The Sasol GTC Championship delivered a never-ending supply of action and spectacle from qualifying on Friday to the end of the second race on Saturday afternoon. The fifth and penultimate round if the season, hosted at the Zwartkops Raceday under the Sasol Raceday banner, provided a pair of thrilling races and the first Sasol GTC Champion of the year, Daniel Rowe walking off with the GTC Production title after a near perfect season.
Qualifying was held on a wet track on Friday afternoon and the pecking order was quickly established as the champion-designate Michael Stephen (Engen Audi GTC) stormed to pole position by a massive 1.3 seconds over Johan Fourie (EPS Couriers BMW GTC) in second place, this in a series that has seen the top six usually qualifying within the same second.
Simon Moss, in the second Engen Audi was third on the grid, followed by Hennie Groenewald and Gennaro Bonafede, the Sasol GTC Racing Team drivers a little disappointed following their free practice performance that saw Groenewald top the timesheets in each of the three sessions.
Michael van Rooyen took sixth in his RSC BMW GTC followed by Graeme Nathan (Volkswagen Jetta GTC) who didn’t enjoy the car on a wet track. Mathew Hodges spun the second Jetta on his first lap and didn’t set a time, relegating him to the back of the grid.
Race one, under sunny and hot conditions, saw Stephen move into a commanding lead which was never challenged. Behind him, Moss pushed Fourie off the track on the opening lap, dropping the Capetonian to the back of the field. Groenewald was quick to take advantage and moved into second place, which he held to the end.
Bonafede challenged Moss for third place but tagged the Audi when Moss closed the door on him. The resulting spin brought out the safety car and promoted Bonafede up to third. Hodges made great progress from the back of the grid and slotted into fourth place by flag fall while Nathan limped around with low voltage after an alternator failed.
Michael van Rooyen retired his RSC BMW GTC on the opening lap, the result of a faulty map sensor, leaving him without a throttle.
Race two started on a dry track but ever darkening rain clouds. In a repeat of the first race, no one had an answer to Michael Stephen’s pace and he quickly opened up a five second lead in the first five laps. Bonafede, from third on the grid got past Fourie, followed by Groenewald, as the EPS BMW went from second to fifth in one lap, suffering with a down on power motor. Moss was next up, followed by Hodges and Nathan.
The heavens opened on lap six, turning the track into a slippery piece of tarmac as the cars were shod with slick racing rubber. The first to fall foul of the ever changing conditions was race leader Stephen, who spun into retirement at turn seven. Simultaneously, Moss retired the second Audi when the oil pump belt broke.
Bonafede and Groenewald backed off dramatically, easing their BMW GTC cars around the track in formation at the head of the field. The action continued as Nathan tried to pass Fourie but ended up spinning into Hodges, leaving Fourie a lucky third when the race was red-flagged after lap nine.
In GTC Production, Daniel Rowe duly clinched the championship after winning the first race of the day in his Volkswagen Motorsport Golf GTi. He was followed home by class newcomer Devon Piazza Musso (Kalex VW Golf GTi, Mandla Mdakane in the second factory Golf and Charl Smalberger (VW Genuine parts Golf GTi).
In race two, Rowe again ‘rained’ supreme, leading home Mdakane, Smalberger and Piazza Musso.
”The racing today provided a perfect setting to a Sasol Raceday filled with excitement and participation by everyone that attended this most significant of race days in Sasol’s annual calendar. Our premier motorsport sponsorship, the Sasol Global Touring Car Championship kept everyone in suspense throughout the two races”, said Christopher Kabosha – head of Marketing and Public Affairs Sasol Energy.
The final round of the Sasol GTC Championship takes place this Saturday, 3rd December at the East London Grand prix circuit.
[Issued by Sasol]
The annual Sasol Raceday at Zwartkops Raceway on Saturday, 26th November, sees the running of the fifth and penultimate round of the Sasol Global Touring Car (GTC) Championship as the headline event and Gauteng motorsport fans are in for a treat as the field has closed up considerably to produce exciting, close racing.
In the three-and-a-half months since the new, high tech purpose-built GTC cars first rolled onto the tarmac at the same circuit in early August, a great deal has changed in the pecking order at the front of the field.
