Sandton, South Africa – The Sasol GTC Championship will crown its new champion at Zwartkops Raceway this Saturday, November 25, bringing down the curtain on thrilling season that evolved into a race between two of South Africa’s top racing talents, Michael Stephen and Gennaro Bonafede, who between them have won 14 of the 16 races held around the country.
The country’s premier touring car series offers one last bite at the 111 points on offer and for Bonafede, who led the majority of the season in his Sasol BMW GTC, it will be crucial to deliver the performance of his life as he strives to claim his first title. Stephen (Engen Xtreme Audi GTC) is in pole position to retain his 2016 title, enjoying an 86 point lead after taking the chequered flag first for the ninth time this year at Kyalami earlier this month.
Both the Sasol BMW squad and the Engen Audi outfit have strong teammates who will be brought in to play in the quest to secure the coveted title. Robert Wolk, behind the wheel of the #41 Sasol BMW GTC took his maiden GTC victory and was very quick when the series last visited Zwartkops in August, while in the Audi camp, Simon Moss is a quick and capable driver who will support his team leader all the way.
Adding intrigue to the final showdown is the newfound competitiveness of Johan Fourie (EPS Couriers BMW GTC) who became the latest Sasol GTC winner at Kyalami three weeks ago. He will be aiming to end his season on a high which could upset the title rivals’ plans.
Volkswagen cannot be discounted after their impressive showing last time out; Mathew Hodges claimed two runner-up places in his factory-run Jetta GTC while Daniel Rowe claimed his first podium on merit. After a generally disappointing season for the Uitenhage team, Hodges will be hoping to repeat his form and go one step better, as he did at the final event last year when he claimed his maiden GTC victory.
Michael van Rooyen and his RSC BMW GTC will be aiming to bank a podium after a season in which he came close on several occasions. The Rustenburg Rocket has been in the mix and a solid result will give this most enthusiastic of privateers a welcome boost ahead of the 2018 season.
With the GTC2 title safely locked away in Keagan Masters’ cupboard, attention turns to the runner-up championship positions which is a four-way fight between the current incumbent Trevor Bland (TB Racing VW Golf GTi), Chris Shorter (Champion MINI John Cooper Works), Charl Smalberger (iCorp VW Golf GTI) and Brad Liebenberg (Ferodo MINI John Cooper Works). The quartet is separated by 97 points so any of the four could land up at the top of the pile. Making this contest all the more intriguing is that the youngsters have all won races this year, making a prediction all the more difficult.
Mandla Mdakane (Volkswagen Golf GTi) will be looking to bank his second win of the year and end his season on a high while Iain Stevenson (Comsol Honda Civic Type-R) will be adding development mileage to his new racing car. Neil; Adcock continues his learning curve in his AidCall VW Golf GTi, adding to the GTC2 field.
The all-important qualifying session takes place on Friday at 16h35.
On race day, fans have the chance to mingle with the drivers on the grid at 11h45 during the Fan Grid Walk which will immediately be flowed by the first 17 lap race.
Race two, which features an inverted grid is scheduled to start at 15h05 with another 17 laps of the 2.4km long circuit.
[Issued by Sasol]
Kyalami, South Africa – Reigning Sasol GTC Champion Michael Stephen took another step closer towards retaining his crown after powering to a race two victory at round eight of the 2017 season at Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit yesterday, extending his points lead over fellow title contender Gennaro Bonafede.
After placing third in race one, it was the second race in which Stephen took his Engen Audi GTC to victory – his eighth race win of the season – while season-long rival Bonafede (Sasol BMW GTC), came home in fourth place in race one, and fifth in race two despite dominating the final 12-lap race until midway when mechanical issues dropped him down the order.
Stephen has a substantial 86-point lead with 111 points available at the last round in late November, leaving Bonafede with a slim mathematical chance of lifting the coveted title.
In the front-wheel drive GTC2 class, Keagan Masters claimed the title after a dominant race-one victory in his factory Volkswagen Golf GTi.
However, the Sasol GTC Championship headlines at Kyalami belonged to Johan Fourie who qualified his EPS Couriers BMW GTC on pole position with an impressive 0.5 second advantage over the pack. The Capetonian went on to win his maiden Sasol GTC race in race one, chased hard by an invigorated Mathew Hodges (Volkswagen Jetta GTC), with champion-elect Stephen rounding out the podium.
