East London, South Africa. Gennaro Bonafede regained the lead of the Sasol GTC Championship after winning the first race of round four at the iconic East London Grand Prix Circuit on Saturday. The Sasol BMW GTC driver fought hard to take the lead from pole-sitter, Simon Moss (Engen Audi GTC) and later fended off the attentions of Michael van Rooyen (RCS BMW GTC), Johan Fourie (EPS Couriers BMW GTC) and Michael Stephen (Engen Audi GTC) in a high-speed race, taking the chequered flag for the second time this year.
Johan Fourie added his name to the list of 2018 race winners, by taking line honours in the second race after passing Robert Wolk (Sasol BMW GTC) on lap two. Fourie never looked back as Wolk, Stephen and van Rooyen fought amongst each other, allowing Fourie to focus on building a comfortable 1.2 second gap by flag fall.
Devin Robertson (Champion MINI John Cooper Works) claimed his maiden GTC2 victory after a race-long battle with points leader Keagan Masters (Volkswagen Motorsport Golf GTi). The roles were reversed in the second race, with Masters besting Robertson in a pair of thrilling races that provided great entertainment to the large crowd that lined the circuit.
Qualifying provided the first drama of the day when Simon Moss – having set the pole position benchmark – Mathew Hodges (Volkswagen Motorsport Jetta GTC) and Robert Wolk all left the track at the infamous Potter’s Pass. The Audi and VW suffered extensive front end damage while Wolk’s car was relatively unscathed.
Behind Moss, Stephen edged Bonafede by a scant 0.152 seconds, followed by van Rooyen, Fourie, Wolk and Rowe.
In the GTC2 class, points leader Masters found 0.3 seconds to push Robertson into second spot on the grid, with Charl Smalberger (UniChip VW Golf GTi) in third followed by Adrian Wood (Kyocera VW Golf GTi), Dayne Angel (Angel Autohaus Honda Civic Type-R) and Brad Liebenberg (Ferodo MINI JCW).
When the lights turned green for the start of race one, Moss took an immediate lead, followed by Bonafede, Fourie, Stephen, van Rooyen and Rowe. The leading trio pulled away from Stephen and the others, while van Rooyen slipped behind Rowe after a mistake. The race reached a crescendo when Bonafede took the lead, while van Rooyen moved from sixth to second, thanks to judicious use of push-to-pass, used for the first time at this event.
Moss slipped away as his Audi developed a misfire, while Stephen moved into second place after passing van Rooyen, who hung on to take the final step of the podium. Fourie, Wolk and the ailing Moss rounded out the top six.
In the first GTC2 race, Masters took the lead, but with Robertson a coat of paint away in second place, it was going to be a close run result. The pair completed lap two side-by-side the entire way, while Wood, Trevor Bland (Universal Healthcare VW Golf GTi) and Liebenberg kept a watching brief.
Robertson made his move and edged ahead on lap three with Masters in tow, the two never separated by more than a few tenths of a second while Bland passed Liebenberg and Smalberger.
The second race, from an inverted grid, saw Moss and Wolk line up in front. As the field took the green flag, Wolk snatched an immediate lead but was passed by Fourie on lap two. Stephen was into the final podium position with van Rooyen, Rowe and the ailing Moss in tow. As the second place battle raged and slowed each other, Fourie built a comfortable lead which he held to the end.
Wolk kept Stephen at bay while Bonafede ended fourth after getting stuck behind van Rooyen and lost too much ground to the leaders to challenge for a podium. Rowe and Hodges scrapped mightily with each other, passing and re-passing to end fifth and sixth respectively.
Adrian Wood led the GTC2 field ahead of Smalberger while Robertson sliced his way into third by the end of lap one. Masters soon joined the fight at the front and a veritable war raged between the MINI and Volkswagen duo, which banged doors as they cornered together. With two laps left, Masters edged ahead to take victory from Robertson and Wood.
The fifth round of the Sasol GTC Championship takes place at Aldo Scribante in Port Elizabeth from July 13-14.
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Championship Positions: Bonafede. 160, Stephen. 156, Moss. 143, Van Rooyen. 124, Rowe. 118, Wolk. 113, Fourie. 102, Hodges. 74
GTC2: Masters. 174, Liebenberg. 151, Robertson. 149, Bland. 148, Wood. 106, Smalberger. 102, Angel. 98, Neill – 34
[ISSUED BY SASOL]