The Sasol Global Touring Car (GTC) Championship is the headline attraction at the newly refurbished Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit, which is set to host its inaugural race meeting in a three-day festival of motorsport over the weekend of 21 to 23 October.
Three practice sessions totalling an hour of on-track action on Saturday, 22nd October precedes GTC qualifying, which takes place on Sunday morning, followed by two races making up round four of the Sasol GTC Championship. Race fans will have plenty of opportunity to enjoy the sight and sounds of the fresh new touring car series, which features cars delivering 325kW to the rear wheels and bouts of flameouts from the exhausts under braking and cornering.
Qualifying has seen the top six drivers setting times within the same second, promising close racing. An added incentive to do well in the session to determine grid positions is the lure of three, two and one bonus points awarded to the fastest three drivers.
After the first three rounds held at Zwartkops in Pretoria, Aldo Scribante in Port Elizabeth and Killarney in Cape Town, Michael Stephen is the runaway championship leader, the Engen Xtreme Audi A3 driver virtually unstoppable, taking seven race wins from eight starts to open up a healthy 183-point lead in the championship standings.
The Terry Moss-run Audi team is patently aware that the competition is catching up and will not have things all their own way as the second half of the six-round championship kicks off in style at Kyalami.
The only driver to have beaten Stephen is Gennaro Bonafede in his Sasol-backed BMW GTC racer, who took a solid win in Cape Town last time out. With five other podium finishes so far, Bonafede is second in the title race, with another 300 points available over the remainder of the season.
Buoyed by his maiden GTC victory, Bonafede will be out to add to his tally.
Third in the rankings is Simon Moss in the second Engen Audi A3 GTC. Three podiums to date, along with bonus points for setting the fastest race laps in Cape Town, proves the young racers speed and victory cannot be far away.
Former Production Car Champion Johan Fourie is anchored in fourth spot on the leaderboard, just 12 points shy of Moss, in spite of only joining the GTC Championship in round two. The EPS Couriers BMW GTC racer has two second place and a third under his belt.
Volkswagen’s Matthew Hodges started the season strongly, the Jetta GTC proving a formidable competitor, but a bad day in the office last time out saw the youngster drop to fifth in the rankings, eight points behind Fourie. The capable driver will be out to prove a point at Kyalami as the bottom half of the points table tightens up.
Hennie Groenewald, the 2015 Production Car Champion, made progress with his BMW GTC car and claimed his maiden podium in Port Elizabeth. Mechanical issues kept him off the front-running pace in Cape Town, and the Sasol GTC Racing Team driver is determined to claw his way up the order, starting at Kyalami.
Graeme Nathan, running the second Volkswagen Motorsport Jetta GTC, has been plagued by various issues and two non-finishes in Cape Town saw him drop to the foot of the championship log. With many championships against his name, he is determined to turn his season around.
Michael Van Rooyen debuts his long-awaited Rustenburg Steel Construction BMW GTC. Van Rooyen is a proven racer with numerous victories in the Production Car Championship and his bright green and yellow car will add to the GTC Championship.
GTC Production, for front-wheel drive cars, has seen Volkswagen Motorsport’s Daniel Rowe dominate the class in his Golf GTi, banking six victories and two additional podiums to enjoy a healthy 131 point lead over Shaun Duminy (Ford Focus STi). Charl Smalberger (VW Genuine Parts Golf GTi) and Mandla Mdakane (VW Motorsport Golf GTi) are separated by just seven points.
The Sasol GTC schedule sees qualifying at 08h55, with race 1 starting at 12:35 and race 2 at 14h40. – Alex Anderson (Pics: David Ledbitter)