SASOL REPORT ROUND 7: Sasol GTC Championship delivers edge-of-your seat races at Kyalami
Midrand, South Africa. The Sasol GTC Championship delivered a pair of scintillating, incident-filled races to thousands of motoring enthusiasts at the Festival of Motoring at Kyalami, where round seven played out under warm spring skies.
With title rivals Michael Stephen (Engen Audi GTC) and Gennaro Bonafede (Sasol BMW GTC) each winning a race at the Midrand circuit, the championship is very much alive as the touring car championship heads into the final two rounds. Stephen has 16 points in hand, while third-placed Simon Moss is nine behind Bonafede, with 80 available from the remaining races.
The top seven GTC racers were separated by less than 0.8 seconds after Saturday’s qualifying session. Stephen led the field by a quarter of a second from Daniel Rowe (Volkswagen Motorsport Jetta GTC) and Bonafede, followed by Moss, a hairs breadth ahead of Johan Fourie (EPS Couriers BMW GTC) who in turn was 0.04 seconds ahead of Michael van Rooyen (RSC BMW GTC). Mathew Hodges (Volkswagen Motorsport Jetta GTC) and Robert Wolk (Sasol BMW GTC) filled the final row of the grid.
Stephen led the field away, but was passed by Bonafede into the final corner of the opening lap. Bonafede proceeded to open a gap to the chasing pack when his car suffered a mechanical issue two corners from the chequered flag, forcing the title challenger to park on the side of the circuit.
Stephen held Rowe at bay to take a lucky win, while Moss initially dropped to fourth after damaging his front splitter on a kerb in turn three on the opening lap. Moss fought back to complete the podium, emerging ahead of a fierce mid-field battle with Hodges, van Rooyen and Fourie who continuously tried to out manoeuvre each other on every lap, which led to some breathtaking racing. Wolk brought up the rear of the field in his BMW GTC.
From a reverse grid on Sunday, Bonafede scorched into the lead, closely followed by Fourie. Van Rooyen tried to take the pair of them on the outside run into turn one, but was nudged into a spin and ended the move going backwards through the gravel trap.
Further down the field, Rowe lost traction in the Esses and went off the road; as he regained the track, his car snapped one way and then the other, spinning into the wall at turn ten. Unsighted, Keagan Masters collided with debris on the track and he too was forced to retire.
The race was red-flagged to clean the circuit. As the new race start, Bonafede again stormed into the lead and was never headed. He was closely followed by Fourie and Van Rooyen with Hodges closely following in fourth. Hodges made an excellent pass on lap three to take third place from van Rooyen, who had the Engen Audis filling his mirrors.
Moss was ahead of Stephen initially, but spun at Sunset, allowing his team leader through to attack van Rooyen. The Rustenburg driver held the champion at bay until his engine failed on the final lap. Wolk was troubled by power issues and ran near the rear of the field.
Championship leader Keagan Masters powered his Volkswagen Motorsport Golf GTi to a comfortable pole position, followed by his team-mate Adrian Wood (Kyocera Golf GTi). Charl Smalberger (Q20 VW Golf GTi) qualified third, ahead of Trevor Bland (Universal Healthcare VW Golf GTi), Paul Hill (Kalex VW Golf GTi) and Bob Neill (Delmon Mining Ford Focus ST).
Devin Robertson (Champion MINI John Cooper Works) and Brad Liebenberg (Ferodo NINI John Cooper Works) were both hampered by mechanical issues and started from the last row of the grid.
Masters led a Volkswagen one-two in the first race, but it was a close run contest with Wood challenging Masters several times over the last two laps, drawing alongside his team-mate, to no avail. Smalberger completed the class podium in his Q20 VW Golf GTi, finishing ahead of Robertson, who made good progress from the rear of the grid. Trevor Bland brought his Golf GTi home in fifth place.
Paul Hill ended sixth in his Golf GTi, ahead of Neill while Brad Liebenberg circulated in last place to claim championship points after his car went into limp mode on the opening lap.
Liebenberg started from pole position on the inverted grid and raced into a lead he never surrendered, except for fifty metres when a hard-driving Bland made a pass at Clubhouse Corner. As the race progressed, Robertson moved into second place, while Wood worked his way through the field. Robertson’s MINI had an engine issue, allowing Wood into second place, followed by Smalberger, Bland as Robertson faded.
Smalberger and Bland were excluded from the final results following the post-race weight check, lifting Robertson into third place.
The penultimate round of the Sasol GTC Championship takes place at Cape Town’s Killarney Raceway on 22nd September.
GTC: Stephen. 281, Bonafede. 265, Moss. 256, Fourie. 210, Rowe. 208, van Rooyen. 198, Wolk. 177, Hodges. 154
GTC2: Masters. 289, Robertson. 271, Liebenberg. 269, Bland. 228, Wood. 215, Smalberger. 188, Angel. 137, Neill. 92, Hill – 76
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