Four different winners, close racing, comebacks from near-impossible situations and a gesture of sportsmanship marked the third round of the 2019 GTC Championship last weekend in Cape Town (May 10-11).
Daniel Rowe and Simon Moss shared the spoils at the front of the field while Brad Liebenberg and Charl Smalberger took turns to stand on the top step of the GTC2 podium at the Killarney International Raceway on the Western Cape.
Saturday morning’s qualifying session saw Robert Walk (Chemical Logistics / WCT Engineering BMW) taking pole position while continuing the strong form he showed during Friday’s practice sessions. Rowe and Keagan Masters followed him onto the grid in their Volkswagen Motorsport Jettas ahead of local hero Johan Fourie (EPS Racing BMW). Michael van Rooyen had a difficult day throughout Friday in his GA300 Racing South Africa Toyota Corolla and lined up in fifth place.
The All Power / Moss Racing / Audi duo had problems of their own, with championship leader Simon Moss’s GTC racer suffering a terminal failure that prevented him from making it our for qualifying. While teammate Tschops Sipuka only competed a handful of laps prior to his car losing power.
With the championship firmly in mind, Sipuka volunteered to watch the action from the sidelines and handed over the keys to his race car to give Moss a fighting chance to gain points. With the team franticly preparing the car to suit Moss, the championship leader lined line up at the back of the grid for race one.
Wolk held the lead during the early part of the day’s first race, but Rowe was able to execute a pass from where he controlled the pace at the front to take his first victory for the 2019 season. Unable to match Rowe’s pace, Wolk finished as runner-up a further 2.6 seconds back. Despite not competing with the ideal setup, Moss moved improved to third place and held off Fourie and Van Rooyen to round out the podium. On Lap 5, Fourie ran wide into the first corner which cost him track position and let Van Rooyen through. Masters battled with power delivery issues throughout the race, although not serious enough to necessitate a retirement, he continued for the remainder of the race taking home a sixth-place finish.
By finishing, Masters ensured that he would be in pole position for the afternoon’s second race from the reverse-grid. On Lap 2, the race was stopped due to an incident in GTC2. The break between the two starts allowed the Moss Racing team to execute setup changes which saw him more competitive in the second 10-lap race. Moss rapidly made his way to second place in the running order, then passing Masters to take the lead and eventual victory.
Unable to match the pace from the Audi in front, Masters settled for second place, Van Rooyen finished third, while Fourie back in fourth was still suffering from problems encountered during his Race 1 excursion. A penultimate lap spin in the final corner saw Wolk losing a lot of track position, but he brought his BMW home in fifth place. At the restart, Rowe encountered a misfire, but brought the car home in sixth place to keep himself in points contention for the title with five rounds to go.
In GTC2, Brad Liebenberg in the Volkswagen Motorsport Golf dominated throughout Friday’s practice sessions and took the pole position ahead of teammate Adrian Wood in the Kyocera-liveried sister car. It was a frantic week for Charl Smalberger heading into Round 3, with an engine problem only being discovered on the Monday prior. The Universal Healthcare Volkswagen Golf driver sourced an eligible power unit with only a few days to spare, and managed to qualify third. Lining up next to him was Lee Thompson in his second outing behind the wheel of the Delmon Mining Ford Focus. Mandla Mdakane lined up in fifth place in his Altron / Nexus MINI John Cooper Works ahead of Paul Hill in the Kalex Racing Volkswagen Golf. Thompson’s team mate Bob Neill completed the grid.
Race 1 saw the drivers all retaining their positions, with Liebenberg taking his fifth consecutive victory from five starts in 2019. There was no lack of drama in class during Race 2 however, with four drivers heading into the first corner on Lap 2. Contact between Liebenberg, Wood and Thompson brought the race to a halt with Thompson suffering substantial front-end damage and unable to restart While Liebenberg was beached on the retaining wall between Turn 1 and the middle part of the circuit.
Wood made it onto the gird for the restart, but failed to complete a lap prior to his retirement. Mdakane quickly slotted into the lead of the race, however soon after it was Smalberger who took position one and his first victory for 2019; the best finish to a week in which his participation alone remained doubtful merely 72 hours earlier.
Mdakane finished runner-up to make his first visit to the podium for 2019. Paul Hill crossed the line third to mark his maiden championship podium visit. Neill kept his 100% finishing record for the season in tact by crossing the line in fourth place.
With the championship battle still wide open, the Aldo Scribante Raceway in Port Elizabeth will play host to Round 4 of the 2019 GTC Championship from June 14-15.
[Issued by GTC / Reynard Gelderblom]