The GTC Championship made whirlwind visits to Aldo Scribante in Port Elizabeth and Killarney in Cape Town, leaving an indelible impression on thousands of spectators after some breathtaking racing at the two coastal circuits. The series gained Johan Fourie in time for the Eastern Cape outing, while Michael Van Rooyen made his debut at Kyalami last month.
Initially, it appeared Michael Stephen and his Engen Audi A3 GTC was unbeatable after he swept to six consecutive victories and opened up a healthy championship lead. Killarney proved a tipping point when Gennaro Bonafede planted his BMW GTC race car on pole position and swept to his maiden win. The Sasol GTC Racing Team driver continued his new-found form at Kyalami and dominated the event, taking pole position and victory in both races.
The fifth round of the championship should see another round of wheel-to-wheel racing between these two hard chargers but Simon Moss, in the second Engen Audi cannot be discounted as he has claimed three fastest laps, one pole position and three runner-up placings to rank third in the championship standings.
Youth has prevailed over experience in the Volkswagen Jetta GTC racing camp, for Mathew Hodges has emerged as the quicker of the two drivers with three podium results to his credit. His team-mate, Graeme Nathan, a seven-time SA saloon racing champion has spent most of the year getting to grips with the rear wheel drive GTC car following a career of front-wheel drive racing cars, but has visited the podium twice so far.
The meat in the Volkswagen sandwich is former production car champion Johan Fourie in his EPS Couriers BMW GTC race car. Fourie hit the ground running and swept to two second place finishes in Port Elizabeth, but a double non-finish last time out showed that the GTC cars have teeth and do bite back.
Hennie Groenewald has endured the bad luck and the development role in the Sasol GTC Racing Team, and his results show a single podium against the 2015 production car champion’s name. He is hungry for a strong result and Zwartkops could prove a turning point in his season.
Michael van Rooyen, affectionately called the “Rustenburg Rocket” made his debut at Kyalami with a fourth BMW GTC. Having received his car at the start of race week, he did well to bring his new machine home to a solid fourth in race two. With a month to bed in the car, much more can be expected from Van Rooyen.
Daniel Rowe is on the brink of winning the inaugural class championship for front-wheel drive, two-litre cars after dominating in his Volkswagen Motorsport Golf GTi, racking up an impressive eight victories from 10 starts and accumulating a virtually unassailable lead of 235 points with 290 still available, including bonus points for pole position and setting the fastest race lap.
The fight for second in the championship is the closest in the Sasol GTC Championship, where Shaun Duminy (Ford Focus ST) is just six points ahead of Mandla Mdakane in the second factory VW Golf GTi. 65 points further back, and aiming for the championship podium is Charl Smalberger in his VW Genuine parts Golf GTI.
The Sasol GTC Championship will consist of two races of 12 laps each.
[Issued by Sasol South Africa]
The sun-drenched spectators were the winners after the Sasol GTC Championship visited Kyalami for Round 4 of the series. The internationally renowned Midrand circuit held a number of surprises for the GTC drivers who collectively have 30 South African motorsport championships between them.
The qualifying session on Sunday morning pointed to the prospect of a very close pair of races, with Gennaro Bonafede powering his Sasol-backed BMW GTC race car to pole position for both races, followed by Matthew Hodges, the faster of the two Volkswagen Jetta GTCs.
The current points leader Michael Stephen slotted into 3rd place for race one and 4th for race two, while Hennie Groenewald qualified his BMW GTC race car in 4th and 3rd for the two races respectively.
Johan Fourie (EPS Couriers BMW GTC) and Simon Moss (Engen Audi A3 GTC) filled the next two places, ahead of Graeme Nathan (VW Jetta GTC) and newcomer Michael van Rooyen, who slotted his RSC BMW GTC into 8th place on the grid, needing to learn about his car and the track.
Race 1 got underway and almost immediately the Sasol GTC Championship delivered its first dose of high octane action. Turns 1, 2 and 3 is a sequence of left, right and left hand corners. Off the line, Groenewald rocketed past Stephen and drew alongside Hodges into Turn 1. Side-by-side into Turn 2, with Groenewald now on the racing line, Hodges squeezed the BMW driver towards the edge of the track and with nowhere to go as Hodges aimed for the apex, contact was inevitable.
The BMW’s left front hit the VW’s right rear: Hodges spun and Groenewald was able to continue, but in a twist of fate, an unrelated water supply issue meant his car was mortally damaged and he retired at the end of the lap. Hodges, now with deranged suspension, continued to finish in 4th place. Later, the GTC Driver Conduct Official deemed Hodges the cause of the accident.
