafede to end a comfortable 13.2 seconds to the good. Bonafede set the fastest race lap in both heats, taking another six bonus points towards his title challenge.
The ecstatic Sasol GTC Racing Team driver said: “My car felt unbelievably good on new tyres and I knew I had the pace. It is important, when building a championship campaign, to maximize my opportunities when the car is this good and bank points when it’s not our day. Consistency will be key and we have had the best start possible. I put my head down to open a comfortable gap over the first two laps in the first race. I backed off a little after that but I still set the fastest race lap, so I am really happy with the way my weekend went”.
Wolk was naturally disappointed not to have more seat time over the race weekend. “I am very happy with my qualifying time which was good enough for fifth on the grid. In the first race, we experienced overheating, so the team brought me in as they didn’t want to risk serious damage to the engine. It was an interesting experience working with such a professional team”.
Team Manager, Vic Maharaj summed up his weekend: “It is the first time the team has scored all the points for both pole positions and both fastest race laps as well as both victories. It is a long season and we are very focussed for the year ahead. ”.
The next round for the Sasol GTC Racing Team takes place on 22nd April at Kyalami.
The Sasol Global Touring Cars (GTC) Championship will introduce international motorsport production experience to its broadcasts in 2017 with a newly appointed TV director, core production team and hosting lineup for the nine-episode series on SuperSport this season.
With experience predominantly in Australia and the Middle East, motorsport media specialist Filippa Guarna from Driven Productions will take on the role of television director and will also oversee category media communications, while respected motorsport television commentator Richard Craill will add a new voice to the race calling alongside SuperSport’s Leigh-Ann Paulick who takes up official hosting duties.
“Television is a very important part of promoting the Sasol GTC Championship, but motorsport is a global sport and we want to be able to show the world how great GTC is. But that comes down to us taking the initiative to be industry-leading with our television programs too,” said GTC director Gary Formato.
“Last year was a great first year for the championship, but we really want to bring to South Africa the professionalism of a category like the Supercars Championship in Australia, and open up potential international support and more manufacturers. The only way to do that is to work with people who are able to bring broad international experience to the table.
“With Filippa’s previous television experience working with Supercars, plus Richard being one of the most recognised motorsport voices, we’re excited about the new direction of our programs on SuperSport. We want to keep pushing the limits not just for GTC but to make South African motorsport television the best that it can be too,” said Formato.
A 19-year media veteran, Filippa Guarna established her career in Australia as a motorsport journalist and deputy editor before moving into Supercars TV as an associate producer. Now having over 1000 hours of live and post-produced television production experience under her belt, Guarna works as a full-time director, producer, camera operator and editor and has credits on productions including the Australian Off Road Championship, the Australian Open Grand Slam, the World Aquabike Championship in Qatar, the Formula 4 UAE Championship in the Middle East, plus most recently working with Indycar team Pirtek Team Murray at the 2016 Indianapolis 500.
Meanwhile, Richard Craill is one of Australia’s leading motorsport commentators working for broadcasters such as SBS, the Seven Network, Network TEN and FOX Sports Australia. He is most recognised for his commentary at the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix, as lead caller for the iconic Bathurst 12 Hour endurance race since 2007 (including the last five years for television), and as the voice of Porsche Motorsport Australia and the popular Touring Car Masters which feature on the Supercars program.
Also part of the new GTC television team will be respected SuperSport sports presenter Leigh-Ann Paulick. Most known in South Africa for hosting the Formula 1 coverage, Paulick has also been the local face of international sports coverage like the Tour de France, Tennis Grand Slams, 2010 Soccer World Cup, and Olympic and Commonwealth Games broadcasts on SuperSport. Last year’s GTC program host, Sasha Martinengo, will also return to pitlane as a guest presenter throughout the season.
While TV editor Matthew Bow also joins the GTC team to lead all post-production, having worked in television and local motorsport for more than 10 years. Bow’s experience includes various roles on the South African National Rally Championship programs, local and international rallies, two years on the Dakar Rally and Toyota Gazoo South Africa, plus various automotive corporate and broadcast productions such as La’t Wiel, which have all taken him around the world.
The 2017 Sasol GTC Championship includes nine rounds being held around South Africa, starting at Killarney International Raceway in Cape Town next week (March 24-25).