Hodges made a valiant but unsuccessful attempt to pass Fourie around the outside of the Bowl corner, a move which allowed Stephen and Bonafede to close up to the lead fight as the race wound down. Simon Moss, in the #38 Engen Audi, overcame a difficult qualifying session to end fifth, followed by Robert Wolk (Sasol BMW GTC), Michael van Rooyen (RCS BMW GTC) and Daniel Rowe in the second factory-run Jetta GTC.
The second race, from an inverted grid, saw the field pour into turn one four abreast with a little bumping between Wolk and Stephen, leaving Moss ahead of Rowe, Bonafede and Van Rooyen. Bonafede surged past the Audi on lap five and opened up a five second lead when his car’s engine suddenly cut out.
Moss meanwhile let his team leader past but was unaware of Hodges’ presence close behind and lost two places before suffering an issue that saw his car go into limp mode several times. The BMWs of Van Rooyen, Wolk and Fourie were all similarly affected by a mysterious cut–out, leaving the way for Daniel Rowe to pick up the final podium place.
In GTC2, Chris Shorter brought his Champion MINI John Cooper Works home in second place behind Masters in the first race, with teammate Brad Liebenberg rounding out the podium in his Ferodo MINI John Cooper Works.
In the second GTC 2 race, Liebenberg streaked into a healthy lead until the final lap, allowing Trevor Bland (TB Racing Golf GTi) to sneak a last gasp win with Shorter rounding out the podium in his MINI.
The final round of the Sasol GTC Championship takes place at Zwartkops Raceway in Pretoria on November 25.
Join the conversation on social media using #SasolGTC and visit www.sasolmotorsport.co.za for the latest Sasol GTC Championship news, broadcast schedules and so much more.
[Issued by Sasol]
Port Elizabeth – The fifth round of the 2017 Sasol GTC Championship was marked by three new race winners, incidents galore and superb racing at the Aldo Scribante race track as a large appreciative Eastern Cape crowd watched the battles unfold over two heats on Saturday.
Defending champion and Port Elizabeth Michael Stephen powered his #1 Engen Xtreme Audi GTC to the race one win, while Robert Wolk took his Sasol BMW GTC to his maiden GTC victory in the second race. In the GTC2 class, newcomer Bryn High caused a major upset win on debut while Chris Shorter survived a race-long duel in his Champion MINI JCW to take line honours in the second race.
The weekend got off to an exciting start as ontrack action began at the 2.4km track, as behind pole-sitter Stephen, the next five places were covered by just 0.3 seconds. Current championship leader Gennaro Bonafede led the charge against the home-town hero, followed by Simon Moss (Engen Audi GTC), Michael van Rooyen (RCS BMW GTC), Johan Fourie (EPS BMW GTC) and Wolk.
GTC2 qualifying was a scorching session: Shorter beat newcomer Bryn High (S&K Diesels Chevrolet Cruze) to pole by one thousandth of a second. Keagan Masters (VW Golf GTi) beat Charl Smalberger (iCorp VW Golf GTi) to third by three tenths of a second leaving Brad Liebenberg (Ferodo Mini JCW) down in fifth place, ahead of Trevor Bland (VW Golf GTi), Mandla Mdakane (VW Golf GTi) and Iain Steveson (Comsol Golf GTi).
The Sasol GTC Championship featured another popular 20-minute grid walk ahead of the opening race, giving race fans the opportunity to interact with the drivers.
Stephen made a stellar start and took an immediate lead but came under pressure from his teammate Moss and Bonafede’s Sasol BMW GTC. The three ran nose-to-tail throughout the 10-lap race, a fine show of complete trust in each other from the top professional drivers in the country. Behind the high-speed train at the front of the field, Van Rooyen made a bad start and lost ground to Fourie. Hodges tried to go around the outside, a move which did not end well for the VW driver. Fourie edged his fellow BMW driver, followed by Mathew Hodges and Daniel Rowe in the factory Volkswagen Jetta GTCs.
In the GTC2 race, Shorter and High made contact at turn two with the MINI driver falling to the back of the field. High took the lead and opened a commanding lead, while Bland and Smalberger duked it out for the other steps of the podium. Smalberger squeaked past Bland and held off his fellow GTi rival for three laps before Bland regained second place with Liebenberg heading the rest of the field across the line.
