East London, South Africa: The defending Sasol GTC Champion Michael Stephen has put his title defence back on track as he powered his Engen Xtreme Audi GTC to a pair of victories last Saturday, at Round 4 of the championship held at the East London Grand Prix circuit .
Having been crowned the inaugural Sasol GTC champion at the Eastern Cape circuit last November, the 12-time SA motorsport title holder took both 10-lap race victories, with race two again in reverse grid format.
Second and third places on the podium were shared between Engen Xtreme’s Simon Moss and EPS Racing’s Johan Fourie in race one, and Sasol GTC Racing Team’s Gennaro Bonafede and Robert Wolk in race two.
The Sasol GTC Championship teams gave notice of their intent in an unbelievably close qualifying session late on Friday afternoon. Johan Fourie (#14 EPS Couriers BMW GTC) initially led the way in spite of running a standard motor this event, followed by Stephen, but as the sun set it was Moss (#38 Engen Audi GTC) who pipped the Cape Town driver by 0.134 seconds to claim his maiden GTC pole position.
Fourth in qualifying went to Gennaro Bonafede (#32 Sasol BMW GTC) who was just 0.248 seconds off pole. Daniel Rowe (#11 Volkswagen Jetta GTC) and Michael van Rooyen (#95 RSC BMW GTC) filled the third row of the grid followed by Mathew Hodges (#57 VW Jetta GT), while Robert Wolk missed the session after running off the track in free practice two and required extensive repair work.
GTC2 provided another close session with the dominant Volkswagen Golfs of Mandla Mdakane and Keagan Masters bested by Bradley Liebenberg (#12 Ferodo MINI) with a margin of just 0.07 seconds. Newcomer Kosie Weyers planted his Chevrolet Cruze into third place followed by Trevor Bland (#5 TB Motorsport VW Golf), Masters and Chris Shorter (#33 Champion Mini).
The biggest news of the day came in the early morning warm-up session, when polesitter Moss run off the track and damaged his car’s front end. The Terry Moss Racing team performed a minor miracle by repairing the damage in just under 2½ hours to give the Port Elizabeth driver a chance to make the most of his first race from pole position.
While Moss maintained the lead off the line, Stephen took overtook his teammate as early as turn three and never looked back, with Moss playing the role of wingman to his team leader. Fourie maintained his third place position in spite of a power deficit of 15kW from his standard motor.
Rowe got ahead of Bonafede, but went off the road as he ran wide at the ultra fast Potter’s Pass corner on lap two, but recovered and rejoined the race. Bonafede dropped a wheel off the road at the same place and damaged the aerodynamic front splitter which caused him to pit for temporary repairs during the race, losing a lap in the process.
Michael van Rooyen and Mathew Hodges were embroiled in a tight race for fifth place, overtaking each other on every lap. With three laps remaining, van Rooyen was forced to retire with mechanical issues, leaving Hodges – who was battling with grip issues – to come home in a comfortable fifth place.
Wolk had power steering issues on the warm-up lap, but remained in the race to earn as many points as possible.
With van Rooyen unable to start the reverse grid race two, the two Sasol BMW GTCs of Wolk and Bonafede lead the way around with Hodges, Rowe and Fourie following, while the two Engen Audis filled the rear of the field.
Bonafede rocketed into the lead while Wolk and Rowe tussled for third place. As Wolk tried to dive up the inside of Rowe, the latter VW Jetta driver moved over and the two cars collided before continuing on. Rowe was later penalised three finishing positions, leaving Wolk on the final step of the podium; his first podium finish for the 2017 championship.
Having started from rear of grid, Stephen sliced his way through the pack with a series of precision overtaking moves. With three laps left, Stephen out-braked Bonafede into turn three and pulled out a 1.6 second lead by the time the chequered flag fell.
Moss ran off the road twice and trailed the pack home behind Hodges and Fourie.
Brad Liebenberg initially lost out to Kosie Weyers in the first race, but by lap four he had passed the Chev driver with Trevor Bland and Mandla Mdakane hot on their heels. The five-car train chopped and changed positions by the corner, cheered on by the spectators who lined the 3.9km long track.
Liebenberg held his nerve and recorded the first win in his recently rebuilt MINI John Cooper Works for Signature Motorsport. Bland and Weyers followed the Ferodo Mini home, followed by Chris Shorter, Iain Stevenson (#69 Comsol VW Golf) and championship leader Keagan Masters.
With Liebenberg at the back of the pack for the reverse grid race, newcomer Dayne Angel (#5 Honda Civic Type R) led the field away but was quickly swallowed up by Charl Smalberger (iCorp VW Golf), Masters and the rest.
