|What||GTC Round 1 Race Report|
|Where||Killarney International Raceway|
|When||Saturday 20 March 2021|
|Community||South Africa National|
Investchem racing on top as GTC stars at Killarney
Some will say that the opening Global Touring Car heat was the race of the day at Killarney on Saturday. Whatever happened, Investchem Racing came out on top of a great day’s GTC action at the Cape Town circuit.
The Investchem team’s three former Formula 1600 champions, Robert Wolk took overall honours on the day with a couple of seconds in his Chemical Logistics Toyota Corolla GTC, while teammate Scott Temple was third off two fourth places. But it was a dream come true for home hero Julian van der Watt, who powered the team’s new Europerformance RDSA Ford Focus to a debut victory in race 2.
It was clear that the racing would be close from the get-go, when Wolk topped Friday’s opening practice in the WCT engineered Chemical Logistics Corolla before Temple went quickest the second session. Factory Gazoo Racing Toyota Corolla GTC driver Michael van Rooyen led the final session from van der Watt, but it was Wolk who put it on pole position from van Rooyen, Temple, Lee Thompson’s Universal BMW and van der Watt in qualifying.
There’s an old rugby saying that ‘you could toss a blanket over the tight five all day long,’ that aptly describes the GTC top six at Killarney on Saturday. The two Chemical Logistics Corollas led the way as Temple got the better of van Rooyen at the start. The three of them Temple, van der Watt and Mandla Mdakane in the second Gazoo Corolla diced hard in a tightly-knit pack from the get-go.
Van Rooyen soon fought back and re-took second from Temple, before setting about softening Wolk as the two raced side by side and nose to tail for several laps, with the pursuing four breathing down their necks. The pressure finally paid off as the factory Corolla finally managed to get inside the blue Investchem Racing car into Killarney’s turn 1 for the lead. Temple fought back, but van Rooyen was soon back in a lead he would not relinquish.
From there the race settled into a pattern with van Rooyen leading Wolk, a short distance ahead of the duelling Temple and Thompson. But Lee made a decisive move to put the Universal BMW onto the podium at mid distance. Behind them, Mdakane held off van der Watt until the Turn 1 on the final tour when Julian passed Mandla, but the two made contact on the exit and van der Watt spun.
GTC bogey man Vaughn Williams took a dim view of Mdakane’s response and docked him the time plus a hundredth of a second it took van der Watt to recover to the line, so van Rooyen ultimately took the win from Wolk, Thompson, Temple, van der Watt and Mdakane.
Mandla’s penalty was not allowed pole position for the reverse grid second race as he started second alongside van der Watt on pole. That was supposed to be a 30 minute enduro, but it turned out to be 20 minutes as Killarney race officials diced the sunset following a few delays through the day. And Julian van der Watt made no mistakes as he powered the Europerformance RDSA Focus into the lead from second on the rolling start grid.
Behind him, a combative Mdakane made the Chemical Logistics Corollas work to find a way past his factory machine as Wolk soon disposed of Thompson, then Temple and finally Mdkane in another fine dice for second, while van Rooyen struggled with a misfire behind. Van der Watt was long gone as Wolk closed the gap, but never enough to catch the local lad, who went on to deliver a delightful shock home win.
Mdkane did very well to fend off Temple and Thompson for a deserved third, with a hobbled van Rooyen sixth. Robert Wolk’s two second places on the day were enough to secure overall honours as the Chemical Logistics Toyota driver took the Global Touring Car Championship. Also consistent, Lee Thompson’s Universal Racing BMW finished second overall with Scott Temple third in the second Chemical Logistics Corolla.
Julian vd Watt ended fourth following his fairytale race 2 win as race 1 winner Michael van Rooyen hung on to fifth from teammate Mandla Mdakane in what was for all intents and purposes, a most heartening opening round reimagines 2021 GTC race.
"I think we managed to do everything we said we’d do with GTC yesterday,” Investchem Racing boss Ian Schofield pointed out. “We had a great first race — all the cars were still in the same camera shot on the last lap after a great show and even more heartening was that all six cars finished both races. “Never mind a great maiden win for Julian and the Ford in the second race.
“Best of all is that there will be more great news around GTC soon — watch this space!"
Issued on behalf of Investchem GTC Racing
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