Two action-packed Round 6 races with dramatic outcomes saw Robert Wolk and Brad Liebenberg emerge as respective Global Touring Cars (GTC) Championship & SupaCup points leaders this past weekend (8-9 September) at Killarney International Raceway.
The intrigue ahead of the weekend started on Wednesday afternoon when the Chemical Logistics GTC Racing team announced that their drivers, defending double Champion Robert Wolk and Cape Town’s Julian van der Watt, would swap cars for the remainder of the 2023 season. This saw Wolk behind the wheel of the BMW 128ti, his first outing in a BMW since the 2019 season finale. Van der Watt moved into the Toyota Corolla, marking his first outing for the brand since his debut in the series at Gqeberha in 2020.
It was another local hero, Andrew Rackstraw (Sparco / RDSA Volkswagen Golf 8 GTI), who took his maiden Dunlop Pole Position by six-hundredths of a second from Wolk, a similar distance clear of championship leader Saood Variawa (Toyota Gazoo Racing Corolla), who set Friday’s fastest practice time. Van der Watt lined up alongside Variawa on the second row, with rookies Nathi Msimanga (Toyota Gazoo Racing Corolla) and Josh le Roux in an older specification Master Stairs / Vitro Frameless Audi S3 next ahead of Michael van Rooyen’s (Toyota Gazoo Racing Corolla).
Rackstraw made the perfect start with title rivals Wolk and Variawa in pursuit, with Msimanga, Le Roux, a slow-starting Van der Watt and Van Rooyen in tow. Van der Watt and Van Rooyen found their way past Le Roux, but the big drama was when championship leader Variawa slowed suddenly at mid-distance, visited the pits and returned to limp home to a points-paying finish.
Rackstraw took a popular home victory, the second of his career and at the circuit, and his first off a standard grid formation. He was pursued to the line by Wolk and Msimanga. Van der Watt took fourth from Van Rooyen. Le Roux followed with the struggling Variawa, keeping out of the GTC SupaCup field’s path as he took the points for seventh. That blew the title chase wide open, with Variawa just two points clear of Wolk ahead of the reverse grid second race.
Le Roux had a great start to lead Race 2, but stablemates Van der Watt and Wolk were soon past the 2023 rookie. Van Rooyen also made his way past, but his race did not last much longer than that as he retired with mechanical issues.
Msimanga had meanwhile found a way past Race 1 winner Rackstraw as they picked up third and fourth after Van Rooyen’s demise. That left the major attraction of the tussle for fifth between Le Roux and Variawa. Championship leader now by the slightest of margins, Variawa struggled to find a way past the old-school Audi and finally did so on Lap 9, Van der Watt led Wolk, Msimanga, Rackstraw, Variawa and Le Roux, and that looked to be the final outcome until Van der Watt moved over to let new championship leader Wolk through for the win and a vital few extra points. This saw Wolk take his first win behind the wheel of a BMW at the same circuit where he took his last one before switching to Toyota. It also marked the first win for the manufacturer since their return to the series in Round 4.
Crucially, Van der Watt’s victory sacrifice saw Wolk extend his lead from one to three points over Variawa, who led the championship throughout 2023 up to that point. With only two remaining races and 33 points available, the season finale will be a two-horse race for the title.
With championship leader Keegan Campos and his Veloce Automobili Polo SupaCup sitting this one out due to a date clash with the altar on his wedding day, the GTC SupaCup was left to his title rivals Brad Liebenberg (Hype Energy Drinks / Sparco), Volkswagen Motorsport factory pilot Jonathan Mogotsi, Arnold Neveling (GOSCOR Lift Trucks) and Cape Town rookie Tate Bishop (ANGRi Racing Academy) to fight out.
Liebenberg wasted no time to go level with Campos on top of the points table with the Dunlop Pole Position bonus point, two-tenths clear of Mogotsi, with a Bishop third from Neveling. Behind them, Jean-Pierre van der Walt (Platinum Wheels) returned to action in fifth from Karah Hill (Kalex). Local man Danie van Niekerk (Titan Stunts / Van Niekerk Racing) topped the GTC SupaCup Masters’ grid, with Graphix Supply World father and son David and Roberto Franco next up.
Liebenberg got off to a great start, leading the way from Mogotsi, while Neveling put one over Bishop. Behind them. Van der Walt sat in fifth from Van Niekerk, David and Roberto Franco and a recovering Karah Hill. Try as they may, Mogotsi and Neveling could not get close enough to Liebenberg to make a difference, with Bishop in hot pursuit, and that’s how it ended. The change was Karah Hill catching and passing Roberto Franco for eighth in the dying stages. Van der Walt, however, was found underweight on the post-race scales to promote Van Niekerk to fifth from David Franco, Hill, and Roberto Franco.
Liebenberg was again in pole position from Mogotsi, Neveling and Bishop for Race 2. Mogotsi wasted no time to blast past his title rival Liebenberg and race off to a dominant race victory, his second one in two meetings. Behind them, Neveling kept a brief while Bishop fought back against an aggressive Van der Walt to reclaim fourth. Van Niekerk, in sixth, took the Masters’ honours and wrap up that championship for 2023. He came home ahead of Hill, David and second Masters’ man Roberto Franco
With a possible 43 points available in the final two races, Liebenberg heads into the season finale weekend nine points clear of Mogotsi, with Campos a further 29 behind.
Zwartkops Raceway will host the GTC Championship & SupaCup season finale on 13-14 October.