Sasol GTC2 Review: Rd 6 – 12th August
Brad Liebenberg and Chris Shorter won the hearts of the Zwartkops fans as they raced their Ferodo and Champion MINI John Cooper Works hard in the sixth round of the Sasol GTC Championship on Saturday, changing positions for the lead by the lap as they fought tooth and nail against their Volkswagen rivals.
Qualifying has become a very close-fought session and it was no different at the Pretoria circuit with just 0.313 seconds between Brad and pole position, while Chris was 0.075 seconds behind his MINI teammate.
The first heat was a scorcher with Brad powering his Ferodo MINI John Cooper Works to the front of the field, challenging Keagan Masters for the lead around the outside of turn eight. On lap two, Brad changed tactics, diving up the inside to snatch the lead. Master got ahead again and held Brad off for a few laps before the Ferodo MINI once more took the lead. Fortunes changed throughout the race before Masters pulled a small lead.
Chris meanwhile, worked his way through the pack and closed on the leading pair but ran out of race mileage to challenge for the win.
Race two started with the usual inverted grid, leaving Brad and Chris at the back of the pack. Brad made quick work of the backmarkers and caught the race leader Mandla Mdakane (Golf). As the GTC2 field was lapped by the GTC Cars, Brad tried to follow Robert Wolk (BMW) through the traffic and pass Mdakane at the same time, but in the heat of battle, misjudged the move and hit the BMW into retirement and Mdakane out of the lead. Brad retired with a broken radiator.
Chris was also in the wars when Iain Stevenson (Golf) spun in front of him, costing him time. He was unable to catch the Golfs until the safety car was deployed as a result of Brad’s incident. After the safety car period, the GTC cars were amongst the GTC2 cars and one pushed Chris wide, losing a position to Charl Smalberger, who was declared the winner after the Golf was penalised 20 seconds for over-boosting.
Quotes from the cockpit:
Brad Liebenberg (#12 Ferodo MINI): “Qualifying fourth was not what I had hoped for. I had a great start and squeezed through the dust caused by the lap one accident. Keagan and I swapped the lead four times over the 17 lap race. It was great fun and good clean racing. In race two, I worked my way through the traffic until I caught Mandla. We were passed by the GTC cars and I tried to follow Wolk past Mandla but somehow hit the BMW and Mandla. I had to retire which was very disappointing for me and the team”.
Chris Shorter (#33 Champion MINI): “My fastest lap in qualifying felt great so I was surprised to find myself three hundredths shy of pole. I made a terrible start in race one but caught up to Trevor (Bland) and Charl (Smalberger). I put my head down to try and catch Brad and Keagan but there wasn’t enough race mileage left. In race two, Iain (Stevenson) spun across my bows. The incident with Brad brought out the safety car. The GTC cars were amongst the GTC2 cars and one of them pushed me wide and I lost a position to Charl”.
The Signature Motorsport MINI John Cooper Works will be in action again on 9th September at Killarney Raceway in Cape Town.