The full 2017 calendar is as follows:
Round 1 – March 24-25 – Killarney International Raceway, Cape Town
Round 2 – April 21-22 – Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit, Johannesburg
Round 3 – May 19-20 – East London Grand Prix Circuit, East London
Round 4 – June 16-17 – Zwartkops Raceway, Pretoria
Round 5 – July 14-15 – Aldo Scribante Raceway, Port Elizabeth
Round 6 – August 11-12 – Zwartkops Raceway, Pretoria
Round 7 – 8-9 September – Killarney International Raceway, Cape Town
Round 8 – 3-4 November – Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit, Johannesburg
Round 9 – 24-25 November – Zwartkops Raceway, Pretoria
[ISSUED BY GTC]
The Sasol GTC Racing Team is raring to hit the track at Killarney in Cape Town next Saturday to get their 2017 championship challenge underway. Gennaro Bonafede and team newcomer Robert Wolk will be in the thick of the action behind the wheel of their BMW GTC racers.
“Sasol is proud to welcome Robert Wolk to the Sasol GTC racing team. Robert has achieved remarkable feats and is a formidable driver on the racing circuit. We wish him and Gennaro all the best in their racing partnership. As you know, the Sasol GTC Championship is now considered to be the premier category of our country’s circuit racing calendar and carries the endorsement of Motorsport South Africa. We look forward to another exciting and successful season and wish all racing teams the best for the season ahead,” said Christopher Kabosha, Senior Manager: Marketing and Public Affairs at Sasol Energy.
The team is working flat out to prepare the cars for the extended nine round season. Over the past three months, the cars have been stripped down to its bare components and each part has been carefully scrutinized, replaced where necessary, and re-assembled into a pair of pristine racing cars ready to do battle.
Team Manager, Vic Maharaj explains what has been going on behind the scenes at his workshop. “The cars have been completely stripped down and every part has been refurbished or replaced as necessary. The shells have been re-painted and look even better than at the launch last year. We spent time at the Sasol Fuels Technology Centre which was a very positive exercise. The cars have better cooling, a little more power and have shed 40kgs.”
“Less weight translates into half a second per lap faster than they ran last year,” Maharaj continued. “The car turns and brakes better and the tyres last longer, which translates into better quality racing for the spectators. Cape Town kick-started our run of success and I am hoping we can pick up where we left off last year.”
Bonafede has a single-minded objective this year; he is chasing championship honours having won five of the last eight races last year. “I am pulling out all the stops and putting a lot of pressure on myself to score loads of points from the very first race. I have a far more strategic approach to this season. The team has found a lot of areas to improve and the cars have shed quite a bit of weight. We need to eradicate the weaknesses we had last year and accelerate our strengths. The fast corners are going to be epic and I can’t wait to get back behind the wheel.”
31-year-old Robert Wolk has been racing since the age of nine, winning nine single-seater championships in Formula Ford and Formula Volkswagen in his 22-year racing career. He spent three years racing a BMW in the production car series in the mid-to late 2000s. Outside of motorsport, Wolk plays golf and enjoys the beach more than the bush, having grown up in East London.
Wolk’s initial impressions of the Sasol racing car were very favourable, “My shakedown and acclimatisation went really well. It’s been several years since I drove a saloon car. I had to get my head around the turbo-charged engine. The car is nice and stable so I can carry a lot of speed into the corner. By the end of my session, I was only a couple of tenths of a second off Gennaro’s time, so I’m very happy with my programme today.”
The Sasol GTC Racing Team will compete in two 40km long races on Saturday, 25 March and welcomes the knowledgeable and enthusiastic Cape race fans to their pit area.
[ISSUED BY SASOL]
2016 YEAR IN REVIEW: A look back at the inaugural Sasol GTC season
2016 was a massive year for the Sasol GTC Championship with many great moments making an unforgettable first season competing around South Africa. Before we begin a new Championship, Sasol GTC has created a #2016SasolGTC year-in-review series where we’ll look back at our favourite race wins, unforgettable battles, behind-the-scenes moments captured on camera, and events that shaped our inaugural year on track.
#1 – LAUNCHING GLOBAL TOURING CARS
“This is a momentous day. A day in which the face of motor sport in South Africa is changing dramatically!”
Just seven months ago on June 10th, 2016, the Sasol GTC Championship was launched to the public and media at Zwartkops Raceway. It was the first time that all of our drivers, teams and the Sasol GTC logo were on display to herald a new era in South African motorsport. What a ride it has been since then!
