Kyalami, South Africa – The Sasol GTC Racing Team emerged from a challenging day at the Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit with Gennaro Bonafede’s title challenge severely dented and only a mathematical chance of lifting the coveted crown at the final round in late November.
Bonafede qualified his Sasol racing car in third place on Friday afternoon, a slender 0.047 seconds behind his title rival Michael Stephen (Audi GTC). Teammate Robert Wolk, in the #41 BMW GTC racing car lined up in fifth place on the grid, encountering some discomfort from a recent foot operation.
In the first of two races on Saturday, Bonafede struggled over with his race pace over the opening three laps before the grip levels stabilized. By this time, he had lost a position to Mathew Hodges (VW Jetta GTC). As the race wore on, the BMW’s pace picked up dramatically and he caught the lead battle before the race ran its course.
The team made several set-up changes to Wolk’s car before the first race, leaving the driver with a sweeter handling racing car with more consistent behaviour. He raced to sixth place at the flag.
Race two saw Bonafede and Wolk start mid-pack and ran with their rivals, four abreast into the first corner. Bonafede made an incredible start to emerge in third spot before passing Daniel Rowe (VW Jetta GTC) on the opening lap. He set off after the race leader Simon Moss (Audi GTC) and took the lead at the start of lap five.
Over the next few laps, Bonafede powered into a five second lead when his car’s engine suddenly died. He coasted to a stop and re-set the ICU which allowed him to reach the pits. Once running, Bonafede set the fastest race lap en route to 10th overall.
Wolk was also embroiled in the first corner fracas and bumped Michael Stephen, so had to back off the power; the entire field swept past Wolk in an instant. As he picked up the pieces of his race, the car cut out on lap seven and his race was run.
Team manager Vic Maharaj said: “I should be upset but we led the race, executed our plan and pulled out a lead at a rate of half a second per lap. The racing gods were not with us this weekend. In race one, Gennaro and Michael were very evenly matched. Overall it was not the result we wanted or needed. We have one last chance at Zwartkops”.
“The team made a small set-up change for race one which made the first three laps challenging”< Bonafede related. “I lost a place to Mathew (Hodges) but as the race went on I caught the leading trio but ran out of laps. In the second race, I made a demon start and slipped up the inside into third place. After that I hunted down Moss and took him on lap five. I had a five second lead when the engine cut out”.
“I made a few changes that made my car more consistent and less nervous. I really didn’t have the outright pace to challenge today”, said Wolk at the post-race interview. “In the second race, when I bumped Michael I had to back out of it and I got swamped”.
Bonafede needs to overcome an 86 point deficit at the final round of the Sasol GTC Championship on 25th November, when the title will be settled.
Join the conversation on social media using #SasolGTC and visit www.sasolmotorsport.co.za for the latest Sasol GTC Championship news, broadcast schedules and so much more