Bonafede, Stephen win a race apiece
Michael Stephen and Gennaro Bonafede once again starred as the Sasol Global Touring car championship delivered fraught action to a sizable and enthusiastic Pretoria crowd when South Africa’s premier race series visited Zwartkops Raceway for the fourth round of the championship on Youth Day Friday. Ferodo Mini man Bradley Liebenberg and VW Motorsport’s Keagan Masters likewise shared the GTC2 wins.
Bonafede drove his Sasol BMW to race 1 victory over Engen Audi man Stephen, who turned the tables to win race 2, keeping privateer Johan Fourie’s EPS Courier between him and Gennaro to once again close down his championship deficit as he moved into second in the title race following his difficult start to his season.
A chilly, breezy Pretoria winter’s morning greeted competitors and fans, but Bonafede made short work of qualifying to deliver a fine pole position over an impressive Mathew Hodges’ Volkswagen Motorsport Jetta and Gennaro’s on form Sasol BMW teammate, Robert Wolk. Stephen missed out on vital qualifying points in fourth ahead of Engen Xtreme Audi teammate Simon Moss, Daniel Rowe in the second Jetta and Michael van Rooyen’s RSC BMW after Johan Fourie’s EPS Courier Services BMW.
Bradley Liebenberg (Ferodo) and Christopher Shorter (Champion) made it an all-Signature Mini JCW front row in GTC2 ahead of Keagan Masters’ Volkswagen Motorsport Golf GTI and the similar privateer Golf 7 GTIs of TB Racing’s Trevor Bland and Charl Smalberger’s iCorp VW Parts version.
The day had warmed considerably by the time race 1 started, as Bonafede romped away up front, leaving the interest to
Michael Stephen’s progress as the reigning champion first passed Wolk’s BMW and then Hodges’ Jetta to move into second. Further back, Liebenberg, Shorter and Masters opened up a gap on the rest of the GTC2 runners. There was drama on lap four when Iain Stephenson’s Comsol Golf GTI and the returning Shaun Duminy’s SMD Ford Focus ST made contact on the table top to eliminate both cars.
Stephen worked hard to close the gap to Bonafede through the traffic, but he could only take one of this three seconds deficit out as a delighted Gennaro drove home to win from Michael, with Hodges, Wolk, Moss, Rowe and a distant Fourie next up and Michael van Rooyen, who struggled home a few laps down after a couple of visits to the pits. Bradley Liebenberg and Christopher Shorter managed to keep Keagan Masters behind in GTC2, with Charl Smalberger fourth from Trevor Bland and Mandla Mdakane.
Stephen bounces back
The second, reverse-grid race however made for quite some fireworks, with van Rooyen and Fourie on the front row ahead of Moss and Rowe. Moss made a monster start to lead the way, but the red flag was out to stop the race to clear the track after Robert Wolk had an incident. Michael Stephen had made the best of the first lap action and was fourth behind Fourie, van Rooyen and Moss at the re-start and his work was made easier when van Rooyen dropped back.
Stephen then made short work of his teammate and set off after Fourie, whom he caught and took his time to overcome, but Michael was soon in the lead and reeling off hot laps to take the quickest lap for those extra three points, too. Bonafede also made good progress, but he was too far behind to do anything about Fourie once he had found his way past Mathew Hodges. Simon Moss ended fifth behind Hodges, with Rowe two laps down and van Rooyen showing great pace despite more visits to the pits.
The GTC2 lot delivered a thrilling race as Keagan Masters, Bradley Liebenberg and Christopher Shorter fought through from the back; the Volkswagen man ultimately overcoming his Mini rivals and teammate Mdkane to take race 2 honours and protect his overall championship lead. Charl Smalberger once again ended fifth as best of the privateers ahead of Trevor Bland.