#2 – ESTABLISHING GTC PRODUCTION
There were two aims behind creating the GTC Production class. Firstly, to create a platform where drivers emerging from development categories, like the Engen Volkswagen Cup, could get the experience needed to step up into the premier class, and secondly, open doors for other manufactures to get involved in racing. In 2016, GTC Productionproved successful with both, as we saw Daniel Rowe win the Production title for Volkswagen Motorsport AND be confirmed as a main game starter for 2017, plus we also welcomed the news that MINI South Africa will join the grid this coming season. Watch out for an incredibly exciting 2017 ahead!
#3 – REMEMBERING GUGU
Before the Sasol GTC Championship had turned a wheel on track, we were deeply saddened by the passing of our Volkswagen Motorsport SA friend Gugu Zulu. Gugu was destined to drive the VW Jetta GTC in 2016, but while participating in the Trek4Mandela initiative, he passed away just short of reaching the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. Motorsport lost one of its greatest characters that day, and the country one of its most inspirational people. Round 1 at Zwartkops Raceway saw us honour his memory with rememberance stickers on our cars and he will forever be part of the GTC family.
#5 – A WINNING START
Round one at Zwartkops Raceway was certainly an indication of how the season would unfold. Terry Moss Racing’s Michael Stephen took the first pole position and race win of the season… a season that he would go on to dominate and eventually claim overall honors for as Champion. The TMR crew undoubtedly set the benchmark for the 2016 Championship.
True production car racing is all about having a variety of manufacturers competing and more importantly having them support the Championship. In 2016, it was fabulous to not only have the support of Volkswagen Motorsport_za, Audi South Africa and BMW South Africa in Sasol GTC, but seeing them sharing the spoils of victory at each event. We’re looking forward to more manufacturers helping us expand further this year!
#7 – THE RIVALRY
There’s no doubt that Terry Moss Racing’s Michael Stephen had a stellar championship-winning year, but it wasn’t without tough competition from Sasol BMW’s Gennaro Bonafede. Eager, determined, and fast… Gennaro’s healthy battles with Michael was great to watch trackside, plus he proved to have what it takes to not just win races but be a contender for the title in 2017. Watch this space!
#8 – THE NEW KYALAMI
One of our highlights was getting to race on the newly revamped Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit. The extensive redevelopment plan of the 16-turn, 4.5km circuit represented the single largest upgrade in the circuit’s 54 year history and we were there for Round 4 back in October. In 2017, we’ll be racing here twice and we can’t wait!
(Photo credits: Peter Hassall Photography, Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit)
#9 – THE MASTER
An 11-time South African motorsport champion coming into 2016, there’s no doubt that Michael Stephen was the one to beat in our inaugural season. The seasoned campaigner from Port Elizabeth began stronger than anyone else, claiming the first six straight race wins and giving Terry Moss Racing the championship-winning edge all year. No doubt there will be a fair few hungry drivers wanting to replicate his success in 2017!
#12 – VAST EXPERIENCE
When you look at this image, you might think it’s just a starting grid photo. But look closer and you’ll see that one of our greatest strengths is the depth of our racing talent. From household names like Johan Fourie Racing and Hennie Groenewald, to the seasoned pro and our current champion in Michael Stephen Racing, the younger drivers with a massive career ahead of them like Gennaro Bonafede and Mathew Hodges, and then the new guys on the block in GTC Production like Mandla Mdakane and newly crowned class champion Daniel Rowe. Everyone with a story to tell, a title to chase, and lots of enthusiasm for the Sasol GTC category. Winning!
Signature Motorsport and Federal-Mogul Motorparts have joined forces with MINI South Africa to race a pair of brand new MINI John Cooper Works cars in the 2017 Sasol Global Touring Car (GTC) Production class in 2017.
The successful VW Cup team has retained the services of their newly crowned champion Chris Shorter who will race under the Champion umbrella, while the championship runner-up Brad Liebenberg will compete in a Ferodo-backed MINI John Cooper Works. The proven engineering talents of Shaun and Etienne van der Linde will design and build the cars in their Gauteng workshop.
GTC Production car class is designed to be a conduit for young drivers to migrate from the junior ranks of the sport into the top echelon GTC class. The front-wheel drive machines develop just over 200kW from their 2-litre turbo-petrol powerplants.
