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.
GLOBAL TOURING CARS RELAUNCHES PRODUCTION CLASS AS GTC2 FOR 2017
The Sasol Global Touring Cars (GTC) Championship’s second-tier category, GTC Production, has officially been renamed GTC2 for the 2017 season to move the category in line with international standards.
Catering for lower-powered, production-based cars, GTC2 is considered the stepping stone into the premier Sasol GTC Championship. This ladder of progression was used effectively by Volkswagen South Africa last year, when the manufacturer promoted its 2016 GTC Production class champion, Daniel Rowe, into the premier class this year to drive the #21 VW GTC racecar.
“We see GTC2 as an appropriate stepping stone for younger drivers to progress into the main GTC class, and therefore made perfect sense to rename it GTC2 which is much more marketable and meaningful to people outside of the pit lane,” said Sasol GTC director Gary Formato.
“Another endorsement of just how much potential GTC2 has is the fact that MINI will enter two John Cooper Works cars for rising stars Bradley Liebenberg and Christopher Shorter under the Signature Motorsport banner this year.
“We expect further entries to commit throughout the season, so it is a very exciting time for our championship to have attracted another manufacturer to the series. In spite of tough market conditions, and people being cautious in terms of their spending, we continue to see growth in our sport and we remain hugely excited and optimistic for the season ahead,” concluded Formato.
With the addition of new manufacturers this season, also being introduced for 2017 will be a GTC2 Manufacturer’s Title award at season’s end. Already on offer in the premier Sasol GTC Championship, the GTC2 equivalent will see the first two finishing cars of any marque within the class being awarded points to the overall title.
The GTC2 brand mirrors that which is used by key international categories like the Formula 1 feeder series GP2, MotoGP’s breeding ground Moto2, and the Virgin Australia Supercars’ feeder series Super2.
The 2017 Sasol GTC Championship sees an expanded calendar compared to last year, with nine rounds being held around South Africa, beginning at Killarney International Raceway in Cape Town from March 24-25.
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]
The teams, organisers and sponsors of the Sasol GTC Championship have come together at the inaugural Champions Evening in Johannesburg to celebrate the milestones and winners from the first season of racing in South Africa.
Championship trophies were handing out to our champion manufacturer BMW South Africa, GTC Production champion Daniel Rowe, third place finisher in the standings Mathew Hodges, championship runner-up Gennaro Bonafede and our first Sasol GTC Champion, Michael Stephen.
Watch our celebratory videos in the playlist below:
Randburg, South Africa – Sasol is continuing its championship-winning relationship with SP Racing, fielding a pair of BMW 2-Series GTC racers in the new Sasol Global Touring Car (GTC) Championship. The team makes its track debut at Zwartkops Raceway on Tuesday, 9 August 2016.
Running under the Sasol GTC Racing Team banner, Hennie Groenewald – the 2015 Production Car Champion – and Gennaro Bonafede are assured of engineering standards of the highest order as they tackle the new series, which is set to take South Africa by storm over six rounds over the next five months.
The team conducted a systems check shakedown a week ago and although running to a strict set of instructions, the driver’s comments were extremely encouraging.
Global Touring Cars are designed to enhance close racing with equally matched cars under a strict cost-containment set of regulations. Driver aids, such as ABS braking, are not allowed, heightening the emphasis on driving ability. With 325kW and 600NM of torque under the bonnet, Groenewald and Bonafede are itching to get back behind the wheel of a real racing car, which is set to offer South Africans a feast for their senses.
Team Manager Vic Maharaj and his team of technicians are working around the clock to ensure two beautifully prepared 2-Series GTCs are on the grid come raceday.
“The initial shakedown proved very encouraging with the car running 20 laps to bed in the systems. Initial feedback from the drivers is very promising and we’re looking forward to our debut. The car set-up requirements and lack of driver aids will demand a different skill-set from the drivers, and the one that adapts the quickest will likely be the most successful. It’s a very exciting time for us”. concluded Team Manager, Vic Maharaj.
From the cockpit:
Hennie Groenewald is raring to go racing again: “I haven’t raced at all since the end of January, nor have I driven a real racing car for many years, so I’m really looking forward to it. Not having anti-lock braking, for example, gives me a better feeling of what grip levels I have under braking which in turn helps confidence levels in an overtaking situation. GTC will be a stern test of a driver’s abilities behind the wheel.
The cars are equipped with one of the best gearboxes available; they have great aerodynamics that generates a lot of downforce which means faster cornering speeds. We run on slick racing tyres that provide healthy levels of grip. The chassis is more rigid and the whole package and concept is to create close racing and give the spectators an exciting show. After my first run in the car, I could feel it is nimble while the paddle-shift gearbox is simply superb, like a mini Formula One car.
This is my 6th year as a Sasol racing driver; with GTC being the most exciting series we have tackled together and I am privileged to represent such a respected global brand in Sasol”.
Gennaro Bonafede is equally anxious to get behind the wheel of his Sasol GTC Racecar: “GTC has been coming a long time, and I can’t believe it’s almost ready to get underway. It’s been six years since I raced a car without ABS brakes, so I’m going to prepare myself by driving a go-kart for a few laps to remind myself what it is like.
This will be my first time competing in a purpose-built racing car and I’m very excited to be part of the Sasol GTC Championship. I think a key ingredient to success is going to be to find the right set-up for the track as quickly as possible, so that we can concentrate on fast qualifying laps. I think the fans are going to be in for a treat.
The car is simply amazing in so many respects. Its power delivery is very smooth and it sounds great; it feels alive and almost begs to be driven fast. Sasol has been an amazing sponsor to race for, and I certainly hope to reward them with some victories over the coming months”.
The Sasol GTC Racing Team invites fans to their pit area to chat to the drivers and see the sleek new racers being prepared for the pair of 40km races in which they will compete.