Rob wraps up his second Global Touring Car Title

Robert Wolk took a measured but still combative approach to wrap up his second SA Global Touring Car title with a race left to run at the weekend's Extreme Festival finale on Saturday.

The action started before any of the cars even rolled out of their transporters at Zwartkops Raceway on Thursday afternoon. `A Motorsport South Africa Court of Appeal unanimously found that various penalties applied to championship leader Robert Wolk on certain transgressions earlier in the season, were draconian and he was handed back most of the points deducted by those officials.

That meant that Wolk arrived at the Pretoria racetrack even closer to a back-to-back South African Global Touring Car championship title. He needed only finish the first race to clinch the title, no matter what else went down on Saturday. His only championship threat, teenage rookie sensation Saood Variawa would need to win both races and Wolk not finish.

Qualifying saw a bit of a turn-up for the books when Michael van Rooyen put his Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Corolla on pole position from Julian van der Watt’s Chemical Logistics Ford Focus RS GTC and Bradley Liebenberg’s Hype Energy VW Golf 8 GTI. Variawa was only fourth, missing out on that vital pole position point in his Gazoo Toyota Corolla GTC. Also some way off his regular front row performance, Wolk followed in fifth in his Chemical Logistics Toyota Corolla GTC.

Andrew Rackstraw’s Investchem RDSA Audi S3 and Yaris Media Cup winner, journalist and former PlayStation Academy GT3 driver Ashley Oldfield followed, having taken over the Gazoo Toyota Corolla GTC that Mandla Mdakane had previously raced.

The opening race was dramatic. Van der Watt ended up off the track and buried in the turn 2 kitty litter to call out the safety car for a couple of laps as Wolk had to take avoiding action to dodge being impaled by his teammate van der Watt as he left the track. That left van Rooyen leading Variawa, Liebenberg, Wolk, Rackstraw and Oldfield. Liebenberg appeared in trouble as the Golf slowed and then stopped.

That left Gazoo Corolla dup van Rooyen and Variawa well ahead but Wolk’s blue Corolla chased his rivals’ similar white cars down. Variawa having to defend, as van Rooyen escaped up front. Wolk could not find a way past as van Rooyen took the win from Variawa and a delighted new double champion Wolk. Andrew Rackstraw ended up fourth from Ashley Oldfield, who impressed on his GTC debut.

Not many know that journalist and 2022 Toyota GR Yaris Cup winner Oldfield ten years ago won a Nissan PlayStation Academy prize that saw him racing a GT-R in international GT3 races. That much became apparent when he led race 2 or several laps off his reverse grid pole position under increasing pressure from Brad Liebenberg’s Golf and the rest. Ashley impressively stayed there until he made a small mistake under braking to drop back to sixth. Not bad for being thrown in the deep end.

That left Bradley Liebenberg to drive his Hype Golf to a most popular victory in the 40th Birthday GTI Extreme Festival race day from Variawa, the recovered van der Watt, champion Wolk, Rackstraw, Oldfield and race 1 winner van Rooyen. The only other drama was van Rooyen spinning from fourth as Wolk found his way past in a move that officials later declared clean enough.

Which means that teenage rookie sensation Saood Variawa took his third overall GTC win of the season from Wolk, Rackstraw, Oldfield, van Rooyen, Liebenberg, and van der Watt. The upshot of which is a Toyota Corolla Global Touring Car Championship clean sweep. Robert Wolk is the 2022 GTC champion, his second title on the trot for the Chemical Logistics team. Second from a most impressive Saood Variawa and Michael van Rooyen’s Gazoo cars. Global Touring Cars 2023 starts all over again at the 9 Hour Weekend on 25 February. See you at Kyalami!