GETTING UNDERWAY: SA's new racing series, the GTC, got underway earlier in August 2016. Image: Supplied
Randburg - Audi driver Michael Stephen won the inaugral inaugural round of the Global Touring Car (GTC) Championship at Zwartkops Raceway (August 8-9, 2016)
Gennaro Bonafede raced to a pair of third place finishes after qualifying his BMW 2 series racecar in third place on the grid.
Hennie Groenewald followed his team mate home in fith spot in the first race after qualifying fourth fastest, with the team electing to park the #8 car for race two after encountering technical issues.
The large public holiday crowd was treated to a pair of 14-lap races of the exciting new series, with the promised visual and aural spectacle delivered in spades with the two GTC cars spitting flames under braking, much to the approval of the appreciative crowd.
Bonafede qualified just 0.4 seconds off polesitter Michael Stephen (Audi A3), who went on to win both races. Off the line in race one, Bonafede had a slight loss of power to contend with which prevented him from challenging Stephen or Mathew Hodges (Volkswagen Jetta) ahead of him, settling on a maiden GTC podium and early championship points.
READ: SA's 368kW GTC racer revealed
Groenewald raced around the 2.4km track in fourth place, but was caught and passed by Graeme Nathan (VW Jetta) mid-race. Nathan spun, allowing Groenewald back into fourth spot, but was again caught by the VW driver. With a misfire hampering his available power, Groenewald cruised home in fifth place.
In the break between races, the team tried various solutions to resolve the electrical issue. As race time neared, Bonafede lined up third on the grid and noticed a marked improvement. He spent the race pushing hard - on the final lap, a bit too hard and spun in Turn six. Although passed by Hodges, Bonafede retained his third place as the VW headed into the pits to retire.
The team tried an all-or-nothing solution for race two, but ran out of time to complete the repair. Groenewald sat out the second race to prevent potential engine damage.
Quotes from the pitwall
Gennaro Bonafede (#32 Sasol GTC): “It wasn’t a bad day at all. There are a lot of positives to take out of the races. The car handles exceptionally well and is very consistent in all aspects. We undoubtedly have the right package. I was only 0.4 seconds away from pole with a lot more to come.
I had a small electrical issue in race two but pushed hard all the way. I dropped a wheel onto the dirt in Turn 6 on the last lap and while braking, the car swapped ends. I am happy to take 3rd overall on GTC’s debut”.
Hennie Groenewald (#08 Sasol GTC): “My car was ready later than Gennaro’s and I only did a handful of shakedown laps, which revealed a few niggles. In qualifying I had a gremlin or two and had to change gear 2000rpm lower than normal.
The team put in a huge effort to fix the problem before race two, but we ran out of time and decided not to risk damaging the engine. In my first race, Graeme caught me halfway through the race but spun, allowing me back past. He caught me again and I couldn’t do anything to defend my position. The car is amazing, the chassis simply awesome. It is going to be a great racecar”.
Vic Maharaj - team manager: “We experienced a few technical challenges that prevented further opportunities to develop the optimum performance which we couldn’t resolve at the track. We rolled the dice to try and sort out Hennie’s car in a very short timescale, but it didn’t work out. The drivers are very happy with the handling of their cars and I’m happy they came back in one piece, so now we can do some testing ahead of the next round."
The next race in the new series will be in Port Elizabeth on September 10.