Jean-Pierre van der Walt had an impressive maiden outing at the East London Grand Prix Circuit this past weekend (5-6 August) in Round 5 of the 2022 Global Touring Cars (GTC) SupaCup.
Unlike his fellow season-debutants, the Platinum Wheels Polo SupaCup driver has never competed at the high-speed circuit. He made his national debut in 2020, a year in which the course did not feature on the calendar. In 2021, he missed the Polo Cup round due to professional commitments.
Van der Walt, the reigning and two-time Simola Hillclimb King of the Hill, did not take long to get to grips with the circuit. Besides neglecting to disengage the parking brake at the start of the first of Friday’s three practice sessions, he quickly got onto the pace despite using older tyres for most of the day. However, Saturday morning’s qualifying session did not go according to plan, with Van der Walt lining up in 10th place on the Race 1 grid.
“That was really an interesting experience, but fortunately, I figured out quite quickly what was wrong,” said Van der Walt. “We had a good first day, and I was fairly confident ahead of Qualifying. Despite setting our best lap at that point on Saturday morning, we were about three or four positions below where we expected to be.”
Both races saw him gradually make improvements. He gained two places in the first of these to be the eighth driver over the finish line. While Race 2’s grid utilises the reverse-grid format, he was outside the bracket to benefit from this. Starting from eighth, he gained another two positions, crossing the line in sixth place in a train of cars that saw the top-six covered by just over six seconds. He also set his fastest weekend lap on the race’s final lap.
“It’s always significant when your fastest time comes on the last lap with old tyres as that indicates that you kept improving and learning. And this circuit is a learning curve. It looks like an easy circuit but is much more technical when going at speed in a race car. It’s a driver’s circuit and has become one of my favourites on tour. Thank you to everyone who made this weekend possible.”
The penultimate round of the 2022 GTC SupaCup will be hosted at Killarney International Raceway on 16-17 September.
Issued by Motorsport Fanatix on behalf of Platinum Wheels