Masters, Shorter, Weyers and Mdakane continued to tussle their way around the track door-to-door, even at one stage trying to negotiate Beacon Bend four abreast. Weyers was hit by Mdakane, forcing the class debutant to end his strong weekend in the pits.
Liebenberg picked his way through the field and hunted down the leaders as the race drew to a close. The MINI driver took the lead on the final lap in a hard braking move on Masters, Masters fought back and drew alongside at the final corner, but Liebenberg squeaked across the line with one tenth of a second to spare.
Bland led Smalberger home, followed by Shorter’s bruised Champion MINI.
The Sasol GTC Championship next heads to the tight and twisty Zwartkops Raceway in Pretoria for Round four 4 of the 2017 season on June 17, 2017.
Championship standings after the East London race (subject to MSA ratification):
1. Gennaro Bonafede (BMW) – 239
2. Simon Moss (AUDI) – 201
3. Michael Stephen (AUDI) – 175
4. Johan Fourie (BMW) – 136
5. Matthew Hodges (VW) – 107
6. Daniel Rowe (VW) – 57
7. Robert Wolk (BMW) – 50
8. Michael van Rooyen (BMW) – 18
1. Keagan Masters (VW) – 247
2. Trevor Bland (VW) – 200
3. Bradley Liebenberg (MINI) – 135
4. Charl Smalberger (VW) – 127
5. Mandla Mdakane (VW) – 112
6. Chris Shorter (MINI) – 82
7. Kosie Weyers (Chev) – 31
8. Iain Stevenson (VW) – 29
9. Dayne Angel (Honda – 6
Follow us on Twitter using #SasolGTC for the latest Sasol GTC Championship news or visit www.sasolmotorsport.co.za to access the 2017 racing calendar
Midrand, South Africa – A large crowd witnessed some fantastic Sasol GTC Championship racing at Kyalami this weekend, with victories for Gennaro Bonafede in race one and the reigning champion Michael Stephen in race two. Two consistent results saw Mathew Hodges crowned the overall winner on the day.
A new initiative was introduced for the second round of the Sasol GTC Championship – an inverted grid for the second race! This initiative produced exciting racing as the fastest competitors from the first race clawed their way through the pack to get back to the front of the field.
Saturday’s qualifying saw Michael Stephen (Engen Xtreme Audi GTC) back on form with a pole setting time of 0.737 seconds ahead of the field. Joining Stephen on the front row of the grid was Gennaro Bonafede (Sasol BMW GTC) followed by Mathew Hodges (VW Jetta GTC) and a further 0.2 seconds back, was Johan Fourie (EPS Couriers BMW GTC).
Robert Wolk (Sasol BMW GTC), Simon Moss (Engen Xtreme Audi GTC), Michael van Rooyen (RSC BMW GTC) and Daniel Rowe (VW Jetta GTC) rounded out the grid.
Under a warm autumn sun, Stephen got the jump on Bonafede from the start of race one as the cars headed to turn one. The close running train was made up of Hodges, Fourie, Moss, Van Rooyen and Rowe.
On lap two, Moss passed both Hodges and Fourie, while Wolk brought up the rear of the GTC pack having spun out in turn five.
On lap three, Van Rooyen spun his BMW out of contention at the bottom of the Mineshaft, dropping to the tail of the field. Hodges and Rowe had a huge inter-team fight over fifth place which made for entertaining racing.
Bonafede came through in the lead on lap seven of race one with the #1 Audi right behind the Sasol Turbo Fuels™ Plus-powered BMW. It was the start of an electrical issue for Stephen who got progressively slower, eventually just trundling around to pick up a few points for his effort. Van Rooyen spun again late in the race, retiring with a damaged propshaft.
The Bonafede, Moss, Fourie podium was a mirror image to that in Cape Town last month, with Hodges, Rowe and Wolk leading Stephen past the chequered flag
The inverted grid suited Michael Stephen to perfection, starting in second place alongside Michael Van Rooyen. Wolk was next up, followed by Rowe, Hodges, Fourie, Moss with Bonafede, the race one winner, now last on the grid.
Stephen’s electrical problem from race one wasn’t fixed. The team had to hot-wire the electrics to allow the champion to change gear, but without the dashboard and gearshift blip allowing untroubled cog-swaps, he resorted to “old school motorsport engineering”, listening to the engine to determine when to shift up and down. The #1 Audi racer slid down the inside of Van Rooyen’s BMW into turn one at the start of lap two and drove into the distance as those behind, tripped each other up.
