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.