GTi Challenge set for scorching season opener
Be prepared to get up out of your comfy spectator’s seat when the WP Burly Pro GTi Challenge 2018 explodes into action at the Killarney International Raceway’s season opening Wingfield Motors Power Series this Saturday 17 February, because the series is bound to have you on your feet and cheering. The first race ends a two-month break and the Killarney faithful can look forward to war raging as a wild 30-car entry prepares to take it to the black stuff.
Add new sponsors, and old drivers returning alongside a few newcomers and a scheduled away race at Phakisa Raceway in September and it’s set to be a cracker of a season too.
Plenty new Polos up front
But it starts at home at Killarney on Saturday with newly crowned class A champion and ex Engen VW Cup racer, Jurie ‘Umpie’ Swart (Alpine Autohaus Polo Classic) not only set to take on old rival, another Engen VW Cup campaigner and GTi Challenge veteran Jano van der Westhuizen in his ex-Polo Cup Wingfield Motors/Kwikfix Polo 6R.
But that’s not all – three more ex-Cup Polos are expected to join the grid on Saturday as Paulus Franken’s Manitou machine and Universal Healthcare duo, Dr. Johan Pretorius and Trappies van Tonder join the GTi Challenge opening round action, while Colin Nicholas Meder Junior ‘s similar Polo 6R also returns to the fold following a difficult season last year.
Showman Pieter Kriel (Genesis Panelbeaters Golf I GTi) and father and son Arthur C ‘The Russian’ and Chris Roberts’ identical Roberts Racing Jetta IIs close off the Class A grid, with all three ready to race after some good off-season R&D.
Fierce Class C battle
Class B is also set to be a fierce battleground with some seasoned oldies set to return after a couple of years away - GTi Challenge chair Zaki Hendricks (Wheelworx/MAD Polo Classic) comes back alongside returning ex-chairman, Craig du Toit’s CD Motorsport/Paint Concepts Jetta II, both of whom have spent the last two seasons building new machines.
The comeback kids must however first beat double-class champion Eden Thompson (Somerset Refrigeration/MAD Golf I GTi), veteran Mario Roux (Automar Jetta II) and 2016 rookie of the year Earl Josephs (Silvermoon Roofing Polo Classic) who is looking to get a little closer to the front after writing off his Golf late last season. Mr. Consistency, Wayne Field (Coetzee’s Auto Coachworks Golf II GTi) is another driver keen to prove his pace up front.
Another driver to watch is 2017 rookie schoolboy sensation Divan Lazarus (Cheapercars Golf I GTi), who showed blistering pace towards the end of last year, while Grant Cloete (Upstream Connect Golf I GTi) also joined the grid in 2017 and he’s also shown impressive progress of late.
There are two more exciting wildcards in Class C – no less than Cape Clubmans frontrunner Jean-Michel Masue (Provence Welding Polo Classic) and Class C graduate Gideon Serfontein (Goeiehoop Onderdele Golf II GTi) – both men to watch, while new series sponsor Emile Assure’s immaculate Burly Pro/Krisp Vehicle Cooling Polo 6R is another most interesting newcomer.
Wild Brat Pack
But it is down in Class C where the wildest action can be expected in another epic showdown among the regular Brat Pack, with a yet more new and returning drivers set to do battle with old rivals as the lot of them wreak havoc at the back of the pack, with Class C now limited to only Golf Mk. 1 GTis this year.
2017 overall and Class C champion Marco Busi (Automan) returns with the #1 on his door looking to defend his title, but the former WP karting and now double Class C champion will have much to do fend off the chasing wolves.
2016 overall champion Bryan Morgan (Greatsoft Payroll hopes to have solved his fuel issues to see him back to the front of the battle and a step forward from second in class championship last year, while younger Busi brother and another former WP karting champion, 15 year Dario will be keen to go a couple better on his third in class last year.
Another former overall and Class C champion, Christopher Swart (Jacks Paint & Hardware) will be seeking a little redemption following a rough end to last season, but there are a good few other Class C competitors keen to steal a march on the favourites too. Regular class winner, Jarred Simpson is out to show them all the way in the second Greatsoft Payroll machine and certainly has the pace to claim top honours, while Gert Du Plessis (Cheapercars/Superdoors) and the ever-improving Dillon Joubert (TAC Steel/Powder Coating World) should never be overlooked.
2017 rookie Ian Kapp (Hydracor) has quickly come on to the pace, while Alfie Van Zyl (Union Signs) returns to the fold after missing a few rounds later last season. GTi Challenge of course has its very own lady racer in Nadia Nair, who has improved steadily enough to now pose a real threat to the lads this season.
More dark horses
But there are two very dark Class C horses looming as yet another former overall GTi Challenge champion and the man who ended third overall last year, Jacques Geldenhuys (Ferroli/G&A Motorsport) shifts to Class C from this year and another previous Class C race winner, 17 year old Franschhoek Bridge House College matriculant Giordano Lupini (CIR Construction/La Vie de Luc) returns to the fray after a season in the national Engen VW Cup championship.
Matthew Curry is another driver returning aboard his Omega Air Golf following a monster crash in the season opener two years ago, while newcomer Steven Vermaak makes his GTi Challenge debut on Saturday.
The BurlyPro GTi Challenge already boasts an amazing line-up for the 2018, with the action and intensity only likely to increase as the season progresses with a few more top cars and drivers likely to join an already star-studded grid. So be sure not to miss action at the opening round Wingfield Power Series at the Killarney International Raceway Saturday 17 February - Byron Wanza