On lap three, Bonafede made his first move, diving up Hodges’ inside with surgical precision. On the next lap, he passed Fourie on the outside of the Mineshaft, the fastest part of the track and a lap later, slid his BMW inside Rowe’s Jetta exiting the Bowl. The race one winner was up into fifth place. Both Hodges and Rowe passed Fourie, who fought back and re-took his place from Hodges in a frenetic race of action.
Wolk was holding station behind Stephen, while Moss, Bonafede and Van Rooyen fought over third place. Rowe retired with electrical problems after passing Fourie who, on lap eight, suffered a broken wheel rim and pitched the EPS BMW into the wall at the Esses.
Down at the Kink, Wolk spun off the track and Bonafede emerged in second place going into the final lap. In a rare error, the Sasol GTC racer lost concentration three corners from home, spun and dropped down to fourth place. Hodges and Moss followed Stephen across the line, with van Rooyen banking his first points of the year in fifth place.
Qualifying for the front-wheel drive cars produced the usual Keagan Masters (VW Golf GTi), Trevor Bland (VW Golf GTi) and Mandla Mdakane (VW Golf GTi) grid line-up, followed by a great fourth for Brad Liebenberg (Ferodo MINI), the newly liveried Charl Smalberger (iCorp VW Golf GTi), Chris Shorter (Champion MINI) and newcomer Iain Robertson (Comsol VW Golf GTi).
Masters took off and was never headed, while behind him, Bland passed Mdakane, only for the young driver to pass Bland on the next lap. Liebenberg had a lonely race in fourth, while Shorter and Smalberger settled into a race long fight for fifth place. Bland and Mdakane continued to swap positions every lap until Mdakane eked out a small gap by mid race.
With the inverted grid in play, Smalberger led Shorter, Liebenberg, Bland, Mdakane and Masters off the grid. The MINIs were swamped by the Golfs, headed by Bland now tucked in behind Smalberger. A lap later, Mdakane passed Bland for second place and by lap six, Mdakane was through into the lead. Masters slipped past Bland for third in the dying moments in another thrilling race.
The third round of the Sasol GTC Championship takes place at the East London Grand Prix Circuit on 20th May.
Follow Sasol on Twitter using #SasolGTC for the latest Sasol GTC Championship news or visit www.sasolmotorsport.co.za to access the 2017 racing calendar.
[Issued by Sasol]
Reigning champion Michael Stephen has put a horrid start to his title defense season behind as he pushed through to claim victory at Round 2 of the 2017 Sasol GTC Championship held at the Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit in Midrand, South Africa (April 21-22).
Having failed to finish the opening races in Cape Town last month, the Engen Xteme / Terry Moss Racing driver opened his championship points haul with a win in race two on Saturday afternoon, his first race victory since the penultimate round last year.
With thousands of fans attending the Kyalami Motorsport Festival, South Africa’s premier circuit racing series delivered thrilling edge-of-your-seat racing with Stephen wasting no time putting on a show as he dominated the times early. Setting the fastest time in qualifying of 1m50.765sec in his Audi A3 GTC racecar, the Port Elizabeth driver’s time was a full two seconds faster than his 2016 qualifying time at the same circuit; this was thanks in part to the new softer compound Dunlop Sport Maxx tyres that were introduced for all GTC cars to run on for the weekend and for the remainder of the season.
Joining Stephen on the front row of the grid for race one was current championship leader Gennaro Bonafede (#32), who was in solid form in his Sasol-backed BMW 2 Series GTC. Starting from third – and making three different manufacturers in the top three places – was Volkswagen Motorsport’s Mathew Hodges (#57) in his VW Jetta GTC, while the rest of the GTC grid all qualifyed within two seconds of frontrunner Stephen.
GTC2 saw 17-year-old Volkswagen works driver Keegan Masters (#18) continue his dominant form, claiming his first GTC2 pole with a 2m00.727sec lap time around the world-famous former Grand Prix circuit located in Midrand, Johannesburg. His teammate Mandla Mdakane (#44) took third in qualifying, whilst Trevor Bland (#5) – who is currently second in the GTC2 championship – took second to ensure Volkswagen locked out the top three places.
RACE ONE SUMMARY
Stephen dominated the majority of race one in his Audi GTC with Bonafede pressuring close behind, until an electrical problem on Lap 8 put him out of the race. Bonafede capitalised and took his third straight win of the season in his Sasol BMW GTC.
Hard charging Simon Moss (#38), who was determined to continue his strong start to the 2017 season in his Engen Xtreme-backed Terry Moss Racing Audi GTC, finished second while Capetonian Johan Fourie finished third in his EPS Couriers-backed BMW GTC.