With the reverse grid in play, Wolk lined up next to Hodges on the front row, followed by Rowe, Van Rooyen, Fourie, Bonafede and the two Audis of Moss and Stephen at the read of grid. As the safety car peeled into the pits, Wolk took off and banked a sequence of very fast laps to build a solid lead which he was never to relinquish. Hodges tried to drive around the outside of Wolk, a move that saw him passed by van Rooyen.
Van Rooyen soon had the race one train looming large in his mirrors, headed by Bonafede who made great progress through the pack. Further back, Rowe led Fourie and Hodges: Stephen got ahead of Moss and made a bold move to overtake Bonafede but it ended in tears when Stephen nudged Bonafede; the two cars tangled and left the track together, rejoining at the back of the field.
This let Moss through into third place and he quickly caught and passed van Rooyen. Further back, Rowe tried to pass Fourie and the pair tangled at the Esses leaving Fourie off the road and out of the race. Hodges accepted fourth place which became third as van Rooyen spun one corner from home, colliding with the luckless Rowe in the process. Hodges finished third ahead of the recovering Stephen and Bonafede.
In the GTC2 race, Shorter was again on pole and put his head down, opening a handy lead over Masters. As the race wore on, Shorter’s lead evaporated to a bumper length, the Champion MINI driver just hanging on to cross the line first by a scant 0.2 seconds. Smalberger emerged in third once again, followed by Stevenson, High and Liebenberg.
The Sasol Raceday at Zwartkops Raceway in Pretoria will be a real showcase for the Sasol GTC Championship as the premier touring car series returns to the popular Gauteng circuit on August 12 for Round 6 of the 2017 Championship.
Join the conversation on social media using #SasolGTC and visit www.sasolmotorsport.co.za for the latest #Sasol GTC Championship news, broadcast schedules and so much more.
[Issued by Sasol]
The organisers of Global Touring Cars (GTC) in South Africa have today announced the introduction of a new research and development program aimed to assess all potential options for future powerplants, including green initiatives.
Starting as of Monday July 17, the program will explore how various engines would perform in the areas of reliability, performance and cost effectiveness in line with being run in GTC. This will be done via the building of a category-owned GTC test racecar, which is also expected to be fully track tested and potentially run at GTC weekends to assess performance in race conditions.
In recent months, the GTC management team has undertaken extensive discussions with its corporate partners, manufacturer representatives, teams and drivers, plus conducted market research with motorsport fans around South Africa.
As a result, GTC concluded that there is substantial interest in exploring various future options for powerplants, including assessing the category’s overall carbon footprint, and so decided to begin the new research phase.
GTC has always been promoted as a “serious, affordable racing” category and it was clear from the beginning of 2017 that the 2.0-litre turbo engines – which were required to secure manufacturer involvement – would need improvement.
It was also clear that if GTC is to be successful in attracting fans back to the race tracks and to build a commercially successful business, other options would need to be explored. However, the research phase will be carried out so that it is completely independent of the current GTC and GTC2 platforms being run at events, and any potential future implementations will not disadvantage the current GTC teams.
GTC’s senior management team takes the responsibility of running the category in a professional, entertaining and sustainable way very seriously, hence will take the weight of investment for this new research and development program internally. The right mechanical personnel will be brought together to build the category-owned test car, plus GTC will financially support the program to fully exhaust all avenues during this significant development for the category.
GTC reaffirms that the current GTC and GTC2 class formula will continue to compete for all remaining rounds of the 2017 Sasol GTC Championship, and management will continue to support and develop the two classes as it always has.
GTC will continue to work with its partners and with the MSA – South Africa’s official governing body of motorsport – to ensure that GTC continues to operate at international best practice.
The results of the research and development program will be assessed in the coming months, and progress updates will be announced publicly in due course.
The Aldo Scribante Circuit in Port Elizabeth hosts the next battleground for the Sasol GTC Championship teams as South Africa’s premier touring car category reaches the halfway mark of the 2017 Championship this weekend, July 14-15.
Sasol GTC Racing Team’s Gennaro Bonafede leads the field by 59, with defending champion Michael Stephen sitting in second and ready to capitalise on his hometown advantage. The Engen Xtreme Team driver, based in Port Elizabeth, has more laps under his belt around the 2.48km long circuit than most, and is widely regarded as being almost unbeatable on home turf.
