They came, the saw and they conquered the hearts of the thousands of spectators who packed the Killarney racetrack in Cape Town for round three of the Sasol Global Touring Car (GTC) Championship, with an action packed three-race programme. Although Michael Stephen raced his Engen Xtreme Audi A3 GTC to two victories, the field of GTC racers has closed considerably on the runaway championship leader.
It was Gennaro Bonafede and his Sasol GTC race-car that took the fight to Audi, after planting his BMW GTC firmly in pole position for race two and scorching into the lead, becoming the first non-Audi winner of the season.
With the top six runners again all qualifying within the same second, it was going to be a frenetic trio of races and so it proved. In the opening race, Stephen and Moss ran in close formation at the front of the field, the two black Audis finishing 0.3 seconds apart. Bonafede took third after a straightforward race but further back, Hennie Groenewald (Sasol GTC), Matthew Hodges (Volkswagen Motorsport Jetta GTC) and Johan Fourie (EPS Couriers BMW GTC) had a fantastic scrap.
Groenewald ran side-by-side with both Hodges and Fourie on occasion, rubbing fenders along the way which may have caused Fourie’s tyre to puncture. Fourie pitted and rejoined, classified 11th. Hodges and Graeme Nathan (VW Jetta GTC) were forced to retire, both with broken propshafts, allowing Groenewald up into 4th place.
Race two saw Bonafede take a lights to flag victory, ending 1.2 seconds ahead of Michael Stephen and Simon Moss. Behind them, another war raged between Hodges, Fourie and Groenewald, again the trio making light contact as the raced side-by-side. Fourie got the better of Hodges and Groenewald, who in turn made a pass on Hodges, who immediately fought back. Groenewald re-passed the Jetta driver and made the move stick the second time around. Hodges had a propshaft vibration and circulated at the back of the field to gain a handful of points while Nathan battled with power steering issues.
In the final race of the day, Stephen and Moss gave the Terry Moss Racing-run Audi team another 1-2 finish, with Bonafede pulling out a small gap on Fourie. Nathan spun his Jetta into retirement on lap four after battling with inconsistent power steering problems while Groenewald retired his BMW with a loose boost pipe. Moss suffered a broken alternator and slipped down the order, the Audi stuck in 4th gear on the last lap as a result. Hodges finished a lap down after suffering a broken exhaust manifold.
“It’s been a fantastic weekend”, said Stephen. “It wasn’t easy and the competition is catching up. Simon and I had a great race in the second heat – it was hard but fair”.
In GTC Production, Daniel Rowe (Volkswagen Motorsport Golf GTi) claimed all three victories, chased by Charl Smalberger (VW Genuine Parts VW Golf GTI) and Mandla Mdakane (VW Motorsport Golf GTi). In race two, Shaun Duminy (SMD Ford Focus ST) chased Rowe home, followed by Smalberger. In the final race, Mdakane made it a works VW 1-2, trailed by Mark Du Toit (GTCX Zambezi Auto BMW Z4).
The 4th round of the Sasol GTC Championship takes place at the revamped Kyalami Circuit on 22nd October. – Alex Anderson (Pics: Dave Ledbitter)