The Ferodo Young Driver Programme started in 2008 and has seen several graduates moving up the ladder of success. Gennaro Bonafede was the first beneficiary where Ferodo backed him all the way to production car racing and maintained their relationship until the series ended in 2015.
The most famous graduate from the programme is Kelvin van der Linde who went on to race – and win – in European sports car series. Sheldon van der Linde followed in his brother’s footsteps and is also racing in one-make series in Europe.
The Champion brand is 109 years old and has a strong pedigree in racing with more than 400 Grand Prix victories, while other notable achievements include being fitted to the Concorde’s Rolls Royce engines and in the original Model T Ford.
MINI has a long tradition of success in rallying dating back to their win in the 1964 Monte Carlo Rally, a feat repeated in 1965 and 1967. On the circuit, the MINI was successful from the time it hit the tracks of Europe winning the British Saloon Car Championship in 1961, just two years after the car was launched.
20-year-old Chris Shorter is delighted to remain with Signature Motorsport as they enter the exciting new GTC Production category. “The series looks very competitive and there are several new entrants rumoured for 2017. Our rivals have a year’s head-start on us, but I have no doubt that we will be right up there fighting for wins within half a season”.
“It is an honour to represent the re-entry of a prestigious brand like MINI into local motorsport. It will be a challenge for me to adapt to the car and for the team to set it up to extract the maximum from our package. I’m really looking forward to working with the Champion brand and can’t wait for the start of the new season”, Shorter added.
Brad Liebenberg, the 17-year-old runner-up in the VW Cup championship is thrilled to be included in Signature Motorsport’s new racing programme. “I’m really happy to continue my association with Ferodo and I hope to be able to continue delivering the results out on the track. MINI has a long pedigree in motorsport and I hope to be able to add a small chapter to their success story”.
Brad continued: “GTC is a new and growing category and from what I have seen this year, there has been some tremendously close racing in the production car class. Chris and I have the best team behind us and we all work well together. I know Signature Motorsport will engineer a great car and I can’t wait to get out on track to start testing”.
The Sasol GTC Racing Team topped the overall results sheets after two exciting Sasol GTC Championship races at the East London Grand Prix circuit which hosted the final round of the series. Gennaro Bonafede took his fifth race win of the year, while Hennie Groenewald raced to two second place finishes to take the overall honours on the day.
Practice got underway on Friday with Groenewald setting the second fastest lap time in each of the four sessions. In qualifying, Bonafede put in a lap that gave him third on the grid, while Groenewald ended up in fourth spot on the grid. The second best qualifying lap time establishes the grid for race two, so Bonafede was fourth and Groenewald fifth.
The first race started in hot and blustery conditions. Groenewald made a good start and was challenging Michael Stephen (Audi) but he had to back off as going side-by-side through Potter’s Pass, the single fastest corner in the country is not regarded as a good move. On lap two, Mathew Hodges (VW Jetta) tried to pass Groenewald by putting two wheels on the grass on the long straight. The inevitable nudge came, and Hodges dropped back down the order.
Three laps later, Hodges caught up with the Sasol GTC car and under braking into the last corner, he slipped past. Had Groenewald held his position he would have passed the chequered flag in first place, for the race leader Simon Moss (Audi) retired with a broken engine half way around the final lap. “I was battling with grip levels and traction out of the corners as the race went on and couldn’t do much to defend my position from Hodges”, Groenewald related. “I really enjoyed a competitive race and it was great entertainment for the spectators to watch. We have made a significant step in showcasing the true potential and technology of GTC racing”.
Bonafede, already secure in second place in the overall GTC Championship standings, opted to try a totally different set-up on his BMW GTC car. He lost out in the slower infield complex of corners and was all but last until Michael Stephen spun out, letting him into fourth place. “At least we learned what doesn’t work”, said Bonafede. The team put the car back into qualifying specification for race two, with a few minor adjustments.
Michael Stephen rocketed into the lead of race two but it was short-lived as he encountered electrical problems. The two Jettas tangled with each other and by mid-race, Bonafede found himself in the lead followed by Groenewald, delivering their second consecutive one-two result in the space of eight days. Bonafede said: “When Michael had issues on lap seven, I was able to cruise home to my fifth win of the year and win the last race of the season. I’m very happy for the team”.
Groenewald said of his second race: “I made a poor start but gained a few places when the Volkswagen boys took each other out. I was about 1½ seconds behind the leaders so I put in a series of qualifying type laps to catch up but when Michael fell back I backed off and slotted in behind Gennaro to the end”.