All this opening lap action allowed Bonafede to break away, chased by Stephen and the second Engen Audi of Simon Moss. Moss missed all the practice sessions after suffering suspension failure on his first lap of the Kyalami track, so was well pleased with his podium place, achieved in spite of his fire extinguisher discharging itself.
Behind Hodges, Graeme Nathan ended in 5th place, ahead of the GTC Production Class winner Daniel Rowe. Johan Fourie retired on the formation lap when he reported a lack of boost from the turbo, while Michael van Rooyen retired with power steering failure.
In race two, Hodges challenged Bonafede in a drag race to the first corner. Bonafede hung on to maintain his lead, followed by Hodges, who later spun which allowed Stephen into 2nd place. Graeme Nathan edged up the order to take the final podium place after Moss again suffered suspension failure, and Fourie retired with electronic failure. Michael van Rooyen finished his first GTC race in 4th place, ahead of Daniel Rowe who again won GTC-P.
The fifth and penultimate round of the Sasol GTC Championship takes place at the Zwartkops Raceway in Pretoria on 25th November.
[Issued by Sasol South Africa]
The Sasol Global Touring Car (GTC) Championship is the headline attraction at the newly refurbished Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit, which is set to host its inaugural race meeting in a three-day festival of motorsport over the weekend of October 21-23.
Three practice sessions totalling an hour of on-track action on Saturday 22nd October precedes GTC qualifying, which takes place on Sunday morning, followed by two races making up round four of the Sasol GTC Championship. Race fans will have plenty of opportunity to enjoy the sight and sounds of the fresh new touring car series, which features cars delivering 325kW to the rear wheels and bouts of flameouts from the exhausts under braking and cornering.
Qualifying has seen the top six drivers setting times within the same second, promising close racing. An added incentive to do well in the session to determine grid positions is the lure of three, two and one bonus points awarded to the fastest three drivers.
After the first three rounds held at Zwartkops in Pretoria, Aldo Scribante in Port Elizabeth and Killarney in Cape Town, Michael Stephen is the runaway championship leader, the Engen Xtreme Audi A3 driver virtually unstoppable, taking seven race wins from eight starts to open up a healthy 183-point lead in the championship standings.
The Terry Moss-run Audi team is patently aware that the competition is catching up and will not have things all their own way as the second half of the six-round championship kicks off in style at Kyalami.
The only driver to have beaten Stephen is Gennaro Bonafede in his Sasol-backed BMW GTC racer, who took a solid win in Cape Town last time out. With five other podium finishes so far, Bonafede is second in the title race, with another 300 points available over the remainder of the season.
Buoyed by his maiden GTC victory, Bonafede will be out to add to his tally.
Third in the rankings is Simon Moss in the second Engen Audi A3 GTC. Three podiums to date, along with bonus points for setting the fastest race laps in Cape Town, proves the young racers speed and victory cannot be far away.
Former Production Car Champion Johan Fourie is anchored in fourth spot on the leaderboard, just 12 points shy of Moss, in spite of only joining the GTC Championship in round two. The EPS Couriers BMW GTC racer has two second place and a third under his belt.
Volkswagen’s Matthew Hodges started the season strongly, the Jetta GTC proving a formidable competitor, but a bad day in the office last time out saw the youngster drop to fifth in the rankings, eight points behind Fourie. The capable driver will be out to prove a point at Kyalami as the bottom half of the points table tightens up.
Hennie Groenewald, the 2015 Production Car Champion, made progress with his BMW GTC car and claimed his maiden podium in Port Elizabeth. Mechanical issues kept him off the front-running pace in Cape Town, and the Sasol GTC Racing Team driver is determined to claw his way up the order, starting at Kyalami.
Graeme Nathan, running the second Volkswagen Motorsport Jetta GTC, has been plagued by various issues and two non-finishes in Cape Town saw him drop to the foot of the championship log. With many championships against his name, he is determined to turn his season around.
Michael Van Rooyen debuts his long-awaited Rustenburg Steel Construction BMW GTC. Van Rooyen is a proven racer with numerous victories in the Production Car Championship and his bright green and yellow car will add to the GTC Championship.