Bonafede, driving the #32 Sasol BMW GTC car, will be out to prove he can beat the hometown hero, while Stephen, in the #1 Engen Xtreme Audi GTC will want to put on a winning show for his legions of fans.
With both drivers having each scored four race victories apiece in 2017, the battle lines will be drawn when the lights turn green come Saturday morning, Volkswagen National Race Day.
Added to the potent mix, the Volkswagen factory team based down the road from the Port Elizabeth in Uitenhage also has a point to prove, with Mathew Hodges and Daniel Rowe both wanting to show the competitiveness of the Volkswagen Jetta GTC racing cars. Hodges (#57) has visited the podium twice this year while Rowe (#11) – the reigning GTC2 champion – will be aiming for his first top-three finish since moving into the main GTC class.
Not to be outdone by his team leader, Engen Xtreme’s Simon Moss in the second #38 Audi GTC has been knocking on the door of victory lane this season, having scored five podium finishes so far. Sitting third in the rankings, just 35 points behind his championship-winning team leader Stephen, the local fan support could potentially be the impetus the 25-year-old needs to make it to the top step of the podium.
Johan Fourie (#14 EPS Couriers BMW GTC) came agonisingly close to his maiden GTC win last time out and will once again be in the thick of the action, as will Robert Wolk in the second Sasol BMW GTC who is determined to make amends for a tough first half of the season.
MVR Racing’s Michael van Rooyen – driving what has become affectionately known as the #97 Rustenburg Rocket – has also endured a tough season to date, beset with small technical issues that have kept him away from the sharp end of the field, but the RSC BMW GTC driver will have a point to prove as he looks to maximize his chances at the coastal circuit.
The front-wheel drive class has been the domain of Keagan Masters and his factory backed Volkswagen Golf GTi, building up a healthy 326 points to date. However, his lead has most recently come under threat from Brad Liebenberg in the #12 Ferodo MINI John Cooper Works, who has impressively won three of the last four races despite the Signature Motorsport team being in its first season of Sasol GTC2 racing.
Trevor Bland (#5 VW Golf GTi) and Charl Smalberger (#15 Indy Oil / iCorp VW Golf GTi) have been consistent all year and find themselves in third and fourth places in the title chase, separated by 62 points. Meanwhile Chris Shorter (#33 Champion MINI JCW) is just four points behind Smalberger and after his podium performance last time out, is in a solid position to snatch fourth on the points ladder from Smalberger should he put a wheel offtrack.
Mandla Mdakane, in the second factory Golf GTi, is a further 19 points adrift. Having won his first race victory at Kyalami in April, the Johannesberg driver has dropped off the pace in the last few outings, claiming only 44 points in the most recent four races.
Iain Stevenson (#69 Comsol VW Golf GTi) is still learning the GTC2 ropes having spent much of his career in regional saloon car categories, however is narrowing the gap to the leading pack, while Dayne Angel (Honda Civic Type R) is expected to make the trip from his home in Cape Town to add variety to the field.
Round 5 of the Sasol GTC Championship will be held at Aldo Scribante Circuit in Port Elizabeth on the Eastern Cape, with Friday July 14 seeing practice and the all-important qualifying being run, before Volkswagen National Race Day on Saturday July 15 will host a fan grid walk before the two main races; race one being 10-laps and race two being a 15-lap reverse grid race. Tickets for Saturday can be purchased for R80 at the gate.
Pretoria, South Africa – Gennaro Bonafede and Michael Stephen took the line honours at the fourth round of the Sasol GTC Championship at Zwartkops Raceway on Friday. Bonafede extended his championship lead while Stephen has taken over second place in the standings as the series nears the season mid-point.
The two races produced high performance competition, with the front-runners racing the 2.4km long circuit two and a half seconds faster than when the Sasol GTC Championship started in August last year.
Qualifying again pointed to how closely contested the series has become with the top six covered by 0.694 seconds, headed by Bonafede (Sasol BMW GTC), a relatively comfortable 0.434 seconds ahead of Mathew Hodges (VW Jetta GTC), Robert Wolk (Sasol BMW GTC), Michael Stephen and Simon Moss (Engen Xtreme Audi GTC) and Daniel Rowe in the second factory VW Jetta GTC. Michael van Rooyen (RSC BMW GTC) and Johan Fourie (EPS Couriers BMW GTC) rounded out the grid after a troubled qualifying session.