Less than a second behind Fourie were the two Volkswagen Jettas of Hodges and Daniel Rowe (#11), with Sasol GTC Racing Team’s Robert Wolk (#41) a distant sixth place. RSC Racing Team’s Michael van Rooyen (#95) was blighted by a propshaft failure in his Rustenburg Steel BMW 2 Series GTC, but post-race upgraded to the new propshaft unit being used by the other teams and benefitted from starting from the front of the grid for race two, which was the first reverse grid format of the season.
In the GTC2 class, youngster Keegan Masters dominated with an impressive win nearly four seconds in front of teammate Mandla Mdakane in their Volkswagen Golfs, once again displaying his prodigious talent. Hot on Mdakane’s heels was the ever threatening Trevor Bland (TB Racing VW Golf), who was closely followed home in fourth and fifth place by the Signature Motorsport MINI John Cooper Works cars of Brad Liebenberg (#12) and Chris Shorter (#33), and GTC2 favourite Charl Smalberger (#15) sixth in his VW Golf.
RACE TWO SUMMARY
New for the championship, GTC introduced a reverse grid system for the first time in Race 2 as a test format to ensure that the category continuously delivers a good show for race fans. With the afternoon race producing innumerable overtaking moves, close battles and exciting door-to-door racing, the format proved successful on debut with Johannesburg race fans shouting their support for the entire nine laps.
Van Rooyen led from the start in his standout green and yellow liveried BMW GTC and held his own for the first lap, but was reeled in and overtaken by the hard charging Stephen who stayed out the front for the rest of the race.
Positions continued to change lap by lap, with Hodges, Wolk, Fourie and Moss all racing up the front and fighting for podium places. Unfortunately, Fourie suffered suspension failure at high speed, crashing into the wall at the Esses. While Wolk and Moss both spun individually out of Cheetah corner, forcing them to fight hard to recover lost positions. Wolk eventually retired with an overheating engine, but Moss went on to finish third overall behind Hodges who finished second.
Notably absent at the front of the field was race one winner Bonafede who had work extra hard after starting rear of grid. The Sasol BMW driver fought through to second place by the end of the race, before a last lap spin saw him relegated to fourth.
In the end, Stephen’s Audi crossed the line over seven seconds ahead of Volkswagen’s Mathew Hodges, with Moss finishing an impressive third place after starting sixth. Moss, son of legendary steerer Terry Moss, took driver of the day honours thanks to his supreme driving skills after claiming the most championship points of the weekend.
Not to be outdone, GTC2 put on a superb show of their own with Mdakane claiming a dominant win over Smalberger and Masters, with the VW Golfs again dominating proceedings. The win was also Mdakane’s first victory in the GTC era.
With more development work due before the next round for the John Cooper Works MINIs, Polo Cup graduates Chris Shorter and Brad Liebenberg take confidence from finishing their second event in their newly-built racecars, and will again be wanting to break Volkswagen’s dominance next time out.
Round 3 of the Sasol GTC Championship will be held at the East London Grand Prix Circuit on the May 20.
South Africa’s premier circuit racing category, the Sasol GTC Championship, arrives at the Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit next week for the second round of the 2017 season.
Having begun the championship in Cape Town last month, the exciting 2.0-litre turbocharged cars in the GTC class will set the pace at the Kyalami Motorsport Festival with championship leader Gennaro Bonafede (#32) looking to capitalise on his great season start in his Sasol-backed BMW 2 Series GTC.
Bonafede won the first two races at Killarney International Raceway, but defending Sasol GTC champion Michael Stephen (#1) and team mate Simon Moss (#38) are ready to take their Terry Moss Racing-built Engen Xtreme Audi A3 GTC’s to the front to ensure Bonafede does not make winning a habit this season.
Moss took two well-earned second places in Cape Town, after a thrilling battle with local man Johan Fourie (#14), and comprehensively outperformed Stephen who was plagued by issues all weekend.
The EPS Couriers-backed BMW 2 Series GTC of multiple SA racing champion Fourie will also be looking to dominate proceedings in Gauteng, after pleasing his home town crowd at Killarney with two solid third places.
The two works Volkswagen Jetta GTC’s, piloted by Matthew Hodges (#57) and last year’s GTC2 champion Daniel Rowe (#11) will also want to put their Killarney maladies behind them and get some podium positions on the board.
Sasol BMW newcomer Robert Wolk will want to use his vast experience at Kyalami to start making a name for himself in the series, and doing his level best to ensure team mate Bonafede does not walk away with all the spoils.
After a weekend to forget at Killarney, Michael van Rooyen (#95) will be looking for a happier outing at Kyalami in his distinctive looking green and yellow liveried Rustenburg Steel Construction-backed BMW GTC car.
