The 2023 Global Touring Cars (GTC) Championship & SupaCup title battles are set to go down to the wire at Zwartkops Raceway this coming weekend (13-14 October).
Round 6 saw Robert Wolk and Brad Liebenberg emerge as the respective points leaders to set up an exciting season finale for the series’ second visit to the Pretoria circuit.
Saood Variawa (Toyota Gazoo Racing Corolla) has led the 2023 championship from this year’s first race until Round 6, but Wolk’s (Chemical Logistics BMW 128ti) title defence gained momentum in recent rounds, culminating in him taking a three-point lead in Cape Town.
It has been a head-to-head battle between the pair for nearly two seasons, and Variawa is eager to steal the momentum back from Wolk. Should Wolk take the honours, he will be the second driver to win three consecutive titles, a record held by Michael Stephen, who triumphed from 2016 to 2018. For Variawa, this weekend will be the opportunity to become the youngest GTC Champion. Wolk leads the podium count in 2023 with nine compared with Variawa’s seven, with the latter having four wins compared to Wolk’s three. With such a close contest, it could come down to bonus points for the fastest laps and the Dunlop Pole Position, where Variawa holds a significant advantage of 11 compared with Wolk’s three.
The highest-ranked rookie of 2023, Nathi Msimanga (Toyota Gazoo Racing Corolla), heads up the battle for third place, with only 13 points covering him, Andrew Rackstraw (Sparco / RDSA Volkswagen Golf 8 GTI) and Michael van Rooyen (Toyota Gazoo Racing Corolla).
Msimanga’s debut season started with three podiums in as many rounds, including his maiden victory on his last visit to Zwartkops Raceway, albeit following a post-race enquiry. Since then, it has been slim pickings for the Polo Cup graduate, apart from another podium in Cape Town. Finding himself four points ahead of Rackstraw, he is eager to finish his season on a high. Rackstraw, who also had an up-and-down season, took his second race win in Cape Town and is just as eager to take the third place to conclude his second season in South Africa’s top category. Van Rooyen, who took two wins this year, is also eager to finish his year on a high.
Josh le Roux (Master Stairs / Vitro Frameless Audi S3) is 23 points adrift of Van Rooyen. Competing in an older generation car, Le Roux is still searching for his first race podium, and the shorter Zwartkops Raceway circuit could work in his favour. He will have to contend with Julian van der Watt (Chemical Logistics Toyota Corolla), who trails him by five points. It has been an impressive comeback for Van der Watt following his accident in the season opener, and not only will he look to improve his position and record his first 2023 win.
The GTC SupaCup battle is headed up by Brad Liebenberg (Hype Energy Drinks), who took the lead in Keegan Campos’ (Veloce Automobili) absence in Round 5. The latter, who has led the championship since the start of the year, missed the previous round on the same date as his wedding will not be on the grid this weekend. This will see the battle between the all Volkswagen Polo SupaCup field effectively being a two-horse race between Liebenberg and Jonathan Mogotsi (Volkswagen Motorsport).
This is a repeat of the 2021 battle between this pair, with Liebenberg holding a nine-point advantage. The past two rounds have been equal pickings between the two, who have provided some very close battles on the circuit. Liebenberg, the driver with the most starts on the combined GTC grid, will also be searching for his third GTC SupaCup title, but can Mogotsi take his maiden crown?
Campos, with 168 points, is now in third place. Arnold Neveling (GOSCOR Lift Truck Company) will aim to close down the 25-point deficit to finish third. While the pair ahead of him will be focused on the title, Neveling is still searching for his maiden win. Tate Bishop (ANGRi Racing Academy) is only 17 points adrift and will aim to improve his position as well, having already secured his position as the highest-finishing 2023 debutant.
Danie van Niekerk (Titan Stunts Van Niekerk Racing) is likely to hang onto his sixth place on the points table but wants to feature more prominently up front on the back of his solid form in recent rounds. Having already secured this year’s GTC SupaCup Masters’ crown, he will also go up against 2021’s inaugural Masters’ title winner, Andre Bezuidenhout, who is making his first start after more than a year on the sidelines.
Karah Hill (Kalex) will eye a strong finish in her maiden season and could well improve on her current 10th place on the points table. David and Robert Franco (Graphix Supply World) will both compete in their first event outside of Cape Town, with Robert also joining Van Niekerk and Bezuidenhout in the Masters’ battle.
The GTC SupaCup has become an attractive option for various young drivers to prove themselves against the best in South Africa. Karting sensation Nicholas Vostanis, who also competes in the GR Cup, is the latest to join this group and will debut at the season finale.
Saturday’s season finale will see two races. The first will be contested over 10 laps and start at 12:45, with the 12-lap second race starting at 15:40.
Spectator tickets can be purchased directly from Zwartkops Raceway. The full Extreme Festival race day programme will also be broadcast live on the Global Touring Cars Facebook page and 2WheelsTV YouTube channel.