- Pretoria's Zwartkops International Raceway plays host to final GTC battle of 2017
- Torrential rain causes most challenging conditions of the entire season
- Volkswagen's Mathew Hodges and Daniel Rowe successfully complete first full season of SA's premier circuit racing formula
- GTC 2 champion Keagan Masters claims another victory to bring dream season to a close
The Zwartkops International Raceway to the west of Pretoria played host to the final battle of the first full season of the Sasol GTC Series. The Volkswagen Motorsport squad of Mathew Hodges and Daniel Rowe came into the last round with their tails up following an overall victory at the penultimate round earlier in November. "Motorsport is a tough place to be in, and the 2017 season proved to be exactly that," commented Mike Rowe, head of Volkswagen Motorsport before the start of the weekend. "But our Jettas are in form following victory at Kyalami earlier, so we had every intention to end the season on a high."
The heavens opened shortly before the start of race 1, turning the familiar tarmac of Zwartkops into an ice rink. Daniel Rowe started the very wet race from the front row of the grid after setting the second fastest time in Friday's qualifying session, but the Eastern Cape driver quickly realised that the conditions were far from ideal. "It was extremely slippery out there with almost no grip at all. It was a real battle to keep it on the black stuff so my intention was simply to bring it to the finish," said Rowe after finishing the race. Teammate Hodges did the same and managed to squeeze his Jetta past a number of rivals to cross the finish line in 4th, only just missing out on a podium finish. "Besides battling with the grip, or lack thereof, it was also very difficult to see as the windscreens were misting up," added Hodges. The spectators who braved the wet conditions were treated to top class racing with only seconds separating the entire field.
Although somewhat drier, race two provided much of the same as all the drivers once again found themselves fighting for grip through misted windscreens. The race was characterised by clean racing between the all the rivals and this time, it was Daniel Rowe who held third position for most of the race until he had no choice but to surrender his provisional podium spot. He still crossed the finish line in a fine fourth place, followed by teammate Hodges. "We are very pleased with the way our cars and drivers performed especially towards the end of the season," added Mike Rowe. "Today was an exceptionally tough challenge thanks to the weather and our drivers did exactly what we required them to do. That was to bring it home safely and bag good championship points in the process."
And speaking of championships. Volkswagen Motorsport's Keagan Masters had already claimed the GTC2 title at the previous round earlier in the month, but the youngster's winning streak was far from over. Qualifying didn't quite go according to plan, but Masters picked his way through the traffic to finish race one in a fine third position. His drive in race two however will be remembered for all the right reasons. Starting third from last on the reverse-order grid, Masters had everything to do. He set off in his quest and picked his rivals off one by one until finally taking over the lead and crossing the finish line in first. It was a fitting finale to a season that he and his Golf GTi dominated. "We have won many races during the year, but to end it in this fashion was simply the cherry on top," commented the young man afterwards.
After 9 events that spanned 9 months and covered the length and width of South Africa, the 2017 racing season is now finally over. "As a team, we've achieved our objectives this year," added Mike Rowe. "We've cemented ourselves as tough competitors in SA's premier circuit racing series, and our young drivers have done us proud in the GTC2 category as well. Everyone will have a little break over the Festive Season, but we will already be setting our sights on an even better 2018."