Despite the impressive upgrades to the Kyalami circuit for last year’s event, the technical layout is always a test for the teams and drivers alike, as will be the case again next weekend.
Last year, six of the seven GTC cars qualified within a second of each other, as they did at Killarney last month, which sets the scene for more spectacular racing and close competition.
The newly named GTC2 class for production-based 1.6-litre forced induction cars is also providing hugely entertaining racing.
The newly arrived Signature Motorsport-prepared MINI John Cooper Works Team had a tough start to their season when young talent Brad Liebenberg (#12) crashed his Ferodo-backed MINI into the wall in the morning warm up at Killarney, heavily damaging the car and ending his race day on the spot.
Now repaired, Liebenberg will want to put the misdemeanour behind him and prove his worth against a tough field of opponents, including team mate and last year’s Polo Cup champion Christopher Shorter (#33).
The GTC2 field is led by 17-year-old Volkswagen factory driver Keagan Masters who won both Killarney heats in thrilling style in his VW Golf GTi. His race-long duels with Trevor Bland (#5 TB Racing VW Golf GTi) and fellow VW works driver Mandla Mdakane (#44) will be eagerly anticipated at Kyalami, as they had the Killarney crowd on the edge of their seats with their multiple passes and close finishes; Masters eventually winning by a mere tenth of a second.
Charl Smalberger (#15 VW Golf GTi), who drove to a solid third place overall in Cape Town despite tangling with GTC competitor Johan Fourie on the final lap of racing, is another strong contender, along with Shorter in his Champion MINI who will be hoping that his brand new car will be properly run in now and ready to take on the VW Golf GTis.
Devon Piazza Musso (#25) in his Kalex VW Golf GTi will want to emulate his father, uncle and Grandfather’s successes in South African motorsport which date back almost 50 years. Piazza Musso will be chased hard by Ian Stevenson (#69), also piloting a VW Golf GTi in Comsol colours. With an encouraging GTC2 field full of hungry, talented youngsters, it bodes well for the future of the series which acts as a feeder class to the main GTC category. Volkswagen Motorsport’s Daniel Rowe has already successfully stepped up this year from GTC2 into the works Volkswagen Jetta GTC.
Round 2 of the Sasol GTC Championship, part of the Kyalami Motorsport Festival, will be held on Saturday April 22, with race day consisting of two GTC heats at 12.20pm and 2.40pm, and qualifying earlier in the day at 9.05am. Entry tickets cost R120 per person, with children under 12 admitted free. A limited amount of pit passes are available at an additional R75 per person. All tickets are available to purchase at www.itickets.co.za.
Other racing categories taking part in the festival include VW Cup, Formula 1600, Extreme Supercars, Legends of the 9 Hour, V8 Supercar / Masters as well as an exciting Supercar parade.
The 2017 Sasol GTC Championship got off to a perfect start for the Sasol GTC Racing Team after Gennaro Bonafede left Killarney Raceway in Cape Town with all the points on offer.
The 2016 championship runner-up squeaked onto pole position by 0.156 seconds to get his weekend off to a successful start after featuring at the sharp end of the timesheets throughout Friday’s free practice sessions. The top six was covered by less than a second in official qualifying, pointing to a pair of closely contested races.
Team newcomer Robert Wolk sat in his BMW GTC race car for the first time on Friday did exceptionally well to slot into fifth place on the starting grid for his first GTC race.
In the opening race, held under sunny skies in front of thousands of race fans, Bonafede rocketed off the line and built up a comfortable cushion as he reeled off the 12 laps, ending a comfortable 4.9 seconds ahead of Simon Moss (Audi) and Johan Fourie.
Wolk retired his BMW on lap four with an overheating engine, a safety precaution to prevent possible damage to the motor. With insufficient time to change the engine, Wolk sat out the rest of the day.
A fan grid walk ahead of race two saw Bonafede swamped by well-wishers and was in high demand for photographs with fans. When the serious business got under way, Bonafede repeated his race one performance and never put a wheel wrong while his nearest rivals, Moss and Johan Fourie (BMW GTC), both spun during the race, allowing Bonafede to end a comfortable 13.2 seconds to the good. Bonafede set the fastest race lap in both heats, taking another six bonus points towards his title challenge.
The ecstatic Sasol GTC Racing Team driver said: “My car felt unbelievably good on new tyres and I knew I had the pace. It is important, when building a championship campaign, to maximize my opportunities when the car is this good and bank points when it’s not our day. Consistency will be key and we have had the best start possible. I put my head down to open a comfortable gap over the first two laps in the first race. I backed off a little after that but I still set the fastest race lap, so I am really happy with the way my weekend went”.