From the rolling start, Bonafede fended off a challenge from Hodges in turn one, while Stephen slipped inside Wolk with the rest of the pack in hot pursuit. By mid-race, Stephen edged past Hodges into second place, with Wolk in fourth, closely followed by Moss, Rowe and Fourie. Van Rooyen was forced to pit twice, but rejoined the race each time, ending five laps behind the winners in a strategic move that would see him start from pole position on the race two inverted grid.
When the lights turned green for race two, Moss made a to lead the way around the first lap, followed by Rowe, Fourie, Wolk and Hodges. Van Rooyen suffered a loose turbo pipe and fell to the back of the field within half a lap. Chaos erupted in turn six when Hodges hit Wolk’s BMW, spinning the car around; with a broken wheel the car was stranded broadside across the track so the race was brought under safety car conditions and then red-flagged, but not before the GTC2 field had to take to the grass to avoid the stranded car.
On the re-start, Fourie, Moss, Rowe and Hodges led the way, followed by Stephen and Bonafede. By lap four, Stephen muscled his way past Hodges while Fourie built what looked like a decent lead. Moss ran wide a lap later, letting Stephen and Bonafede through and the chase was on!
By mid race, Stephen was right on the EPS BMW’s rear bumper and the inevitable happened; Stephen swept into the lead and proceeded to open a 1.2 second advantage by flag fall. Bonafede unboxed himself from the back of Rowe’s Jetta and took a fine third behind Fourie. Hodges and Moss trailed the GTC pack across the flag after an exciting and eventful race. Michael van Rooyen made several surgical passes on his rivals only to fall foul of mechanical issues.
Brad Liebenberg (Ferodo MINI JCW) picked up where he left off in East London last month, claiming pole position ahead of his team-mate Chris Shorter (Champion MINI JCW) and championship leader Keagan Masters (VW Motorsport Golf GTi).
The opening race went to script for the Signature Motorsport MINIs, circulating in tandem at the head of the field. Masters, Charl Smalberger (icorp VW Golf GTi) and Trevor Bland (VW Golf) held station until the chequered flag. Shaun Duminy (SMD Ford Focus STI) and Mandla Mdakane (VW Motorsport Golf GTi) clashed in turn five which led to Duminy’s retirement.
Race two got off to a frenetic start; Mdakane led Masters, Smalberger, Shorter and Liebenberg. After the re-start following the race stoppage, Mdakane, Masters, Smalberger and Shorter led the way. The MINIs carved their way through the field, making it third and fourth after lap six; Masters took the lead from Mdakane and a lap later, Liebenberg did the same in a precision move in turn six.. After a race long fight that saw the MINI and Golf race side-by-side to the enjoyment of the spectators, Shorter eventually make it past Mdakane with one lap remaining before flag fall, leaving the fans in the stands cheering and breathless after a closely-fought race.
The Sasol GTC Championship heads to Port Elizabeth for round five on 15th July.
[Issued by Sasol]
Following the engine reliability issues experienced by a number of competitors at Round 1 of the 2017 Sasol GTC Championship at Killarney Raceway, Cape Town, the GTC management team would like to issue the following statement.
After consultation with all major stakeholders, the following three changes have been implemented for Round 2 of the championship at Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit on April 22, 2017:
· A new rev-limit of 7,200rpm will be imposed
· The absolute boost pressure has been reduced by 50 millibar from 2150 to 2100 millibar
· The maximum ignition timing will be reduced by 2 degrees
These small changes will considerably reduce the stress on the engines over the course of a race weekend without having a significant impact on performance.
The concept of GTC is to provide “affordable, serious racing” and GTC management remains in discussions with all parties so that it can agree to a long-term solution with two aims:
· Provide race fans with an exciting show which was promised at the inception of the series, and
· Reduce costs to the teams by giving them a reliable engine platform, while continuing to provide a commercially attractive marketing platform for manufacturers.
At this stage, all options are still being considered, from upgrading the existing engines all the way up to an engine platform change.
