Ferraris, McLarens, Lambos, more on way
The all-new South African GT Challenge is limbering up towards a brilliant attraction when the new series kicks off at Phakisa on 25 February, with several sensational new cars set to join the action at the Free State opener and even more arriving as the season progresses.
The new SA GT Challenge will run over seven rounds across the country for the first time in a 2017 roadshow alongside the South African Endurance Championship, starting with the February races in Welkom, but the big news is the arrival of several new GT3 machines to race here.
“We are delighted with the response to the South African GT Challenge,” series boss Charl Arangies admitted. “We will have several cars racing in SA for the first time in Welkom and there are many others on the water and ready to come to SA over the next few months to join the first official South African GT3 series.”
Top of the list of newcomers is a Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 set to join the ranks of several other Ferrari F430s and 360 Stradales on track. The new car, which is similar to the machine David Perel raced in the Blancpain series last year, will be driven by Cape Town driver Marcel Angel at Phakisa and will join a fleet of Ferrari F430s including Jaki Scheckter in a Pablo Clark version, Craig Jarvis, Willem van der Westhuizen and Loris Chiappa’s Morris Cranes car.
The Daytona Group’s McLaren 650S is another star attraction, possibly driven by Leeroy Poulter once again, while Jason Campos will be out in the Campos Transport BMW M3 GT to pick up where those two left off last time out. It is understood that Campos will step up into another McLaren a little later in the season, vacating that BMW seat to brother Keegan.
All of the above will however have to first beat the Lamborghinis in GT3, following SA Endurance champion Simon Murray’s recent form in his recently acquired Gallardo, while Charl Aranges can be expected to deliver a formidable challenge in his Stradale Gallardo LP520 and Oliver Dalais’ Bailey GT will add to the GT3 spice.
Biggest news on the Lamborghini front however, is the imminent arrival of Greg Parton’s Dizit Huracán GT3 machine — it is not likely to arrive in time for Phakisa, but expect it for round 2 at Killarney in Cape Town in April, by when there is every likelihood that a BMW Z4 GT3, an Audi R8 LMS and a Dodge Viper will also have joined the SA GT Challenge GT3 ranks.
“Our objective this year is to grow the top GT3 class strong,” Arangies pointed out. “We have a good field of pukka GT3 cars racing already, alongside a few existing cars that we will run to GT3 spec, most of which will be run by teams who are waiting for new GT3 cars to arrive. “It’s a most exciting time for us, but GT3 racing certainly is set to take off in SA.”
Phakisa will also see a particularly strong entry in the GT Cup class entry catering for the many Challenge Cup cars raced in various one-make series around the world, of which many already exist in SA, with several new cars also en route to race there. Expect the likes of Andrew Culbert’s brand new Porsche Carrera Cup 911 to join Sun Moodley’s similar car and Sam Hammond and Jonathan Schenkman aboard a pair of Lamborghini Gallardo Super Trofeos among a fleet of Ferrari, Porsche and other Cup machines.
There is also much interest in the new GT4 class, where several Porsches including Tania du Toit will take on a gang of Ferraris, including Andre van der Merwe’s 360, Peter Zeelie’s Lotus Elise, Harry Aranges’ Ford Mustang FR500c GT4 and Johan Hattingh in a Nissan 350Z among several other entries expected for Phakisa.
“The response to the new South African GT proves the need for dedicated championship catering for GT3 racing supercars and run to the same rules as the world’s leading GT3 series,” Charl Arangies concluded. “Not only does that mean that South African teams can invest in a class where they can race the finest cars in the world, but it’s also a win-win for South African race fans, who can now look forward to these cutting edge cars racing a thrilling new dedicated GT series, as well in the various other classes they will likely compete in around the country.”
The South African GT Challenge will feature two races every meeting with a 10 to 12-lap Sprint before a 45-minute to 1-hour Feature, which will include a mandatory pit stop and an optional driver change. All SA GT3 Challenge races will be live streamed with the class also being the focus of a high-profile media campaign. The SA GT Challenge will form part of the new South African Endurance Championship roadshow, with endurance races running on the same days as the GT rounds, starting at Phakisa in the Free State on 25 February.
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