Wolk was naturally disappointed not to have more seat time over the race weekend. “I am very happy with my qualifying time which was good enough for fifth on the grid. In the first race, we experienced overheating, so the team brought me in as they didn’t want to risk serious damage to the engine. It was an interesting experience working with such a professional team”.
Team Manager, Vic Maharaj summed up his weekend: “It is the first time the team has scored all the points for both pole positions and both fastest race laps as well as both victories. It is a long season and we are very focussed for the year ahead. ”.
The next round for the Sasol GTC Racing Team takes place on 22nd April at Kyalami.
This past weekend the Sasol GTC Championship held its first round of the 2017 season where several serious engine reliability issues were encountered.
GTC is a category that has been promoted as being “serious, affordable racing” and it was clear from the beginning that the 2.0-litre turbo engines, which were required to secure manufacturer involvement, would need improvement in terms of both performance and their sound if GTC was to be successful in attracting fans back to the race tracks and to build a commercially successful business.
A lot of work went on behind the scenes to make advances in performance so that the start of 2017 would see a marked improvement. These changes needed to be balanced against keeping the category affordable.
The first round in Cape Town has clearly demonstrated that the changes are inadequate.
The situation is unacceptable for all concerned and in particular for the race fans, who deserve far better from GTC.
GTC’s senior management team takes the responsibility of running the category in a professional, entertaining and sustainable way very seriously, and is already working intensively to find solutions.
GTC will continue to do so over the coming weeks with the teams, manufacturers, Motorsport South Africa and commercial partners to bring about meaningful and lasting solutions to improve the sound, reliability and performance of the GTC cars.
Once an agreement has been reached on the solutions, a further statement will be made within the next two weeks.
The Sasol Global Touring Cars (GTC) Championship will introduce international motorsport production experience to its broadcasts in 2017 with a newly appointed TV director, core production team and hosting lineup for the nine-episode series on SuperSport this season.
With experience predominantly in Australia and the Middle East, motorsport media specialist Filippa Guarna from Driven Productions will take on the role of television director and will also oversee category media communications, while respected motorsport television commentator Richard Craill will add a new voice to the race calling alongside SuperSport’s Leigh-Ann Paulick who takes up official hosting duties.
“Television is a very important part of promoting the Sasol GTC Championship, but motorsport is a global sport and we want to be able to show the world how great GTC is. But that comes down to us taking the initiative to be industry-leading with our television programs too,” said GTC director Gary Formato.
“Last year was a great first year for the championship, but we really want to bring to South Africa the professionalism of a category like the Supercars Championship in Australia, and open up potential international support and more manufacturers. The only way to do that is to work with people who are able to bring broad international experience to the table.
“With Filippa’s previous television experience working with Supercars, plus Richard being one of the most recognised motorsport voices, we’re excited about the new direction of our programs on SuperSport. We want to keep pushing the limits not just for GTC but to make South African motorsport television the best that it can be too,” said Formato.
A 19-year media veteran, Filippa Guarna established her career in Australia as a motorsport journalist and deputy editor before moving into Supercars TV as an associate producer. Now having over 1000 hours of live and post-produced television production experience under her belt, Guarna works as a full-time director, producer, camera operator and editor and has credits on productions including the Australian Off Road Championship, the Australian Open Grand Slam, the World Aquabike Championship in Qatar, the Formula 4 UAE Championship in the Middle East, plus most recently working with Indycar team Pirtek Team Murray at the 2016 Indianapolis 500.
Meanwhile, Richard Craill is one of Australia’s leading motorsport commentators working for broadcasters such as SBS, the Seven Network, Network TEN and FOX Sports Australia. He is most recognised for his commentary at the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix, as lead caller for the iconic Bathurst 12 Hour endurance race since 2007 (including the last five years for television), and as the voice of Porsche Motorsport Australia and the popular Touring Car Masters which feature on the Supercars program.
Also part of the new GTC television team will be respected SuperSport sports presenter Leigh-Ann Paulick. Most known in South Africa for hosting the Formula 1 coverage, Paulick has also been the local face of international sports coverage like the Tour de France, Tennis Grand Slams, 2010 Soccer World Cup, and Olympic and Commonwealth Games broadcasts on SuperSport. Last year’s GTC program host, Sasha Martinengo, will also return to pitlane as a guest presenter throughout the season.
While TV editor Matthew Bow also joins the GTC team to lead all post-production, having worked in television and local motorsport for more than 10 years. Bow’s experience includes various roles on the South African National Rally Championship programs, local and international rallies, two years on the Dakar Rally and Toyota Gazoo South Africa, plus various automotive corporate and broadcast productions such as La’t Wiel, which have all taken him around the world.