Since its inception in 2016, GTC has provided some great racing and proven to be popular with teams, fans and manufacturers. The GTC management team is confident that the changes for Kyalami will result in the necessary improvement in reliability and will provide an opportunity for all stakeholders to agree on the optimum long-term solution.
Further updates will be provided in due course.
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.
Cape Town, South Africa: Killarney Raceway in Cape Town came alive to the sound of the Sasol GTC Championship this weekend when the new season got underway under clear blue skies.
Gennaro Bonafede (#32) started his 2017 campaign strongest of the field, dominating proceedings from the first practice session on Friday. The Sasol GTC Racing Team driver claimed pole position, won both races and took the fastest race lap in both 12-lap races, taking home a maximum points haul.
The qualifying session provided a glimpse of what race fans could expect when the top six GTC runners all qualified within one second of each other, with supporters pouring into the circuit in their thousands.
Simon Moss (#38 Engen Xtreme Audi A3 GTC) took a pair of second place finishes after two race-long duels with Johan Fourie’s #14 EPS Couriers BMW GTC. The race for the second and third podium places was thrilling, with Moss under constant attack from the local favourite. In the first heat, Fourie managed to slide past the black Audi, only for Moss to re-claim the position on the following lap.
In the second heat, Fourie piled on the pressure as Moss spun while trying an overtake manoeuvre. Despite going to the back of the GTC field, Moss subsequently took his place back when Fourie received contact from GTC2 competitor Charl Smalberger, sending Fourie into a pirouette into the sand tracp.
The defending champion Michael Stephen (#1 Engen Audi A3 GTC) had a weekend to forget when his car’s engine broke in qualifying. He started the race in eighth place with a brand new out-of-the box motor and quickly rose through the order to fourth when his motor tightened up, forcing the Audi out for the rest of the day.
The Volkswagen Jetta GTCs had a fantastic tussle in the first heat, Mathew Hodges (#57) and Daniel Rowe (#11) in a fierce dispute for fourth place. The teammates swapped places several times over the course of the race, with Rowe ahead of Hodges. Halfway around the final lap, Rowe’s motor cut out without warning, allowing Hodges into fourth place while the disappointed Rowe was classified fifth.
Michael Van Rooyen (#95 Rustenburg Steel Construction BMW GTC) and Sasol GTC Team newcomer Robert Wolk (#41) both retired early after experiencing engine gremlins in race one, leaving both drivers sidelined for the rest of the day.
The GTC2 field provided exciting, edge-of-the seat racing between the top four Volkswagen Golf GTi drivers. Mandla Mdakane (#44) and debutant teammate Keagan Masters (#18), in their factory entries, raced side-by-side and passed and re-passed each other throughout the two races. As the warring VW pair slowed each other as they successively attacked and defended, Trevor Bland (#5 TB Racing Golf GTi) caught the pair and made his victory intentions clear. On the final lap of race one, Bland passed Mdakane, finishing a scant 0.145 seconds behind Masters.
The frenetic racing continued unabated in race two, Masters ending ahead of Bland by 0.138 seconds, after 12 breathtaking laps of action.
Charl Smalberger (#15 Volkswagen Golf GTi) drove two steady races and took third overall on the day in spite of his inadvertent collision with Fourie in race two. The MINI John Cooper Works team made their debut and Chris Shorter (#33 Champion MINI) took fifth in class, using the races as an extended opportunity to achieve optimum performance.
Bradley Liebenberg (#12 Ferodo MINI) crashed into the wall at turn three in the morning warm-up session, causing extensive damage to the car, resulting in a premature end to his race weekend.
The second round of the Sasol GTC Championship takes place at the Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit on 21st and 22nd April.
[ISSUED BY SASOL]
The Sasol Global Touring Car (GTC) Championship will begin its second season this week with a grid of at least 16 cars lining up for Round 1 at Killarney International Raceway in Cape Town (March 24-25).
Launched in 2016, the championship is South Africa’s premier circuit racing category, with Sasol – a company that has been the country’s premier motorsport sponsor for over 50 years – continuing as naming rights sponsor, fuel supplier and broadcast sponsor of the 2017 season.
With an expanded calendar of nine rounds scheduled between March and November, the Sasol GTC Championship will bring high-octane racing action to thousands of spectators around the country as it travels to Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, East London, Pretoria and Johannesburg.