Team Manager Vic Maharaj was happy with his team’s performance: “There was a regulation change which aided our competitors and our drivers had to once again dig deep to match our rivals at the most power-hungry circuit in the country. We ended the year with a pair of fast, reliable cars and the results came to us. It’s been a great debut year for the Sasol GTC Racing Team and next year we will be gunning for the championship honours”.
[Issued by Sasol]
The Sasol GTC Championship visited the East London Grand Prix circuit this weekend for the final round of the series. Once again, action was frenetic around the dauntingly fast 3.9 km track nestled next to the Indian Ocean. The day proved a fitting end to the inaugural GTC series with action throughout the field in both ten lap races.
Champion-elect Michael Stephen duly drove his Engen Audi A3 GTC to a troubled fifth and ninth place respectively in the day’s two races, earning the points required to claim the overall title and was rewarded with a well deserved R200 000 cheque as the 2016 Sasol GTC Championship winner. This championship incentive will be remembered as one of the biggest in South African motorsport history.
The weekend didn’t get off to a good start for Stephen, suffering a blown engine in Free Practice one on Friday morning. A loan unit from their sister company Volkswagen was secured for the Audi, and he went out and claimed a dominant pole position, ahead of his team-mate Simon Moss.
The Sasol GTC Racing Team locked out row two with Gennaro Bonafede shading Hennie Groenewald, followed by the two Volkswagen Jetta GTCs of Mathew Hodges and Graeme Nathan.
Under clear but windy conditions, race one provided the first surprise when Simon Moss stormed into the lead, increasing his margin, lap after lap. Stephen appeared to be helping Moss attain third in the overall championship standings by holding back Moss’ rivals. By the end of lap two, Groenewald passed Stephen followed by Hodges a lap later. Stephan was in trouble…
Stephen spun trying to avoid ramming the VW ahead allowing Bonafede and Nathan to race past the spinning Audi. Hodges out-braked Groenewald at the final corner going into the final lap while further up the road, Moss’ engine broke with four corners remaining. Lady Luck favoured Hodges who fended off Groenewald to claim his and Volkswagen’s first Sasol GTC championship victory.
Nathan crossed the line in third place followed by Bonafede and the recovered Stephen.
Race two, minus Moss who was sidelined for the rest of the day, saw Stephen bolt into the lead while the field settled in behind him. Going into Potter’s Pass, Nathan nudged Hodges who spun to the back of the field. Bonafede and Groenewald followed through, with Nathan and the GTC-Production car field in tow.
By lap seven, the only Audi in the race was missing with Bonafede now leading Groenewald and Nathan. Stephen had an electrical issue that saw the engine cut out every time he changed gears and he quickly dropped to the tail of the field. Nathan brought his Jetta home in third place again, followed by Hodges.
The Sasol Turbofuels™ Plus-backed Groenewald and Bonafede earned another one-two on the day’s overall standings, followed by Hodges, Nathan and Stephen.
In the GTC Production Class, Charl Smalberger took the first victory in his VW Golf GTi, ahead of the 2016 class champion Daniel Rowe in his VW Motorsport-entered Golf GTi. They were followed by Devon Piazza Musso (Kalex VW Golf GTi) and Mandla Mdakane in the second factory Golf.
Rowe re-asserted his authority in this class by taking his 11th victory of the season in race two. Smalberger and Piazza Musso completed the GTC-P podium.
Reflecting on the first season of the Sasol GTC Championship, Dean Somerset, Manager: Marketing, Sponsorship and CSI of Sasol Energy said: “We celebrated a year of high tech racing which is synonymous with Sasol’s product offering and encapsulated in our DNA.
The series shows the potential to grow in stature and maintain its status as the premier circuit racing championship. I commend the teams, associate sponsors and GTC management for their efforts in staging the first Sasol GTC Championship season”.
[Issued by Sasol]
Fresh from the high of claiming the Sasol GTC Racing Team’s first one-two result at the Sasol Raceday last Saturday, Gennaro Bonafede and Hennie Groenewald head into the final round of the inaugural Sasol GTC Championship looking for another strong set of results.
The East London Grand prix circuit plays host to the GTC Championship on 3rd December and both drivers are relishing the prospect of racing their BMW GTC cars at the fastest track in the country.