GTC Production, for front-wheel drive cars, has seen Volkswagen Motorsport’s Daniel Rowe dominate the class in his Golf GTi, banking six victories and two additional podiums to enjoy a healthy 131 point lead over Shaun Duminy (Ford Focus STi). Charl Smalberger (VW Genuine Parts Golf GTi) and Mandla Mdakane (VW Motorsport Golf GTi) are separated by just seven points.
The Sasol GTC schedule sees qualifying at 08h55, with race 1 starting at 12:35 and race 2 at 14h40.
[Issued by Sasol South Africa]
They came, the saw and they conquered the hearts of the thousands of spectators who packed the Killarney racetrack in Cape Town for round three of the Sasol Global Touring Car (GTC) Championship, with an action packed three-race programme.
Although Michael Stephen raced his Engen Xtreme Audi A3 GTC to two victories, the field of GTC racers has closed considerably on the runaway championship leader.
It was Gennaro Bonafede and his Sasol GTC race-car that took the fight to Audi, after planting his BMW GTC firmly In pole position for race two and scorching into the lead, becoming the first non-Audi winner of the season.
With the top six runners again all qualifying within the same second, it was going to be a frenetic trio of races and so it proved. In the opening race, Stephen and Moss ran in close formation at the front of the field, the two black Audis finishing 0.3 seconds apart. Bonafede took third after a straightforward race but further back, Hennie Groenewald (Sasol GTC), Matthew Hodges (Volkswagen Motorsport Jetta GTC) and Johan Fourie (EPS Couriers BMW GTC) had a fantastic scrap. Groenewald ran side-by-side with both Hodges and Fourie on occasion, rubbing fenders along the way which may have caused Fourie’s tyre to puncture. Fourie pitted and rejoined, classified 11th. Hodges and Graeme Nathan (VW Jetta GTC) were forced to retire, both with broken propshafts, allowing Groenewald up into 4th place.
Race two saw Bonafede take a lights to flag victory, ending 1.2 seconds ahead of Michael Stephen and Simon Moss. Behind them, another war raged between Hodges, Fourie and Groenewald, again the trio making light contact as the raced side-by-side. Fourie got the better of Hodges and Groenewald, who in turn made a pass on Hodges, who immediately fought back. Groenewald re-passed the Jetta driver and made the move stick the second time around. Hodges had a propshaft vibration and circulated at the back of the field to gain a handful of points while Nathan battled with power steering issues.
In the final race of the day, Stephen and Moss gave the Terry Moss Racing-run Audi team another 1-2 finish, with Bonafede pulling out a small gap on Fourie. Nathan spun his Jetta into retirement on lap four after battling with inconsistent power steering problems while Groenewald retired his BMW with a loose boost pipe. Moss suffered a broken alternator and slipped down the order, the Audi stuck in 4th gear on the last lap as a result. Hodges finished a lap down after suffering a broken exhaust manifold.
“It’s been a fantastic weekend”, said Stephen. “It wasn’t easy and the competition is catching up. Simon and I had a great race in the second heat – it was hard but fair”.
In GTC Production, Daniel Rowe (Volkswagen Motorsport Golf GTi) claimed all three victories, chased by Charl Smalberger (VW Genuine Parts VW Golf GTI) and Mandla Mdakane (VW Motorsport Golf GTi). In race two, Shaun Duminy (SMD Ford Focus ST) chased Rowe home, followed by Smalberger. In the final race, Mdakane made it a works VW 1-2, trailed by Mark Du Toit (GTCX Zambezi Auto BMW Z4).
The 4th round of the Sasol GTC Championship takes place at the revamped Kyalami Circuit on 22nd October.
[Issued by Sasol South Africa]
The Sasol Global Touring Car (GTC) Championship is heading to Killarney Raceway in Cape Town for round three, bringing the visual and aural spectacle that the exciting new touring car series offers. After two rounds in Pretoria and Port Elizabeth, GTC has already established a strong following, particularly after three exciting heats in the Eastern Cape which was littered with thrills and spills.
Saturday, 24th September will be a memorable day for Cape Town’s enthusiastic and knowledgeable race fans when they see and hear GTC cars for the first time. The GTC racers are purpose-built race cars and look fast – even standing still! Three heats are scheduled to maximize track-goers value for money.
