Review: Sasol GTC2 Championship – Zwartkops, 25 November
Chris Shorter raced his Champion MINI John Cooper Works to his second victory of the year at a rain-drenched Zwartkops Raceway on Saturday, which was enough to seal second place in the GTC2 Championship, a fantastic result for the Signature Motorsport MINI John Cooper Works team who, at the start of the year, had hoped to win a few races in their first season of competition.
Brad Liebenberg raced his Ferodo MINI John Cooper Works to second place in the opening race after leading the ten lap race and with another second place in race two – from seventh place on the reversed grid - secured fourth place in the final championship standings.
The Friday free practice sessions didn’t go as planned on old tyres but it was an easy fix for the experienced Signature Motorsport Team as qualifying approached. Chris raced to fourth on the grid with Brad in sixth. “Our practice session performance was an easy fix for qualifying but the rain threw a spanner in the works”, Brad said
Come race day and persistent heavy rain, Chris spent the first laps trying to find the best lines that offered sufficient grip to stay on the track, being the first time he raced his Champion MINI in wet conditions. He quickly made his way through the pack and was racing in second place behind Brad who made way for Chris to take the victory and seal the sought-after second place on the log.
In race two, Chris started at the back of the field alongside Brad as the grid is inverted from race one results. Chris made a great start and passed most of his rivals around the outside of turn two but got stuck behind Trevor Bland (Golf) for a few laps; once passed, in a bold move around the outside of the very fast turn four, Chris was pushed wide by Mandla Mdakane in turn five as three cars went through the corner side-by-side but he hung on to third place.
Brad’s racing experience paid off as he tried different lines seeking out maximum grip on the soaked track. In turn two on the opening lap, he saw a gap “just big enough for a MINI to fit into” and passed Keagan Master’s Golf exiting the corner. He was quickly up to third behind Chris and Mdakane and drove around the outside of the Golf. He made an easy passage for Chris to pass to take the maximum point that the team needed.
Brad had the bit between his teeth as race two got underway on a slippery track. The MINI’s rear tyres offered little grip but he still managed to pass three rivals on the outside of turn two in a very satisfying move for the 18-year-old driver.
As the 12-lap race wore on Keagan Masters closed up and passed Brad, who was nonetheless happy with the weekend and his eventual fourth place in the title standings.
“We went backwards in our set-up during free practice but it was an easy fix for qualifying”, said Chris. “In the morning warm-up we were on the pace. I spent the first laps of the first race trying to understand where the grip was and how the MINI works in the wet as it was my first time racing it in the wet. Once I found my confidence I picked the guys off and after a few battles, got through and took the win which was enough for the second in the championship. It is a great result for MINI and Signature Motorsport and gives us a great base to challenge for next year’s title”.
“The rain threw a spanner in the works”, said Brad. I looked around on the warm-up lap and first lap to find where the grip was and after that it was a great race. In turn two I saw a gap just big enough for a MINI. We were three abreast and I was waiting for the contact but none came so I put my head down and opened a good gap after I got past Mdakane. This is a team sport so I let Chris through to take the points he needed to secure second in the championship.
Race two was fun. I took three guys around the outside of turn two – the car was very good. I enjoyed the weekend and both Chris and I have grown as drivers this year”.
It has been a privilege to race for MINI this year and I can’t wait for next year’s season”.