The sun-drenched spectators were the winners after the Sasol GTC Championship visited Kyalami for Round 4 of the series. The internationally renowned Midrand circuit held a number of surprises for the GTC drivers who collectively have 30 South African motorsport championships between them.
The qualifying session on Sunday morning pointed to the prospect of a very close pair of races, with Gennaro Bonafede powering his Sasol-backed BMW GTC race car to pole position for both races, followed by Matthew Hodges, the faster of the two Volkswagen Jetta GTCs.
The current points leader Michael Stephen slotted into 3rd place for race one and 4th for race two, while Hennie Groenewald qualified his BMW GTC race car in 4th and 3rd for the two races respectively.
Johan Fourie (EPS Couriers BMW GTC) and Simon Moss (Engen Audi A3 GTC) filled the next two places, ahead of Graeme Nathan (VW Jetta GTC) and newcomer Michael van Rooyen, who slotted his RSC BMW GTC into 8th place on the grid, needing to learn about his car and the track.
Race 1 got underway and almost immediately the Sasol GTC Championship delivered its first dose of high octane action. Turns 1, 2 and 3 is a sequence of left, right and left hand corners. Off the line, Groenewald rocketed past Stephen and drew alongside Hodges into Turn 1. Side-by-side into Turn 2, with Groenewald now on the racing line, Hodges squeezed the BMW driver towards the edge of the track and with nowhere to go as Hodges aimed for the apex, contact was inevitable.
The BMW’s left front hit the VW’s right rear: Hodges spun and Groenewald was able to continue, but in a twist of fate, an unrelated water supply issue meant his car was mortally damaged and he retired at the end of the lap. Hodges, now with deranged suspension, continued to finish in 4th place. Later, the GTC Driver Conduct Official deemed Hodges the cause of the accident.
All this opening lap action allowed Bonafede to break away, chased by Stephen and the second Engen Audi of Simon Moss. Moss missed all the practice sessions after suffering suspension failure on his first lap of the Kyalami track, so was well pleased with his podium place, achieved in spite of his fire extinguisher discharging itself.
Behind Hodges, Graeme Nathan ended in 5th place, ahead of the GTC Production Class winner Daniel Rowe. Johan Fourie retired on the formation lap when he reported a lack of boost from the turbo, while Michael van Rooyen retired with power steering failure.
In race two, Hodges challenged Bonafede in a drag race to the first corner. Bonafede hung on to maintain his lead, followed by Hodges, who later spun which allowed Stephen into 2nd place. Graeme Nathan edged up the order to take the final podium place after Moss again suffered suspension failure, and Fourie retired with electronic failure. Michael van Rooyen finished his first GTC race in 4th place, ahead of Daniel Rowe who again won GTC-P.
The fifth and penultimate round of the Sasol GTC Championship takes place at the Zwartkops Raceway in Pretoria on 25th November.
[Issued by Sasol South Africa]