So far, no one has an answer to Michael Stephen and his Engen Xtreme Audi A3 GTC, who has won every race to date and leads the Sasol GTC Championship standings by a fair margin. The Port Elizabeth based racer has been the class of the field and looks untouchable as the series heads on a whirlwind tour of South Africa.
Second in the standings is Gennaro Bonafede in his Sasol BMW GTC. The young charger has secured three podiums from the five races held so far, consistent in his approach and results. He claimed the fastest race lap (worth three bonus points) in the wet in the third race at Aldo Scribante so has the ultimate pace to challenge for victory.
Matthew Hodges lies just 13 points behind Bonafede, the sleek Volkswagen Jetta GTC a quick machine as shown by his two podium places to date. Team mate Graeme Nathan is a further seventeen points adrift after some interesting races under his belt, which has seen him pirouette of the track and down the order on several occasions. Both VW drivers have the means and talent to challenge for victory.
Johan Fourie joined the Sasol GTC Championship at round two and immediately qualified his EPS Couriers BMW on the front row and bank two runner-up results to leap into 5th place on the points log. This, in spite of not having raced since 2014. He is a Cape Town hero and will attract a lot of attention come raceday.
Hennie Groenewald has had a tough start to his GTC career. The second Sasol BMW GTC driver has borne the brunt of the new car’s teething troubles, but bounced back to claim his first GTC podium in the third Port Elizabeth race.
Rounding out the championship standings is the second Engen Audi of Simon Moss, who has suffered suspension failure at each event which has cost him valuable points. Moss claimed a strong second place at the last round ten days ago and more podiums are on the card. It is hoped that Michael Van Rooyen will debut his Rustenburg Steel Construction BMW GTC at Killarney.
GTC Production, the class for 200kW front wheel drive cars sees Volkswagen Motorsport’s Daniel Rowe leading the way in his Golf GTi. The tall Port Elizabeth-based student has bagged three wins and two podiums to lead the title chase, followed by the feisty Shaun Duminy in his Ford Focus ST. Duminy races hard and has one victory and three second place finishes to his credit.
Charl Smalberger (VW Genuine Parts Golf GTi) claimed his maiden GTCP win last time out and will be hungry for more. Mandla Mdakane (VW Motorsport Golf GTi) has raced well with a strong second place and will be out to repeat that performance.
Race fans are invited to the pits to see these new-generation racecars and chat to the drivers between the races, which are scheduled to run at 11h35. A grid walk is scheduled in front of the main grandstand before race two at 13h15 with the Silver Falcons flying overhead. Race two starts at 13h55 and the final race takes place at 16h00.
[Issued by Sasol South Africa]
Michael Stephen knows the Aldo Scribante racetrack better than the back of his own hand and it showed; he set the fastest times in every practice session and qualifying for round two of the Sasol GTC Championship, held at Port Elizabeth’s Aldo Scribante Race track.
While Mother Nature did her best to disrupt proceedings when she threw large quantities of water at the Eastern Cape city, accompanied by strong winds, the #12 Engen Xtreme Audi A3 GTC sailed on its merry way, clinching all three race wins and the overall number one spot on the day.
Hennie Groenewald and Gennaro Bonafede claimed 2nd and 3rd overall, the Sasol BMW M2 GTC twins consistent throughout the three race programme, if not blisteringly quick, and sometimes fortunate to gain from the mistakes of others.
A new entrant to the Sasol GTC Championship, in the form of Johan Fourie and his EPS Courier Services BMW M2 GTC, slotted into second place on the grid, in spite of having his car for only a week, and not having raced since 2014.
The Volkswagen Jetta pair of Graeme Nathan and Matthew Hodges were at the back, disappointed, with a large contingent of Volkswagen fans and staff and whose factory is up the road. Hodges had a broken prop-shaft and ran just 1 lap and thus started stone last.
Morning warm up, in soaking wet conditions, was the first time anyone had driven a GTC car in the wet and drivers were full of praise for the grip levels offered by the Dunlop wet-weather tyres.
Race 1 saw Stephen take an immediate lead, followed by Simon Moss in the second Engen Audi. Fourie and Bonafede had a great battle for 3rd place, followed by Groenewald, Matthew Hodges (VW Jetta GTC) and Graeme Nathan (VW Jetta GTC). Moss put a wheel onto a painted white line on the short back straight and spun down to the back of the field, making his way back to 5th by flag fall.