With Bonafede anchored in second place in the current overall championship standings following a strong set of results from mid-season including his maiden pole and victory in Cape Town in September. He followed that up with a dominant display at Kyalami a month later and continued at Zwartkops last week. His tally stands at four victories and six additional podium results.
“Practice will be crucial to find the ideal set-up for the track. The long straights and tight complex section invariably results in a compromise though. I love the track because it’s very fast and flowing. The race fans are in for a treat as they have never seen anything like GTC cars in the country before. And it’s great to end the season on the beach! said Bonafede of his last outing of the year.
Hennie Groenewald gave a huge sigh of relief after his Zwartkops outing. The multiple former champion has struggled to come to terms with his BMW while the team has also used his car for many of the development testing and not everything has worked as expected.
After his best outing of the season which saw Groenewald claim just a single podium finish before the Sasol Raceday, he is re-energized and raring to get to East London. We should be able to take our result from Zwartkops and transfer it to the East London track. I would like to build on this and fight for a win before the year is out. The team and I have made some positive gains and the car didn’t miss a beat”.
Team Manager Vic Maharaj has his work cut out for him to turn the cars around in time to head to the Eastern Cape. “I would like to unlock a little more pace and find some more performance from our package. There are time constraints as we get going on Wednesday. The track has the highest top speed in the country while mastering the infield complex of corners has the single biggest impact on lap times. If we have another clean weekend, the results will come”.
Race fans can expect the fire-spitting GTC cars to deliver top drawer entertainment, hopefully headed by the Sasol GTC Racing Team. Fans are welcome to visit the team’s pit area and chat the drivers and collect an autograph during the day.
[Issued by Sasol]
The Sasol Global Touring Car (GTC) Championship will crown its inaugural champion at the sixth and final round in East London on Saturday, 3rd December.
The fastest circuit in the country will really test the GTC cars to their maximum at the famous former Grand Prix track which features fearsome corners like Potter’s Pass and Rifle Range while track safety is the same as it was in the very early 1960s.
Michael Stephen is the champion-elect following a string of seven victories from eight starts, adding his eighth win of the year at Zwartkops Raceway last weekend. With a substantial 144 point lead over second-placed Gennaro Bonafede, Stephen can stroke his Engen Audi GTC car home without hanging it on the ragged edge.
Bonafede dialled in his Sasol GTC racing car to his liking in Cape Town, taking his maiden pole position and victory at the Killarney track, starting a rich run of success which sees him firmly anchored in second spot on the title leaderboard with four victories against his name, as well as six additional podium finishes. Another win is a very real possibility but there are another seven drivers in the series all wanting the top step of the podium, so the racing will be fierce.
33 points separates third to sixth on the champion log and any of the four drivers can claim the last championship podium this weekend. Mathew Hodges had his best run at Zwartkops last weekend since the opening round in August, the factory Volkswagen Motorsport Jetta GTC driver moving into third place on the log, displacing Simon Moss (Engen Audi GTC) in the process. Just 15 points separate these two hard-charging drivers with over 100 points available on the day. Luck and reliability will determine this race-within-a-race as both youngsters are very quick.
Six points further back is Johan Fourie in his EPS Couriers BMW GTC car. The former production car champion joined the series at round two and was immediately on the pace, claiming a strong second place podium in his debut race. He has claimed another three podiums since then and will be a dark horse for a surprise result.
Hennie Groenewald is a further 12 points adrift after enjoying his best outing yet in the new GTC class last time out, finishing the Sasol Raceday last week with two second places to his credit. The BMW GTC racing driver would love to end the year with a maiden win and given his pace at Zwartkops last week, this could be his weekend.
Graeme Nathan (Volkswagen Jetta GTC) is languishing in seventh place in the championship standings. With a career which boasts seven saloon car championships in front-wheel drive cars, he has battled a bit to make the transition to the rear-wheel drive GTC cars, enduring more than his fair share of incidents and accidents during his steep learning curve.
Rounding out the GTC entry is Michael van Rooyen in his Rustenburg Steel Construction BMW GTC, who joined the series at round four in October. His new car has experienced a series of teething troubles and runs with plain white bodywork, preferring to unveil his livery ahead of the 2017 season.
