The Sasol GTC Championship enters a pivotal phase of a riveting season of entertaining touring car racing with three rounds taking place over the next six weeks. Just eight points separate the top three title contenders going into round six, the Sasol Raceday at Zwartkops Raceway in Pretoria on 18th August.
With five different race winners so far this season, predicting an outcome of the Sasol Raceday is too close to call at the tight and technical 2.4km Zwartkops circuit. With so many winners in its ranks, the front of the GTC field will be a busy place, while the country’s top racing drivers remain mindful that a race-ending incident could eliminate them from the championship chase altogether.
Leading the title chase by eight points is the current champion Michael Stephen (Engen Audi GTC) after claiming his second victory of the year at a rain-soaked Port Elizabeth last month. Stephen’s first win of the year came at Zwartkops Raceway back in May, an ominous omen for his rivals.
Level on 184 points in second place in the championship standings is Gennaro Bonafede (Sasol BMW GTC) and Simon Moss (Engen Audi GTC). Both young chargers have two victories and three other podium finishes to their credit, marking this battle as a highlight in the closely fought series.
Daniel Rowe raced his Volkswagen Motorsport Jetta GTC to three victories so far, the most recent at his home event in PE last month. Rowe also took a victory at Zwartkops in May, putting to rest the notion of a ‘home-track’ advantage for the inland-based teams. His latest win elevated him into fourth place on the championship table, six points ahead of Michael van Rooyen (RSC BMW GTC).
Van Rooyen, one of four drivers to have scored points in each race held so far, has three podiums to his name in his most successful GTC campaign to date. Johan Fourie (EPS Couriers BMW GTC), sixth on the points table, put a slow start to his season behind him with an emphatic victory in East London and followed up his new-found form with a double podium last time out.
Robert Wolk (Sasol BMW GTC) has found a racing set-up that should see him put his racing talents to good use and add to his tally of two podium results. He is targeting a move from his current seventh place on the table to fifth, a gap of nine points.
Rounding out the standings is Mathew Hodges in the second factory Volkswagen Jetta GTC. Bad luck has plagued the Boksburg driver all year; signs of a turnaround were evident in Port Elizabeth when he briefly led race two until knocked into a spin.
The race for title honours in GTC2 is no less enthralling with Keagan Masters, the current champion, leading the ‘brat pack’ race with a reduced margin of 11 points. The factory Volkswagen GTi youngster has won five races and taken a further three runner-up results. In recent races, however, the MINI John Cooper Works pair of Brad Liebenberg and Devin Robertson has taken the fight to the VW driver.
Liebenberg (Ferodo MINI JCW) has three victories and three podiums while Robertson (Champion MINI JCW) had a successful coastal campaign with two wins and two podiums in four races in June and July. The Signature Motorsport MINIs are a point apart in the standings and frenetic racing in the coming rounds between the top three is a given.
Trevor Bland (Universal Healthcare VW Golf GTi) has fallen away from the championship chase, 17 points further back in fourth place. Charl Smalberger (UniChip VW Polo GTi) has a trio of podium places this season to take fifth in the standings.
Adrian Wood (Kyocera VW Golf GTi) is two points behind Smalberger in sixth with Dayne Angel (Angel Autohaus Honda Civic Type-R), 12 points further back. Bob Neill (Delmon Mining Ford Focus ST) joined the season in May and has amassed 48 points to date.
The battle lines are drawn as the fight for the Sasol GTC Championship continues. The winners will be the spectators at Zwartkops Raceway on 18th August.