Race two, held in dry but windy conditions, was another Stephen rout, with Simon Moss making it a hometown 1-2 in a straightforward race. Mathew Hodges picked off his rivals to claim a strong third spot from last on the grid, ahead of a struggling Bonafede and Groenewald. The Sasol BMW team made some radical set-up changes after race 1 to try and cure a handling issue, but they missed the boat and went backwards in their pace.
Graeme Nathan spun to the back of the field at the final corner, ending 6th, while Fourie was forced to retire with a loose fuel tank.
The heavens opened with a vengeance minutes before the final Sasol GTC race got underway, delayed to allow Fourie’s team time to complete repairs to the fuel tank, which had split open.
Through thick spray, Stephen carefully picked his way around the circuit, hounded by his teammate Simon Moss. Fourie took up station behind the black Audi A3s, with Bonafede hounding the newcomer. Groenewald held off Hodges and Nathan. On lap three, Moss parked his Audi with a suspected broken wheel bearing, while Bonafede thought about jumping Fourie for position, but clipped a wet kerb and that spat him off the track.
Fourie was up into 2nd, Groenewald 3rd, with Nathan in 4th. Bonafede fought back and passed Hodges on the last lap to end 5th.
“I’m really happy with three wins at my home track. It is the best car I have ever driven in the rain. It’s a good way to keep the championship going at this early stage”, said Stephen.
Nathan said” It was a hard weekend. We didn’t get the car hooked up for the circuit or the conditions”.
In the Sasol GTC Production Car class, Daniel Rowe qualified his Volkswagen Motorsport Golf nearly a second faster than Mandla Mdakane in the sister Golf GTi, closely followed by Shaun Duminy (Ford Focus ST) and Charl Smalberger (VW Genuine Parts Golf GTi).
In race 1, Rowe and Duminy were in a frenetic race, Duminy passing the Golf before being re-passed by the VW driver. Mdakane and Smalberger end 3rd and 4th. Smalberger stormed into the lead in race 2 and was never headed, while Duminy and Rowe carried on as before. Contact between the two saw the Focus’ door ripped off, and it hung limply in parc ferme.
The final race was again a Rowe benefit, this time shadowed by Mdakane who drove a strong race in the conditions. Smalberger finished ahead of Duminy. Daniel Rowe took the overall honours ahead of Charl Smalberger, Mdakane and Duminy.
The Port Elizabeth round of the Sasol GTC Championship will be broadcast on SuperSport on Tuesday, 20th September at 20h00.
The third round of the Sasol GTC Championship takes places at Killarney Raceway in Cape Town on 24th September.
[Issued by Sasol South Africa]
The Sasol Global Touring Car (GTC) Championship rolls into Port Elizabeth for round two of six of the exciting new touring car championship with all the drama and expectation of a brewing Highveld thunderstorm.
With a field of eight bespoke GTC racing cars ready to unleash a combined 2600kW on the Aldo Scribante tarmac, two heats of 50km each are set to deliver a new motor racing experience to Eastern Cape motorsport fans on Saturday, 10th September.
The GTC cars, fitted with 2-litre turbo motors, emit a gruff roar and spit torrents of flames from their exhausts, adding visual and aural spectacle to the evenly matched field, while the long straight at Scribante should see the GTC racers reach around 280km/h.
The championship consists of four BMW 2-series GTC racers: two running under the Sasol GTC Racing Team banner, driven by Hennie Groenewald and Gennaro Bonafede, and one each for former Production Car Champion, Johan Fourie with backing from EPS Courier Services and an identical machine for Rustenburg businessman Michael Van Rooyen, who has support from Rustenburg Steel Construction.
Both Fourie and Van Rooyen are making their GTC debut at the coastal circuit.
Volkswagen will showcase their pair of Jetta GTC racers in front of their home crowd with multiple champion Graeme Nathan and former Polo Cup racer Matthew Hodges behind the wheel. With their manufacturing plant up the road in Uitenhage, there is going to be strong support for the ‘home’ team and huge pressure to do well.
Another pressure cooker scenario awaits Port Elizabeth’s heroes Michael Stephen and Simon Moss in their Engen Xtreme Audi A3 GTCs. Stephen was the man to beat at the opening Sasol GTC Championship race held at Zwartkops Raceway last month and the question most experts are asking is: can anyone stop Stephen at his home track. Moss will be looking to get some mileage under his belt after minimal running in Pretoria.