The 2017 Sasol GTC Championship includes nine rounds being held around South Africa, starting at Killarney International Raceway in Cape Town next week (March 24-25).
The full 2017 calendar is as follows:
Round 1 – March 24-25 – Killarney International Raceway, Cape Town
Round 2 – April 21-22 – Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit, Johannesburg
Round 3 – May 19-20 – East London Grand Prix Circuit, East London
Round 4 – June 16-17 – Zwartkops Raceway, Pretoria
Round 5 – July 14-15 – Aldo Scribante Raceway, Port Elizabeth
Round 6 – August 11-12 – Zwartkops Raceway, Pretoria
Round 7 – 8-9 September – Killarney International Raceway, Cape Town
Round 8 – 3-4 November – Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit, Johannesburg
Round 9 – 24-25 November – Zwartkops Raceway, Pretoria
[ISSUED BY GTC]
The Sasol GTC Racing Team is raring to hit the track at Killarney in Cape Town next Saturday to get their 2017 championship challenge underway. Gennaro Bonafede and team newcomer Robert Wolk will be in the thick of the action behind the wheel of their BMW GTC racers.
“Sasol is proud to welcome Robert Wolk to the Sasol GTC racing team. Robert has achieved remarkable feats and is a formidable driver on the racing circuit. We wish him and Gennaro all the best in their racing partnership. As you know, the Sasol GTC Championship is now considered to be the premier category of our country’s circuit racing calendar and carries the endorsement of Motorsport South Africa. We look forward to another exciting and successful season and wish all racing teams the best for the season ahead,” said Christopher Kabosha, Senior Manager: Marketing and Public Affairs at Sasol Energy.
The team is working flat out to prepare the cars for the extended nine round season. Over the past three months, the cars have been stripped down to its bare components and each part has been carefully scrutinized, replaced where necessary, and re-assembled into a pair of pristine racing cars ready to do battle.
Team Manager, Vic Maharaj explains what has been going on behind the scenes at his workshop. “The cars have been completely stripped down and every part has been refurbished or replaced as necessary. The shells have been re-painted and look even better than at the launch last year. We spent time at the Sasol Fuels Technology Centre which was a very positive exercise. The cars have better cooling, a little more power and have shed 40kgs.”
“Less weight translates into half a second per lap faster than they ran last year,” Maharaj continued. “The car turns and brakes better and the tyres last longer, which translates into better quality racing for the spectators. Cape Town kick-started our run of success and I am hoping we can pick up where we left off last year.”
Bonafede has a single-minded objective this year; he is chasing championship honours having won five of the last eight races last year. “I am pulling out all the stops and putting a lot of pressure on myself to score loads of points from the very first race. I have a far more strategic approach to this season. The team has found a lot of areas to improve and the cars have shed quite a bit of weight. We need to eradicate the weaknesses we had last year and accelerate our strengths. The fast corners are going to be epic and I can’t wait to get back behind the wheel.”
31-year-old Robert Wolk has been racing since the age of nine, winning nine single-seater championships in Formula Ford and Formula Volkswagen in his 22-year racing career. He spent three years racing a BMW in the production car series in the mid-to late 2000s. Outside of motorsport, Wolk plays golf and enjoys the beach more than the bush, having grown up in East London.
Wolk’s initial impressions of the Sasol racing car were very favourable, “My shakedown and acclimatisation went really well. It’s been several years since I drove a saloon car. I had to get my head around the turbo-charged engine. The car is nice and stable so I can carry a lot of speed into the corner. By the end of my session, I was only a couple of tenths of a second off Gennaro’s time, so I’m very happy with my programme today.”
The Sasol GTC Racing Team will compete in two 40km long races on Saturday, 25 March and welcomes the knowledgeable and enthusiastic Cape race fans to their pit area.
[ISSUED BY SASOL]
Randburg, South Africa – Hennie Groenewald, the driver of the #08 Sasol GTC racing car has stepped down from the team as a result of starting a new business venture in Cape Town after relocating to the Western Cape late last year.
Reflecting on his seven year stint with Sasol, Groenewald said: “It has been an honour and a privilege to be associated with Sasol over the past seven racing seasons, culminating in our 2015 Production Car Championship.
Being part of the Sasol racing team was more than just being a racing driver for Sasol, as I got to meet amazing people and staff at all levels of the organization as well as taking part in various activations at Sasol’s head office and forecourts throughout the country”.
