Midrand, South Africa -Gennaro Bonafede and Simon Moss shared race honours at the opening round of the Sasol GTC Championship held at the iconic Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit, with close racing keeping the spectators on the edge of their seats at the season-opener.
Bonafede (#32 Sasol BMW GTC) took the opening race victory dominantly from pole-position, followed home by the defending champion Michael Stephen (#1 Engen Audi GTC) and Johan Fourie (#14 EPS Couriers GTC) taking the final podium place. Mathew Hodges (#57 Volkswagen Motorsport Jetta GTC) was second across the line but was penalised for a technical infringement which dropped the VW driver to fifth place.
Simon Moss (#38 Engen Audi GTC) ended race one in fourth place followed by Hodges and Daniel Rowe in the second factory Volkswagen Jetta GTC; Rowe was tapped into a spin by Moss at the first corner, sending him to the back of the field. Michael van Rooyen (#95 RCS BMW GTC) fell back from his excellent third qualifying spot to seventh after enduring an intermittent misfire.
Robert Wolk (#41 Sasol BMW GTC) speared off the circuit at the bottom of the Mineshaft after suspension failure on lap seven while holding third place, sustaining damage to his car that led him sit out the rest of the day’s action.
In GTC2, Keagan Masters – the defending class champion – staved off his rivals with strong racing to the chequered flag, followed by Brad Liebenberg (#12 Ferodo MINI John Cooper Works) and Trevor Bland (#5 Universal Healthcare VW Golf GTi). Adrian Wood (#114 Kyocera VW Golf GTi), Charl Smalberger (#15 UniChip VW Golf GTi) and Devin Robertson (#20 Champion MINI John Cooper Works) rounded out the top six.
From an inverted grid for race two, Daniel Rowe powered his Volkswagen Jetta into the lead, hounded around the 4.5km circuit by Moss and Fourie. Going through the kink, Rowe put all four wheels off the track and collided with Fourie’s BMW, ending the VW driver’s day. Moss, from fourth on the grid was leading when the race was red-flagged after Adrian Wood crashed into the wall at turn 10, shaken but unhurt.
The grid reformed in the original order for the remaining ten laps and a high-speed train of GTC cars continued to entertain as Moss, Fourie, Bonafede, Stephen and Van Rooyen circulated nose-to-tail. Moss spun at the bottom of the Mineshaft which dropped him to the back of the field. Bonafede passed Fourie for the lead before the biggest incident of the day happened a lap later.
On lap five, the Sasol GTC Championship experienced its biggest incident when Fourie racing at high speed down the main straight experienced a complete braking loss heading into turn two. Spinning his car to scrub off speed, Fourie nevertheless collided with Michael Stephen’s Audi and instantly ended the crowd-pleasing race. The race was red-flagged once more.
“As I was racing down the main straight there were no brakes going into turn one”, said Fourie. “There was nothing I could do and to avoid crashing straight into the wall, I threw the car sideways to avoid hitting Michael Stephen and Michael van Rooyen. Unfortunately I hit Michael Stephen which slowed me down a bit but I still went into the wall.”
With both drivers uninjured, GTC co-founder Gary Formato reinforced that the build of the cars formed part of the reason the drivers could walk away from such an incident.
“The GTC cars were always designed with safety as a priority, and to see the drivers walking away unharmed is a testament to both the strength of the car and crew who build the racecars to the highest safety standards,” said Formato.
At the second re-start of race two, Bonafede, who took the lead just before the race was stopped, held onto first place and opened a gap until he encountered a fuel pressure issue on the penultimate lap, ultimately falling to second place behind Moss in the final classification. Van Rooyen had an alternator malfunction but circulated to third place and his second ever podium finish.
In GTC2, newcomer Reno Van Heerden (#100 Hot Wheels Ford Focus STi) was quickly left behind as the faster racers threaded their way to front of the field. Bland led the class while Masters quickly picked his way through the pack to secure the best possible result. Masters was forced to retire on lap four with suspension issues, leaving Liebenberg to find a way past Bland. Once the Ferodo MINI was past, Liebenberg held on to the lead while Bland and Smalberger fought it out for the other podium positions, the final result going to Bland ahead of Smalberger.
The Sasol GTC Championship travels to Killarney International Raceway for the second round of the season from April 20-21.
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[Issued by Sasol]
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