The day’s results add significant spice to the Sasol Global Touring Car championship chase however, with Stephen moving into second in the title race and reducing his deficit to Bonafede, with Moss now third from Fourie, Hodges and Rowe. Masters kept himself on top of the GTC2 title chase, while Liebenberg moved into second from Bland, Smalberger and Shorter, who moved up to fifth over Mdkane.
The Sasol GTCs travel to Port Elizabeth next for the fifth of their nine-round championship on 15 July and with the Aldo Scribante circuit being Volkswagen SA and the Engen Extreme Audi team’s home track, rest assured that they will be best prepared to take care of Michael Stephen’s ever-diminishing title deficit, while the Sasol BMWs will very want to make it an away win. Keep up with developments at www.gtcafrica.co.za.
Zwartkops Extreme Festival
GTC Race 1 (Round 7) Results
1. Gennaro Bonafede (Sasol BMW GTC) 17 laps, 18m32.749
2. Michael Stephen (Engen Xtreme Audi A3 GTC) +1.963
3. Mathew Hodges (Volkswagen Motorsport Jetta GTC) +7.530
4. Robert Wolk (Sasol BMW GTC) +11.605
5. Simon Moss (Engen Xtreme A3 GTC ) +12.365
6. Daniel Rowe (Volkswagen Motorsport Jetta GTC +14.601
7. Johan Fourie (EPS Courier Services BMW GTC) +42.911
8. Michael van Rooyen (RSC BMW GTC) +5 laps
1. Bradley Liebenberg (Ferodo Mini JCW 16 laps, 18m52.326
2. Christopher Shorter (Champion Mini JCW) +0.524
3. Keagan Masters (Volkswagen Motorsport Golf GTI) +0.984
4. Charl Smalberger (iCorp Volkswagen Parts Golf GTI) +9.958
5. Trevor Bland (TB Racing Volkswagen Golf GTI) +10.677
6. Mandla Mdakane (Volkswagen Motorsport VW Golf GTI) +13.944
R. Iain Stevenson (Comsol Volkswagen Golf 6 GTI) 5 laps
R. Shaun Duminy (SMD Racing Ford Focus ST) 4 laps
Zwartkops Extreme Festival
GTC Race 2 (Round 8) Results
1. Michael Stephen (Engen Xtreme Audi A3 GTC) 15 laps, +16m33.736
2. Johan Fourie (EPS Courier Services BMW GTC) +1.243
3. Gennaro Bonafede (Sasol BMW GTC) 4.301
4. Mathew Hodges (Volkswagen Motorsport Jetta GTC) +4.798
5. Simon Moss (Engen Xtreme Audi A3 GTC) +11.530
7. Daniel Rowe (Volkswagen Motorsport Jetta GTC) +2 laps
8. Michael van Rooyen (RSC BMW GTC)+4 laps
R. Robert Wolk Sasol (Sasol BMW GTC) 1 lap
1. Keagan Masters (Volkswagen Motorsport Golf GTI) 15 laps, +16m36.180
2. Bradley Liebenberg (Ferodo Mini JCW) +3.222
3. Christopher Shorter (Champion Mini JCW) +7.423
4. Mandla Mdakane (Volkswagen Motorsport Golf GTI) +8.535
5. Charl Smalberger (iCorp Volkswagen Parts Golf GTI) +10.568
6. Trevor Bland TB Racing (TB Racing Volkswagen Golf GTI) +13.872
Sasol GTC Championship Points
1. Gennaro Bonafede - 325
2. Michael Stephen - 266
3. Simon Moss - 231
4. Johan Fourie - 180
5. Mathew Hodges - 158
6. Daniel Rowe - 75
7. Robert Wolk -73
8. Michael van Rooyen - 32
1. Keagan Masters - 326
2. Bradley Liebenberg - 231
3. Trevor Bland - 223
4. Charl Smalberger - 161
5. Christopher Shorter - 157
6. Mandla Mdkane - 138
7. Iain Stevenson - 32
8. Kosie Weyers - 31
9. Dayne Angel - 6