“We are pushing hard to produce spectacular racing this year, with lots of effort put into debugging the cars and ensuring they are faster than where we started from at round one last year,” said GTC director Gary Formato. “We will have a consistent field of 16 cars on the grid, I can confirm one privateer is building a GTC car, and there will be a new Honda in GTC2 early in the season.
“With a new television production team onboard to grow our media footprint, we are going out of our way to not only attract more privateers to the series and swell the grids even further, but to improve GTC as a whole on every level,” said Formato.
Speaking at the Sasol GTC Championship season launch last week, Christopher Kabosha, Senior Manager: Marketing and Public Affairs at Sasol Energy, said he was happy to continue the partnership with GTC and looks forward to raising the bar again in 2017.
“I am happy to confirm that our Sasol GTC Championship sponsorship – which is appropriately referred to as a ‘laboratory-on-wheels’ sponsorship – is already delivering for us in terms of our ability to conduct research on the performance of our products, while the Championship as a whole provides us with a fantastic platform to showcase our products,” said Kabosha.
GTC COMPETITOR PREVIEW
Headlining the entry list is defending champion Michael Stephen (#1), who will be joined this year by regular teammate Simon Moss (#38) in their Engen Xtreme Audi A3 GTCs. The Terry Moss Racing-run team has been burning the midnight oil to maintain their advantage, which eroded towards the end of the inaugural season.
Stephen won the first six races of the 2016 season, and a total of eight victories by the time he was declared champion. While Moss narrowly missed out on his maiden race victory at the final race of the 2016 season, but is expected to be a contender for wins this year.
Championship runner-up Gennaro Bonafede (#32) has his sights set firmly on this year’s title, having racked up five victories from eight races at the tail end of 2016. With a fully competitive Sasol GTC Racing Team car and his aggressive driving style, Bonafede is a serious title threat to take the #1 position from Stephen.
Replacing the retired Hennie Groenewald in the second BMW GTC racing car is 31-year old Robert Wolk (#41). The Johannesburg-based businessman has won nine single-seater championships in his 22-year long career, bringing a wealth of racing experience to the Sasol team.
Mathew Hodges (#57) and Volkswagen won their maiden race in the final round of 2016 and will be joined by reining GTC2 champion Daniel Rowe (#11) who steps up to the main class this year. With the exciting new lineup driving Volkswagen forward, the Jetta GTCs were also debugged during the off-season and have already set competitive times in pre-season testing.
South African racing icon Johan Fourie (#14) returns in the EPS Couriers-backed BMW GTC racing car. Having amassed decades of saloon car racing experience over his career, his four GTC podiums last year bodes well for the accomplished racer’s new year on track, with Fourie likely to be a thorn in the side of the factory teams.
Fellow racer Michael van Rooyen (#95) – who joined midway through the championship last year – will again run his Rustenburg Steel Construction (RSC) BMW GTC car after spending a great deal of time testing ahead of the season opener.
GTC2 COMPETITOR PREVIEW
In the second-tier GTC2 class, for production-based front-wheel drive cars, there has been numerous exciting developments during the off-season. The big news is the return of MINI to local circuit racing. Signature Motorsport has built two John Cooper Works cars for Polo Cup graduates Chris Shorter (#33) in Champion colours while Brad Liebenberg (#12) flies the Ferodo flag.
The GTC2 class champion manufacturer Volkswagen has also built two new Golf GTis for Mandla Mdakane (#44) – who finished 2016 as class runner-up – and newcomer Keagan Masters (#18). Seventeen-year-old Masters raced to great effect in the Engen VW Polo Cup last season, winning the Rookie of the Year award, and has earned his spot in the Volkswagen Advanced Driving-branded team.
Last year’s GTis have been sold to Trevor Bland (#5) and Charl Smalberger (#15), two capable drivers who will hound the works team all the way. Devon Piazza Musso (#25 Kalex VW Golf 6 GTi) and Ian Stevenson (#69 Comsol VW Golf 6 GTi) add depth to the GTC2 class.
With 720 kilometres of hard racing on the cards this year, the 2017 Sasol GTC Championship is set to thrill motorsport fans around the country.
Round 1 of the Sasol GTC Championship at Killarney International Raceway, Cape Town, sees practice and qualifying held this Friday March 24, followed by two 12-lap races and the popular Fan Gridwalk on Saturday March 25.