Reigning Sasol GTC Champion Michael Stephen took another step closer towards retaining his crown after powering to a race two victory at round eight of the 2017 season at Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit extending his points lead over fellow title contender Gennaro Bonafede.
After placing third in race one, it was the second race in which Stephen took his Engen Audi GTC to victory – his eighth race win of the season – while season-long rival Bonafede (Sasol BMW GTC), came home in fourth place in race one, and fifth in race two despite dominating the final 12-lap race until midway when mechanical issues dropped him down the order.
Stephen has a substantial 86 point lead with 111 points available at the last round in late November, leaving Bonafede with a slim mathematical chance of lifting the coveted title.
In the front-wheel drive GTC2 class, Keagan Masters claimed the title after a dominant race-one victory in his factory Volkswagen Golf GTi.
However, the Sasol GTC Championship headlines at Kyalami belonged to Johan Fourie who qualified his EPS Couriers BMW GTC on pole position with an impressive 0.5 second advantage over the pack.
The Capetonian went on to win his maiden Sasol GTC race in race one, chased hard by an invigorated Mathew Hodges (Volkswagen Jetta GTC), with champion-elect Stephen rounding out the podium.
Hodges made a valiant but unsuccessful attempt to pass Fourie around the outside of the Bowl corner, a move which allowed Stephen and Bonafede to close up to the lead fight as the race wound down. Simon Moss, in the #38 Engen Audi, overcame a difficult qualifying session to end fifth, followed by Robert Wolk (Sasol BMW GTC), Michael van Rooyen (RCS BMW GTC) and Daniel Rowe in the second factory-run Jetta GTC.
The second race, from an inverted grid, saw the field pour into turn one four abreast with a little bumping between Wolk and Stephen, leaving Moss ahead of Rowe, Bonafede and Van Rooyen. Bonafede surged past the Audi on lap five and opened up a five second lead when his car’s engine suddenly cut out.
Moss meanwhile let his team leader past but was unaware of Hodges’ presence close behind and lost two places before suffering an issue that saw his car go into limp mode several times. The BMWs of Van Rooyen, Wolk and Fourie were all similarly affected by a mysterious cut–out, leaving the way for Daniel Rowe to pick up the final podium place.
In GTC2, Chris Shorter brought his Champion MINI John Cooper Works home in second place behind Masters in the first race, with teammate Brad Liebenberg rounding out the podium in his Ferodo MINI John Cooper Works.
In the second GTC 2 race, Liebenberg streaked into a healthy lead until the final lap, allowing Trevor Bland (TB Racing Golf GTi) to sneak a last gasp win with Shorter rounding out the podium in his MINI.
The final round of the Sasol GTC Championship takes place at Zwartkops Raceway in Pretoria on November 25.
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Pictues: David Ledbitter