Car wars to thrill Youth Day Zwartkops
The Sasol Global Touring Car Championship moves to Pretoria Youth Day Friday 16 June for its first of three dates on a tight and twisty Zwartkops Raceway that’s sure to deliver another thrilling round following gripping race days at Kyalami and East London.
“The past two Sasol GTC races have delivered thrilling racing and we expect nothing less at Zwartkops on Youth Day,” Sasol GTC Series Director Gary Formato explained. “Michael Stephen has started his championship fightback following a dreadful start to his season and three wins on the trot have seen him eating into Gennaro Bonafede’s lead, so it’s no-holds barred at Zwartkops.
“Our reverse grid second heats have also added a thrilling twist and you can be rest assured that Zwartkops will see to even more exciting racing thanks to the tight nature of the track, so we're looking forward to another great weekend of the Sasol GTC racing in Pretoria.”
Last Time Out…
Sasol GTC thrilled a record crowd with fantastic racing at the previous round at East London, where reigning champion Michael Stephen’s Engen Audi took a pair of race wins to tighten up the fight at the head of the championship as he more than halved his gap to the man in front. Stephen’s Engen Audi teammate Simon Moss took pole position, but Stephen soon took charge to stroll to a comfortable 1.5-second win over Moss and Johan Fourie’s EPS BMW in race 1.
Sasol BMW duo Robert Wolk and Bonafede started in front for the reverse grid second race and Bonafede made the early running, but Stephen came from behind to close down and pass the BMWs and win from Bonafede, Wolk, Fourie, VW pair Hodges and Rowe and a struggling Moss. Stephen took the overall winner’s trophy from Fourie, Rowe, Hodges and Moss.
Kosie Weyers (Chevrolet) surprised to take the early GTC2 lead before pole man Bradley Liebenberg (Ferodo Mini) reeled him in to take the first race win from Trevor Bland (TBR Golf), Weyers, and Craig Shorter in the second Mini. Debutant Dayne Angel (Autohaus Angel Civic Type R) initially led the reverse grid second race before Liebenberg came from behind to win from Keagan Masters (VW Motorsport Golf GTI), Bland and Charl Smalberger (VW Parts Golf GTI). Liebenberg took the overall win from Bland and Masters.
Sasol GTC Championship Points
1. Gennaro Bonafede (Sasol BMW GTC) - 239
2. Simon Moss (Engen Audi A3 GTC) - 203
3. Michael Stephen (Engen Audi A3 GTC) - 175
4. Johan Fourie ( EPS BMW GTC) - 136
5. Mathew Hodges (VW Motorsport Jetta GTC) - 107
6. Daniel Rowe (VW Motorsport Jetta GTC) - 57
7. Robert Wolk (Sasol BMW GTC) - 52
8. Michael van Rooyen (RSC BMW GTC) - 22
1. BMW - 206
2. Audi - 194
3. Volkswagen - 112
1. Keagan Masters (VW Motorsport Golf GTI) - 247
2. Trevor Bland (TB Racing VW Golf GTI) - 200
3. Bradley Liebenberg (Ferodo Mini JCW) - 138
4. Charl Smalberger (iCorp/VW Parts Golf GTI) - 127
5. Mandla Mdkane (VW Motorsport Golf GTI ) - 109
6. Christopher Shorter (Champion Mini JCW) - 82
7. Iain Stevenson (Comsol VW Golf GTI) - 32
8. Kosie Weyers (Chevrolet Cruze) - 31 -
What to watch for at Zwartkops
There will be a Grid Walk on the Zwartkops startline for 10 minutes from 11h25 before the start of the first heat where fans can get up close and personal with the cars, drivers and teams in those anxious last minutes before the lights go out.
It should be pretty tense with championship leader Gennaro Bonafede (#32 Sasol BMW GTC) heading to Pretoria keen to get back to his winning ways following arch-rival Stephen’s recent hat trick of wins. Sasol BMW teammate Robert Wolk was delighted with a second race podium in East London last time out and he has had a good test in #41 BMW GTC since at Zwartkops and is keen for another step forward at the Pretoria racetrack.
The closest battle in the Sasol GTC Championship is in the Manufacturer’s title chase, where the Sasol BMW duo hold a slender 12 point lead over the Engen Extreme Audis, with #1 driver Michael Stephen on a charge and sitting third in the championship chase behind Bonafede and Moss. The black Audis will be intent on continuing their charge at Zwartkops, while the BMWs are hell bent on stopping them.
Johan Fourie continues to deliver beyond expectation and his privateer #14 EPS Couriers BMW GTC now sits fourth in the championship race off a most impressive season so far, ahead of factory Volkswagen factory pilots Matthew Hodges and rookie teammate, GTC2 champion Daniel Rowe in their respective #57 and #11 Jetta GTCs and Michael van Rooyen, who will be after a better run of luck in his #95 Rustenburg Steel Construction BMW GTC.
The Sasol GTC2 is now a Mini versus Volkswagen battlefield since Bradley Liebenberg upset the applecart to utterly dominate proceedings in East London in the #12 Ferodo Mini. Not only will teammate Chris Shorter (#33 Champion Mini) want his share of the spoils at home at Zwartkops, but Volkswagen Motorsport duo, championship leader Keagan Masters and his #18 Golf GTI and #44 teammate Mandla Mdkane will want to return to their winning status quo.
That quartet however needs to first overcome a privateer charge headed by the on-form Trevor Bland and his #5 TB Racing Golf GTi, Charl Smalberger’s #15 iCorp VW Parts GTI and Ian Stevenson, who may yet have his new Comsol Honda ready to stick that #69 on to join Cape lad Dayne Angel, will now be getting to grips with his #4 Autohaus Angel Civic Type R.
Sasol GTC’s Zwartkops Weekend at a Glance
Thursday 15 June
09h40 - Free Practice 1 - 20 minutes
11h45 - Free Practice 2 - 20 minutes
14h10 - Free Practice 3 - 20 minutes
Friday 20 May
07h45 - Qualifying - 20 minutes
11h25 - Grid Walk - 10 minutes
11h35 - Race 1 - 17 laps
14h20 - Race 2 - 17 laps
About the Sasol GTC Championship
A revolutionary, affordable and professional racing series, the Sasol GTC Championship represents a revival in South African Circuit Racing. Affordable, yet serious, the Sasol GTC Championship caters for a growing field of world-class race cars designed to thrill race fans and tempt consumers.
Based loosely on Australian Supercar racing and to an extent the BTCC, GTC cars carry the same body as their street kin wrapped around a purpose-built race chassis and running gear but powered by an engine from the maker’s range, or a GTC-supplied mill. The GTC ethos of racing cars with common specification tyres, suspension and many other components ensures that costs are kept to a minimum, while at the same time equalising performance between competing cars.
GTC2 caters for near-standard turbo 2-litre powered hot hatchbacks as a breeding ground of future South African race stars. Now in its second season.
Follow the Sasol GTC Championship
The 2017 Sasol GTC Calendar
25 Mar - Killarney Raceway, Cape Town
22 Apr - Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit, Johannesburg
20 May - East London Grand Prix Circuit
17 Jun - Zwartkops Raceway, Pretoria
15 Jul - Aldo Scribante, Port Elizabeth
06 Aug - Zwartkops Raceway, Pretoria
09 Sep - Killarney Raceway, Cape Town
04 Nov - Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit, Johannesburg
25 Nov - Zwartkops Raceway, Pretoria