The penultimate round of the 2022 Global Touring Cars (GTC) Championship & SupaCup delivered a host of dramatic moments and a maiden victory for Saood Variawa this past weekend (16-17 September at Killarney International Raceway.
Robert Wolk and Variawa shared the GTC Championship wins, while Keegan Campos and Leyton Fourie did the same in the GTC SupaCup.
Qualifying proved a complete Toyota Corolla lockout with Wolk’s Chemical Logistics car quickest from Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa (TGRSA) duo Variawa and Michael van Rooyen. Julian van der Watt was fourth in his Chemical Logistic Ford Focus RS. Andrew Rackstraw looked racy in his InvestChem / RDSA Audi S3, just ahead of Mandla Mdakane’s third TGRSA Corolla in sixth. The weekend proved a nightmare for Brad Liebenberg in his Hype Energy Drinks / Sparco / Universal Motorsport Volkswagen Golf 8 GTI, which misfired in opening practice and remained a work in progress for most of the weekend.
The opening encounter proved a relatively easy win for the Dunlop Pole Position starter Wolk, who led from the start and retained the place throughout. That despite Variawa’s best efforts to find a way past and the intervention of a Safety Car brought about by an incident in the GTC SupaCup. Variawa never gave up, but he could not get passed Wolk and eventually had to settle for second. Van Rooyen made it an all-Toyota podium lockout with Van der Watt, Rackstraw and Mdakane. Liebenberg was unable to start the race.
Mdakane made the best of his reverse grid format pole position and ran out in front in the opening laps with the field jousting for position behind him. That saw Variawa move from fifth to second ahead of van der Watt, Wolk and van Rooyen.
Things did not go well for Van der Watt, who fell out of the picture with a cracked chassis on lap three. Then Variawa moved ahead of Mdkane before Wolk put one over Mdkane and Van Rooyen. Rackstraw and Liebenberg, who managed to start the race after the team’s persistence, were in the chase when the race was red-flagged due to an incident in the GTC SupaCup.
Variawa then held Wolk off from the restart with Mdakane third after he staved Van Rooyen off, with Rackstraw and Liebenberg in pursuit until the latter brought his sad weekend to an early close when he once again parked his ailing Golf.
Van Rooyen then staged a comeback and fought back up to fourth place. He had to settle for fifth when he was re-passed by Rackstraw. Out front, meanwhile, Variawa sailed to a maiden victory from Wolk, Mdakane, Rackstraw and Van Rooyen. Liebenberg completed the minimum distance and was classified in sixth place.
Variawa and Wolk also shared out the fastest lap bonus points, the upshot of which is that Wolk added just one point to his twenty point advantage by dint of his pole position, as the title fight between them heads to that 15 October Zwartkops finale.
Fourie took the Dunlop Pole Position in his Express Hire / Universal Motorsport Polo SupaCup, ahead of Universal HealthCare Team RED Racing’s Jeffrey Kruger. Keegan Campos (Turn 1 Insurance Brokers / Campos Transport) lined up in third ahead of Jonathan Mogotsi (Sonax / Motul). Daniel Rowe (Team Perfect Circle) headed up Row 3 with Danie van Niekerk (Car Care Clinic Van Niekerk Racing), completing the top six.
Wildcard Reghard Roets topped the GTC SupaCup Masters’ grid in Keagan Masters’ regular Team Perfect Circle Polo SupaCup, from Iain Pepper (Campos Transport), Paul Luti (Finishline UK Van Niekerk Racing), Tato Carello (Carello Auto) and Jean-Pierre van der Walt (Platinum Wheels). Four more Masters’ entries, title leader Nick Davidson (Stu Davidson & Sons), Rui Campos (Turn 1 Insurance Brokers / Campos Transport), Stefan Snyders (Telerex) and newcomer Roberto Franco led the troubled David Franco in the two Graphix Supply World cars).
However, Keegan Campos took advantage of the Turn 1 chaos between title leading front row pair of Fourie and Kruger to move into an early lead. He took Mogotsi, Van Niekerk, Roets and Pepper with him, ahead of the recovering Fourie.
Fourie quickly made up a few places after his early delay, but he found Killarney expert Van Niekerk a formidable opponent in the tussle for third place, with the pair alternating positions several times. Fourie’s title rival Kruger was delayed a long way back and looking to finish well outside the points.
But then Masters’ duo Rui Campos and Snyders came together out of heading onto the back straight on Lap 4, which required Safety Car intervention. Up front, Keegan Campos made short work of the restart to lead Mogotsi and Fourie, who had to give it his all to pip van Niekerk at the post with Van Niekerk and Roets in tow.
Aided by the safety car closing up the pack, Kruger charged back to sixth and also scored the fastest lap point to minimise his deficit to just two points. Luti ended seventh from Carello, Van der Walt and Masters’ men Roberto Franco and Davidson, with David Franco next after Snyders, Rui Campos, and Pepper retired.
Race 2 proved even more chaotic. Fourie led Keegan Campos, Van Niekerk and Mogotsi when the latter made contact with Van Niekerk on lap 4, who then violently ploughed into the end of the pit wall. Kruger was also involved in the aftermath as the red flag flew to mop up the carnage.
Kruger’s hastily mended machine made the initial running on the restart but was overhauled by Campos, who hung on to the lead for the remainder of the restarted race. Fourie piled on the pressure to follow Campos home close enough to be classified as the race winner with both parts of the race combined.
Kruger was third from Rowe and first Masters’ men Luti and Pepper, David Franco, Rui Campos, Rob Franco, and Davidson. Roets, Carello and Van der Walt followed after Van Niekerk, and Mogotsi did not make the restart.
The final round of the 2022 GTC Championship & SupaCup will be held at Zwartkops Raceway on 14-15 October.