GTC Production, the class for front-wheel drive cars has already crowned its champion. Daniel Rowe (Volkswagen Motorsport Golf GTi) has dominated the class with ten victories from 12 starts, adding a second and third place finish when he didn’t win. Mandla Mdakane, in the second factory-backed Golf GTi is in second place, followed by Shaun Duminy who is not expected to make the trip to the Eastern Cape, preferring to concentrate his resources on building his new GTC race car for next year.
Charl Smalberger (VW Genuine Parts Golf GTi) and newcomer Devon Piazza Musso (Kalex Golf GTi), who made a strong debut in the series last week, drive their hearts out looking for that elusive maiden victory.
East London race fans are in for treat as GTC has learnt a great deal since it debuted in August with the cars becoming faster and more reliable with each race.
[Issued by Sasol]
The Sasol GTC Championship delivered a never-ending supply of action and spectacle from qualifying on Friday to the end of the second race on Saturday afternoon. The fifth and penultimate round if the season, hosted at the Zwartkops Raceday under the Sasol Raceday banner, provided a pair of thrilling races and the first Sasol GTC Champion of the year, Daniel Rowe walking off with the GTC Production title after a near perfect season.
Qualifying was held on a wet track on Friday afternoon and the pecking order was quickly established as the champion-designate Michael Stephen (Engen Audi GTC) stormed to pole position by a massive 1.3 seconds over Johan Fourie (EPS Couriers BMW GTC) in second place, this in a series that has seen the top six usually qualifying within the same second.
Simon Moss, in the second Engen Audi was third on the grid, followed by Hennie Groenewald and Gennaro Bonafede, the Sasol GTC Racing Team drivers a little disappointed following their free practice performance that saw Groenewald top the timesheets in each of the three sessions.
Michael van Rooyen took sixth in his RSC BMW GTC followed by Graeme Nathan (Volkswagen Jetta GTC) who didn’t enjoy the car on a wet track. Mathew Hodges spun the second Jetta on his first lap and didn’t set a time, relegating him to the back of the grid.
Race one, under sunny and hot conditions, saw Stephen move into a commanding lead which was never challenged. Behind him, Moss pushed Fourie off the track on the opening lap, dropping the Capetonian to the back of the field. Groenewald was quick to take advantage and moved into second place, which he held to the end.
Bonafede challenged Moss for third place but tagged the Audi when Moss closed the door on him. The resulting spin brought out the safety car and promoted Bonafede up to third. Hodges made great progress from the back of the grid and slotted into fourth place by flag fall while Nathan limped around with low voltage after an alternator failed.
Michael van Rooyen retired his RSC BMW GTC on the opening lap, the result of a faulty map sensor, leaving him without a throttle.
Race two started on a dry track but ever darkening rain clouds. In a repeat of the first race, no one had an answer to Michael Stephen’s pace and he quickly opened up a five second lead in the first five laps. Bonafede, from third on the grid got past Fourie, followed by Groenewald, as the EPS BMW went from second to fifth in one lap, suffering with a down on power motor. Moss was next up, followed by Hodges and Nathan.
The heavens opened on lap six, turning the track into a slippery piece of tarmac as the cars were shod with slick racing rubber. The first to fall foul of the ever changing conditions was race leader Stephen, who spun into retirement at turn seven. Simultaneously, Moss retired the second Audi when the oil pump belt broke.
Bonafede and Groenewald backed off dramatically, easing their BMW GTC cars around the track in formation at the head of the field. The action continued as Nathan tried to pass Fourie but ended up spinning into Hodges, leaving Fourie a lucky third when the race was red-flagged after lap nine.
In GTC Production, Daniel Rowe duly clinched the championship after winning the first race of the day in his Volkswagen Motorsport Golf GTi. He was followed home by class newcomer Devon Piazza Musso (Kalex VW Golf GTi, Mandla Mdakane in the second factory Golf and Charl Smalberger (VW Genuine parts Golf GTi).
In race two, Rowe again ‘rained’ supreme, leading home Mdakane, Smalberger and Piazza Musso.
”The racing today provided a perfect setting to a Sasol Raceday filled with excitement and participation by everyone that attended this most significant of race days in Sasol’s annual calendar. Our premier motorsport sponsorship, the Sasol Global Touring Car Championship kept everyone in suspense throughout the two races”, said Christopher Kabosha – head of Marketing and Public Affairs Sasol Energy.
The final round of the Sasol GTC Championship takes place this Saturday, 3rd December at the East London Grand prix circuit.
[Issued by Sasol]