The Sasol Global Touring Car (GTC) Championship will crown its inaugural champion at the sixth and final round in East London on Saturday, 3rd December.
The fastest circuit in the country will really test the GTC cars to their maximum at the famous former Grand Prix track which features fearsome corners like Potter’s Pass and Rifle Range while track safety is the same as it was in the very early 1960s.
Michael Stephen is the champion-elect following a string of seven victories from eight starts, adding his eighth win of the year at Zwartkops Raceway last weekend. With a substantial 144 point lead over second-placed Gennaro Bonafede, Stephen can stroke his Engen Audi GTC car home without hanging it on the ragged edge.
Bonafede dialled in his Sasol GTC racing car to his liking in Cape Town, taking his maiden pole position and victory at the Killarney track, starting a rich run of success which sees him firmly anchored in second spot on the title leaderboard with four victories against his name, as well as six additional podium finishes. Another win is a very real possibility but there are another seven drivers in the series all wanting the top step of the podium, so the racing will be fierce.
33 points separates third to sixth on the champion log and any of the four drivers can claim the last championship podium this weekend. Mathew Hodges had his best run at Zwartkops last weekend since the opening round in August, the factory Volkswagen Motorsport Jetta GTC driver moving into third place on the log, displacing Simon Moss (Engen Audi GTC) in the process. Just 15 points separate these two hard-charging drivers with over 100 points available on the day. Luck and reliability will determine this race-within-a-race as both youngsters are very quick.
Six points further back is Johan Fourie in his EPS Couriers BMW GTC car. The former production car champion joined the series at round two and was immediately on the pace, claiming a strong second place podium in his debut race. He has claimed another three podiums since then and will be a dark horse for a surprise result.
Hennie Groenewald is a further 12 points adrift after enjoying his best outing yet in the new GTC class last time out, finishing the Sasol Raceday last week with two second places to his credit. The BMW GTC racing driver would love to end the year with a maiden win and given his pace at Zwartkops last week, this could be his weekend.
Graeme Nathan (Volkswagen Jetta GTC) is languishing in seventh place in the championship standings. With a career which boasts seven saloon car championships in front-wheel drive cars, he has battled a bit to make the transition to the rear-wheel drive GTC cars, enduring more than his fair share of incidents and accidents during his steep learning curve.
Rounding out the GTC entry is Michael van Rooyen in his Rustenburg Steel Construction BMW GTC, who joined the series at round four in October. His new car has experienced a series of teething troubles and runs with plain white bodywork, preferring to unveil his livery ahead of the 2017 season.
GTC Production, the class for front-wheel drive cars has already crowned its champion. Daniel Rowe (Volkswagen Motorsport Golf GTi) has dominated the class with ten victories from 12 starts, adding a second and third place finish when he didn’t win. Mandla Mdakane, in the second factory-backed Golf GTi is in second place, followed by Shaun Duminy who is not expected to make the trip to the Eastern Cape, preferring to concentrate his resources on building his new GTC race car for next year.
Charl Smalberger (VW Genuine Parts Golf GTi) and newcomer Devon Piazza Musso (Kalex Golf GTi), who made a strong debut in the series last week, drive their hearts out looking for that elusive maiden victory.
East London race fans are in for treat as GTC has learnt a great deal since it debuted in August with the cars becoming faster and more reliable with each race.
[Issued by Sasol]