The Sasol GTC Championship enters its crucial final third of the season and with just six races remaining, the title chase is delicately poised between the defending champion Michael Stephen (Engen Audi GTC) and Gennaro Bonafede (Sasol BMW GTC), separated by 51 points at the top of the leaderboard.
With 11 wins between them, seven for Stephen and four for Bonafede, the gloves will be off when the two title contenders square off on Saturday, 9th September at Killarney. Bonafede led the title race since round one until the last race in August when he was pushed off the track by a rival racer which compromised his log standing. Bonafede’s demise has allowed Simon Moss in the second Engen Audi GTC into the championship chase with a 46 point deficit to Bonafede. Moss would have been even closer had it not been for a race-ending accident .at the last race held at Zwartkops. Moss has been knocking on the door of a first win which could happen at any time given a clean run, although he may be called upon to help his team-mate in the title chase.
The Killarney favourite, Johan Fourie (EPS Couriers BMW GTC) is in fourth place on the log, thanks to six podiums and two fastest race laps, an indication of the former champion’s speed. His hometown fans should will him to a maiden victory, adding to the title tension.
The leading Volkswagen Jetta GTC driver, Matthew Hodges is 43 points behind Fourie in fifth place, boosted by his podium finish at Zwartkops last month. Hodges is a GTC race winner (East London 2016) and is overdue another victory. The only other driver to stand on the top step of the podium this season has been Robert Wolk in the second Sasol GTC racer, now in sixth place on the points log. A torrid outing at Zwartkops has strengthened his resolve to lead once more and prove he has mastered tin-top racing. He will also be required to take points away from Bonafede’s rivals as the title chase reaches a boiling point in the next few months.
Daniel Rowe (Volkswagen Jetta GTC) is a scant three points behind Wolk and with his fastest lap at Zwartkops under his belt should be fired up to pounce in Cape Town. Michael van Rooyen (RSC BMW GTC) has had several competitive outings at recent races and is looking for a podium or two before the year is out.
The championship for two-litre front wheel drive turbo cars is almost a foregone conclusion with Keagan Masters enjoying a substantial lead of 145 points. Masters will miss the Cape Town races due to other commitments
Masters’ closest challenger is Trevor Bland (TB Racing VW Golf GTi) who has yet to win a round of the GTC2 series. Consistency has been Bland’s forte, racing to eight podium places so far. The fight for the championship runner-up place is a close fought affair, with Charl Smalberger (iCorp VW Golf GTi) just 34 points off the coveted place, having been awarded the race two victory last time out.
Seven points further back in fourth place is the Champion MINI John Cooper Works team driver, Chris Shorter who has enjoyed a strong run of late, including his maiden victory at Port Elizabeth, along with three strong podium results.
22 points behind is the second MINI, in Ferodo colours, driven by Brad Liebenberg. A strong mid-season saw the MINI driver take three wins, but a slump in form has seen the karting champion slip down the order to fifth. Another driver to find his early season form is sixth placed Mandla Mdakane in the second factory VW Golf GTi. A winner at Kyalami, Mdakane has a single podium to his name since.
Iain Stevenson (Comsol VW Golf GTi) has put in some solid performances over the year and has edged closer to the leading pace, while local racer Dayne Angel (Angel Autohaus Honda Civic Type R) is lacking a few performance parts to get up to class-winning pace.
The Sasol GTC Championship will feature an opening ten lap race while the inverted grid spectacle runs over 15 laps. The popular fan grid walk at 12h30 is also part of the Sasol GTC experience and will take place before the first race.
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Pictures: David Ledbitter