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!