Groenewald took his first victory under the Sasol brand at Port Elizabeth in 2010 and continued to deliver race-winning performances throughout his production car career, culminating in the 2015 championship.
The Sasol GTC Racing Team will announce their second driver and team structure ahead of the first round of the Sasol GTC Championship on 25th March.
[Issued by Sasol]
2016 YEAR IN REVIEW: A look back at the inaugural Sasol GTC season
2016 was a massive year for the Sasol GTC Championship with many great moments making an unforgettable first season competing around South Africa. Before we begin a new Championship, Sasol GTC has created a #2016SasolGTC year-in-review series where we’ll look back at our favourite race wins, unforgettable battles, behind-the-scenes moments captured on camera, and events that shaped our inaugural year on track.
#1 – LAUNCHING GLOBAL TOURING CARS
“This is a momentous day. A day in which the face of motor sport in South Africa is changing dramatically!”
Just seven months ago on June 10th, 2016, the Sasol GTC Championship was launched to the public and media at Zwartkops Raceway. It was the first time that all of our drivers, teams and the Sasol GTC logo were on display to herald a new era in South African motorsport. What a ride it has been since then!
#2 – ESTABLISHING GTC PRODUCTION
There were two aims behind creating the GTC Production class. Firstly, to create a platform where drivers emerging from development categories, like the Engen Volkswagen Cup, could get the experience needed to step up into the premier class, and secondly, open doors for other manufactures to get involved in racing. In 2016, GTC Productionproved successful with both, as we saw Daniel Rowe win the Production title for Volkswagen Motorsport AND be confirmed as a main game starter for 2017, plus we also welcomed the news that MINI South Africa will join the grid this coming season. Watch out for an incredibly exciting 2017 ahead!
#3 – REMEMBERING GUGU
Before the Sasol GTC Championship had turned a wheel on track, we were deeply saddened by the passing of our Volkswagen Motorsport SA friend Gugu Zulu. Gugu was destined to drive the VW Jetta GTC in 2016, but while participating in the Trek4Mandela initiative, he passed away just short of reaching the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. Motorsport lost one of its greatest characters that day, and the country one of its most inspirational people. Round 1 at Zwartkops Raceway saw us honour his memory with rememberance stickers on our cars and he will forever be part of the GTC family.
#5 – A WINNING START
Round one at Zwartkops Raceway was certainly an indication of how the season would unfold. Terry Moss Racing’s Michael Stephen took the first pole position and race win of the season… a season that he would go on to dominate and eventually claim overall honors for as Champion. The TMR crew undoubtedly set the benchmark for the 2016 Championship.
True production car racing is all about having a variety of manufacturers competing and more importantly having them support the Championship. In 2016, it was fabulous to not only have the support of Volkswagen Motorsport_za, Audi South Africa and BMW South Africa in Sasol GTC, but seeing them sharing the spoils of victory at each event. We’re looking forward to more manufacturers helping us expand further this year!
#7 – THE RIVALRY
There’s no doubt that Terry Moss Racing’s Michael Stephen had a stellar championship-winning year, but it wasn’t without tough competition from Sasol BMW’s Gennaro Bonafede. Eager, determined, and fast… Gennaro’s healthy battles with Michael was great to watch trackside, plus he proved to have what it takes to not just win races but be a contender for the title in 2017. Watch this space!
#8 – THE NEW KYALAMI
One of our highlights was getting to race on the newly revamped Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit. The extensive redevelopment plan of the 16-turn, 4.5km circuit represented the single largest upgrade in the circuit’s 54 year history and we were there for Round 4 back in October. In 2017, we’ll be racing here twice and we can’t wait!
(Photo credits: Peter Hassall Photography, Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit)
#9 – THE MASTER
An 11-time South African motorsport champion coming into 2016, there’s no doubt that Michael Stephen was the one to beat in our inaugural season. The seasoned campaigner from Port Elizabeth began stronger than anyone else, claiming the first six straight race wins and giving Terry Moss Racing the championship-winning edge all year. No doubt there will be a fair few hungry drivers wanting to replicate his success in 2017!
#12 – VAST EXPERIENCE
When you look at this image, you might think it’s just a starting grid photo. But look closer and you’ll see that one of our greatest strengths is the depth of our racing talent. From household names like Johan Fourie Racing and Hennie Groenewald, to the seasoned pro and our current champion in Michael Stephen Racing, the younger drivers with a massive career ahead of them like Gennaro Bonafede and Mathew Hodges, and then the new guys on the block in GTC Production like Mandla Mdakane and newly crowned class champion Daniel Rowe. Everyone with a story to tell, a title to chase, and lots of enthusiasm for the Sasol GTC category. Winning!