The sixth Global Touring Cars season is set to start in Cape Town this coming weekend (March 19-20) and will mark the second occasion that Killarney Internation Raceway will host the opening round.
With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic resulting in 2020’s visits to the venue being cancelled, this will be a new outing for all but one driver/manufacturer combination in the GTC Championship. Two of the GTC SupaCup entrants competed in the South African Endurance Series season finale of 2020, but it will be the first Cape Town visit for the class as a whole.
Three manufacturers to line up in GTC Championship
Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa’s Michael van Rooyen will start the new season as the most experienced GTC Championship driver with 59 starts to his name. Having switched to Toyota in 2019, he is the only driver to represent the same marque as he did in the last GTC race at the circuit. He holds a 33% start-to-podium conversation rate with two race wins and a best championship finish of runner-up in 2019. He will be a firm favourite to become the new champion but can expect fierce competition from an equally-determined host of rivals. His teammate, Mandla Madakane, will be eager to make his presence known in the sister Toyota Corolla entry. Having graduated from GTC2 to the GTC Championship in 2020, Mdakane’s debut season was hampered by technical issues. He will aim to capitalise on the pace that he has already shown in his two outings and chase his first podium appearance in Cape Town.
The other two Toyota Corollas will be piloted by the Chemical Logistics pair of Robert Wolk and Scott Temple. Wolk is the second-most experienced driver in the filed with 57 starts and four race victories. He is also the only current driver who has won a race at Killarney International Raceway, having done so at the most recent outing. While 2019 saw his best championship result to date with sixth place, there is no question that he will be eager to step to the fore as a championship contender. Temple and Julian van der Watt alternated driving duties for the second car in 2020, however, it will be Temple who will compete in this car for 2021 with an eagerness to impress at only his second GTC race weekend.
Van der Watt will also make his second appearance after finishing on the podium in his debut weekend. Also in the Chemical Logistics line-up, he will be participating in the Ford Focus. Ford is one of two manufacturers returning to the series after the sole 2019 outing. The second of these will be the BMW which will be driven by Universal Racing’s Lee Thompson. Killarney International Raceway will see both the driver and entrant making their debut in the top class. Universal Racing has been involved with GTC2 and the GTC SupaCup since the 2017 season, previously fielding Johan Pretorius, Trevor Bland, Charl Smalberger and Jeffrey Kruger as drivers. Thompson’s two GTC2 outings saw him compete in the Delmon Mining Ford Focus in 2019. Since then, he has taken over as the team’s race engineer and will be making his first outing as a race driver for the team in Cape Town.
Liebenberg out to defend GTC SupaCup title
Brad Liebenberg (Sparco Nathan’s Motorsport) took the inaugural GTC SupaCup title after beating Jeffrey Kruger by one point. This saw him make it three titles from his last three saloon car championship campaigns in two years, having only near-misses to show from his first four years yet eager to add another one in 2021. He is set to have fierce competition from Kruger (Universal Racing) as well as third-place finisher Jonothan Mogotsi (Volkswagen Motorsport). While Liebenberg and Kruger shared the wins and pole positions in 2020, Mogotsi has been edging closer to the duo and will look to take his first win.
The midfield battle often produced good racing with regulars Andre Bezuidenhout (Motul Team Perfect Circle), Shaun Duminy (SMD Exotics), Manogh Maharaj (SMD Exotics), and Johan de Bruyn (OdorCure) all eager to continue their battle. Jason Campos participated in two rounds, with his father Rui Campos competing as a substitute in Port Elizabeth. The new season will see the Turn 1 Insurance Brokers Campos Racing team expanding to a two-car outfit with both father-and-son eager to impress. While Mikael Pitamber does have three starts in 2020 to his name, this will be his first championship outing since taking delivery of his Toys R Us Volkswagen SupaPolo. Pitamber and Bezuidenhout are also the only two GTC SupaCup drivers to have competed in their cars at Killarney International Raceway, having done so in the 2020 South African 9 Hour.
There are a few more series-debutants for 2021. Nick Davidson (Stu Davidson & Sons) has competed in regional races in his Volkswagen SupaPolo, but will be making his first outing in the series at Killarney International Raceway. Dawie Joubert (Wild Rose Gin Rembrandt Racing) and Saood Variawa (SV Safaris/Varia/Mariner) will also be making their debut.
New race weekend format
The opening round, which will form part of the Extreme Festival, will see a change in the form of a longer second race. While Saturday’s opening race will still be a 12-lap sprint, the second race will be run over 30 minutes plus one lap distance. The two races will start at 13:10 and 16:30 respectively.
The resumption of sport in South Africa under the National State of Disaster is still subject to a prohibition on spectator attendance. The event will be streamed online via the Extreme Festival’s Facebook page.