Midrand, South Africa – A large crowd witnessed some fantastic Sasol GTC Championship racing at Kyalami this weekend, with victories for Gennaro Bonafede in race one and the reigning champion Michael Stephen in race two. Two consistent results saw Mathew Hodges crowned the overall winner on the day.
A new initiative was introduced for the second round of the Sasol GTC Championship – an inverted grid for the second race! This initiative produced exciting racing as the fastest competitors from the first race clawed their way through the pack to get back to the front of the field.
Saturday’s qualifying saw Michael Stephen (Engen Xtreme Audi GTC) back on form with a pole setting time of 0.737 seconds ahead of the field. Joining Stephen on the front row of the grid was Gennaro Bonafede (Sasol BMW GTC) followed by Mathew Hodges (VW Jetta GTC) and a further 0.2 seconds back, was Johan Fourie (EPS Couriers BMW GTC).
Robert Wolk (Sasol BMW GTC), Simon Moss (Engen Xtreme Audi GTC), Michael van Rooyen (RSC BMW GTC) and Daniel Rowe (VW Jetta GTC) rounded out the grid.
Under a warm autumn sun, Stephen got the jump on Bonafede from the start of race one as the cars headed to turn one. The close running train was made up of Hodges, Fourie, Moss, Van Rooyen and Rowe.
On lap two, Moss passed both Hodges and Fourie, while Wolk brought up the rear of the GTC pack having spun out in turn five.
On lap three, Van Rooyen spun his BMW out of contention at the bottom of the Mineshaft, dropping to the tail of the field. Hodges and Rowe had a huge inter-team fight over fifth place which made for entertaining racing.
Bonafede came through in the lead on lap seven of race one with the #1 Audi right behind the Sasol Turbo Fuels™ Plus-powered BMW. It was the start of an electrical issue for Stephen who got progressively slower, eventually just trundling around to pick up a few points for his effort. Van Rooyen spun again late in the race, retiring with a damaged propshaft.
The Bonafede, Moss, Fourie podium was a mirror image to that in Cape Town last month, with Hodges, Rowe and Wolk leading Stephen past the chequered flag
The inverted grid suited Michael Stephen to perfection, starting in second place alongside Michael Van Rooyen. Wolk was next up, followed by Rowe, Hodges, Fourie, Moss with Bonafede, the race one winner, now last on the grid.
Stephen’s electrical problem from race one wasn’t fixed. The team had to hot-wire the electrics to allow the champion to change gear, but without the dashboard and gearshift blip allowing untroubled cog-swaps, he resorted to “old school motorsport engineering”, listening to the engine to determine when to shift up and down. The #1 Audi racer slid down the inside of Van Rooyen’s BMW into turn one at the start of lap two and drove into the distance as those behind, tripped each other up.
On lap three, Bonafede made his first move, diving up Hodges’ inside with surgical precision. On the next lap, he passed Fourie on the outside of the Mineshaft, the fastest part of the track and a lap later, slid his BMW inside Rowe’s Jetta exiting the Bowl. The race one winner was up into fifth place. Both Hodges and Rowe passed Fourie, who fought back and re-took his place from Hodges in a frenetic race of action.
Wolk was holding station behind Stephen, while Moss, Bonafede and Van Rooyen fought over third place. Rowe retired with electrical problems after passing Fourie who, on lap eight, suffered a broken wheel rim and pitched the EPS BMW into the wall at the Esses.
Down at the Kink, Wolk spun off the track and Bonafede emerged in second place going into the final lap. In a rare error, the Sasol GTC racer lost concentration three corners from home, spun and dropped down to fourth place. Hodges and Moss followed Stephen across the line, with van Rooyen banking his first points of the year in fifth place.
Qualifying for the front-wheel drive cars produced the usual Keagan Masters (VW Golf GTi), Trevor Bland (VW Golf GTi) and Mandla Mdakane (VW Golf GTi) grid line-up, followed by a great fourth for Brad Liebenberg (Ferodo MINI), the newly liveried Charl Smalberger (iCorp VW Golf GTi), Chris Shorter (Champion MINI) and newcomer Iain Robertson (Comsol VW Golf GTi).
Masters took off and was never headed, while behind him, Bland passed Mdakane, only for the young driver to pass Bland on the next lap. Liebenberg had a lonely race in fourth, while Shorter and Smalberger settled into a race long fight for fifth place. Bland and Mdakane continued to swap positions every lap until Mdakane eked out a small gap by mid race.
With the inverted grid in play, Smalberger led Shorter, Liebenberg, Bland, Mdakane and Masters off the grid. The MINIs were swamped by the Golfs, headed by Bland now tucked in behind Smalberger. A lap later, Mdakane passed Bland for second place and by lap six, Mdakane was through into the lead. Masters slipped past Bland for third in the dying moments in another thrilling race.
The third round of the Sasol GTC Championship takes place at the East London Grand Prix Circuit on 20th May.
Follow Sasol on Twitter using #SasolGTC for the latest Sasol GTC Championship news or visit www.sasolmotorsport.co.za to access the 2017 racing calendar.
[Issued by Sasol]