Following a very dramatic opening round at Kyalami, the Sasol GTC circus heads to Killarney International Raceway in Cape Town this weekend for round two – hoping it will be a less bruising encounter.
The Sasol GTC Racing Team workshop has been a hive of activity as the team prepares to defend and grow championship leader, Gennaro Bonafede’s points gap.
Bonafede, behind the wheel of his BMW GTC racing car has a five point lead over Simon Moss (Audi) after the opening race where he claimed one victory and a second place finish.
“I expect the other guys, especially Michael Stephen, to come back strongly,” Bonafede predicts. “I had tremendous pace at Kyalami, so I am confident of a good performance as I have traditionally done well at Killarney.
“I claimed my first GTC victory and started last season with a double win, which makes Killarney a special race track for me. Given the new power we have, it will be like driving on a new track. The fast back straight will be ‘hair raising moment’ as we are likely to top 250 km/h before hitting the bumpy braking zone into Cape Town Corner.
“Cape Town race fans can look forward to some great racing and I hope to be right at the front of it. I doubt it will be a two-horse race as the Volkswagen team has benefitted from significant improvements and will be fielding two highly competitive race cars. Johan Fourie is always a threat at his home track, so I expect any us to be racing for podium honours. The front of the grid is going to be a very busy place!”
Robert Wolk will have his work cut out for him after his Sasol GTC racing car required a complete rebuild after Kyalami, following a massive accident that saw the driver experience in excess of 4G.
“It was a big one,” admitted Wolk, who walked away unharmed. “The team has worked day and night to rebuild my car. I am really looking forward to a competitive car which will give me the edge to challenge for the lead as I did at round one. I enjoy racing at Killarney in front of a large crowd of enthusiastic motorsport fans and hope to put on a good show for them.”
Volkswagen Motorsport heads to Killarney confident the learnings from Kyalami and the hours of subsequent preparation will ensure that both the Jetta GTC’s and the Golf GTI GTC2’s are race ready for a competitive outing at the famous Western Cape track.
The opening round of the series at Kyalami last month demonstrated the raw speed inherent in Mathew Hodges and Daniel Rowe’s Jettas as Hodges raced to a superb second place in the first race while Rowe clawed his way back from the tail of the field after being knocked into a spin by a rival.
The Volkswagen Golf GTi duo also set the timesheets alight when the current GTC2 champion Keagan Masters drove into the distance while newcomer Adrian Wood showed strong race performance.
Hodges feels he has one of the best cars in the field and is excited to be challenging for wins at the front of the field.
“I think we opened quite a few people’s eyes at Kyalami with our pace. I expect to be as fast in Cape Town as I was at Kyalami although Killarney poses its own challenges with several fast sweeps and big braking zones. The track is quite bumpy so the team and I will work on our set-up to suit the circuit’s unique characteristics. Qualifying is a game-changer in terms of how your day progresses so that’s another key area we will be focusing on”.
Rowe is really excited to race the new specification Jetta GTC at one of his favourite tracks: “I reckon we could nudge the 250 km/h mark down the back straight which will be quite interesting. Over the years I have learned how to avoid the worst of the bumps, especially under braking for Cape Town corner. My confidence is high after experiencing how competitive our car is and while everyone is out to win – myself included – I am hoping for a weekend where we are racing at the front and a pair of podium finishes would be the cherry on top”.
Keagan Masters ably demonstrated why he is the GTC2 champion after a polished drive at Kyalami and relishes the prospect of continuing his form at the tricky Cape Town track where he estimates the new slick tyres will shave around 1,5 seconds off his lap times.
“It will be like going to a new track”, Masters says. “The extreme grip from the tyres means I can carry more speed into the corners and get on the power earlier. The key will be finding a comfortable set-up during free practice and then maximising my car’s performance. Although Killarney is not my favourite track, I am excited to be racing there with a clear goal of taking at least one win to get back to the top of the leader board.”
Signature Motorsport is brimful of confidence and the season got off to a great start for the Ferodo-backed MINI John Cooper Works after Brad Liebenberg took a win and second place at Kyalami last month.
Although not blessed with the best of luck at Killarney, Brad rates the circuit as his favourite in the country.
“Killarney has a great mix of very fast and technical sections which really brings out a driver’s skill,” says Brad. “The Cape Town crowd is usually the biggest we have anywhere in the country and the MINI team resonates with them; we enjoy great fan support.”
Devin Robertson’s debut in the Champion MINI John Cooper Works did not go quite as planned at Kyalami after technical difficulties but he says: “Killarney has been good to me in the past and I have many fond memories of racing there. The circuit demands a high level of commitment and I know winning won’t be easy but I will give my best as ever and hope the fans enjoy the racing.”