With the cars lapping within 1.1 seconds of each other around Zwartkops, race fans are in for some exciting racing, while a single set of Dunlop racing slick tyres must last the whole weekend, adding another dimension for the teams to manage on the abrasive Aldo Scribante circuit.
GTC Production is a junior class for two-wheel drive cars producing just over 200kW and again, close racing is guaranteed from the closely matched entrants. Daniel Rowe and Mandla Mdakane race identical Volkswagen Golf GTis under the VW Motorsport banner, with Charl Smalberger (VW Genuine Parts Golf GTi) and Shaun Duminy (SMD Ford Focus STi) expected to wage war.
Race fans are invited to the pits to see these new-generation racecars and chat to the drivers between the races, which are scheduled to run at 11h30 and 14h00.
Randburg, South Africa – The inaugural Sasol Global Touring Car (GTC) Championship flagged off in style, thrilling the massive crowd of motorsport fans who packed into the Zwartkops Raceway under clear, sunny skies, fans who have waited patiently for the new era in South African motorsport to roll onto the track.
Michael Stephen, the multiple Production Car Champion, will go down in history as the first winner of a GTC race, taking his Engen Extreme Audi A3 GTC to a pair of victories, starting from pole position in each heat.
It didn’t take long for the action to start when Simon Moss, in the second Engen Audi A3, spun out in Turn 1 during qualifying, parking his pristine machine in the barriers. After the red-flagged session restarted, the top four qualifiers were within a second of each other, with Mathew Hodges setting the second-fastest time in his Volkswagen Motorsport Jetta GTC, followed by the Sasol GTC BMWs of Gennaro Bonafede and Hennie Groenewald.
Graeme Nathan qualified his VW Jetta GTC 5th with Simon Moss bringing up the rear of the grid. The Terry Moss-run Audi team put in a huge effort to straighten the badly bent car and to their credit got it race ready.
The first race saw Stephen bolt into the lead, leaving his rivals staring at the bootlid of the black Audi. Hodges hung on gamely in 2nd place, falling away a tad as Bonafede kept him honest. Behind the leading trio, Groenewald dropped back with a misfire, allowing Nathan to close and pass the Sasol driver. Mid-race, Nathan spun in Turn 6, allowing Groenewald back into 4th place.
As the race wore on, Nathan again hunted Groenewald down, taking his position as the race neared its end. Moss circulated slowly at rear of the field, passed by several of the front-wheel drive GTC Production Car competitors.
The Sasol GTC Team withdrew Groenewald’s car from Race 2 as the team ran out of time trying to rectify the misfire that plagued him in Race 1.
Race 2 saw Stephen, again from pole position, make another great start and led the field from lights to flag. Nathan slotted his Jetta GTC into second place, followed by Bonafede and Hodges. Positions remained static for the most part, until Bonafede, on the final lap, dropped a wheel onto the dirt in Turn 6, which promptly put the BMW into an elegant pirouette. Hodges flashed past into 3rd place, but pitted before the chequered flag fell, allowing Bonafede to reclaim his 3rd place.
The front-wheel drive GTC Production class provided a pair of exciting races: Shaun Duminy (Ford Focus ST) held off a race-long effort to unseat his lead by the Volkswagen Motorsport Golf GTi twins, Daniel Rowe and Mandla Mdakane, who raced nose-to–tail throughout.
Race 2 saw a reversal of fortunes as Rowe triumphed ahead of Duminy and Charl Smalberger (VW Genuine parts Golf GTi).
Series co-founder Vic Maharaj said: “Mission accomplished. GTC positions circuit racing as a premier class and is appealing to spectators who loved the look and sound of the cars. The GTC pit area was swamped with people all day as they wanted a closer look at the future of circuit racing. The important components were mechanically reliable and the series is already a hit with the public and drivers”.
Head of Marketing & Public Affairs for Sasol Energy, which is the GTC series sponsors, Christopher Kabosha said: the management and staff of Sasol Energy would like to thank all the participating teams, corporate sponsors and the GTC management for the excellent team work and investment made in getting the 2016 Sasol GTC series off to a resounding successful start”.
The 2nd round of the Sasol GTC Championship takes place at the Aldo Scribante circuit in Port Elizabeth on 10th September.