Battleground Zwartkops

Following a thrilling outing at the Dezzi Raceway, Oslo Beach for the opening round of the Global Touring Car series, there are stern challenges ahead for all teams heading to Zwartkops Raceway, Pretoria for the second encounter of the season this weekend.

Volkswagen Motorsport had an impressive showing at the season-opening round and is aiming to continue this strong performance in both the GTC and GTC2 categories on April 6.

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Round 1 of GTC at the undulating Dezzi Raceway circuit in Port Shepstone saw Volkswagen Motorsport claim the early advantage in the Manufacturer’s championship thanks to a sterling performance from its factory drivers. After tasting victory at Zwartkops during the 2018 season, the team has its sights set on returning to the top of the podium this year.

Keagan Masters stole the show in his debut outing at Dezzi Raceway in the premier GTC series, driving the powerful Volkswagen Motorsport Jetta for the first time. Having moved up from the GTC2 championship which he dominated for the past two years, the 19-year-old scored an outstanding second-place place finish in race one followed by fourth in race two with the reverse-grid starting order. This earned him a well-deserved second overall for the opening round.

Zwartkops is effectively the home circuit for Masters, who lives in nearby Hartbeespoort, and he knows the circuit very well after winning multiple GTC2 races there in his Golf GTi in recent years. He will be hoping to continue his impressive form to consolidate his position at the sharp end of the GTC field.

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Team-mate Daniel Rowe scored a GTC win at Zwartkops last year and has a wealth of experience to count on during his third season behind the wheel of the GTC Jetta. Having enjoyed a clean and consistent opening round in which he scored two third-place finishes at Dezzi Raceway, Rowe is well placed to challenge for victory when the lights turn green.

In GTC2, the VW Golf GTi continues to be the class of the field. Volkswagen Motorsport’s Bradley Liebenberg claimed a clean sweep of the opening race, handing him the early championship lead.

Liebenberg’s biggest challenge will come from team-mate Adrian Wood in the Kyocera-branded Volkswagen Motorsport Golf GTi. Wood was second in the opening event and, with just six points separating the two drivers, both will be racing for maximum points in front of the Zwartkops crowd.

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“The first race of the season proved that we have a fantastic team and a great car this year, and our objective is to win next time out,” said Mike Rowe, head of Volkswagen Motorsport. “Daniel won at Zwartkops last year so the circuit suits the Jetta, and with two excellent and highly motivated drivers, we will be gunning for victory.

“It will be fantastic if we can wrap up the race weekend leading the manufacturer’s and driver’s championships,” Rowe added.

There will be plenty of pressure on Toyota Gazoo Racing SA’s Michael van Rooyen, when he takes to Zwartkops Raceway for Round 2 of the 2019 GTC this coming weekend. Admittedly, most of that pressure is self-imposed, but even so the man from Rustenburg is keen to put in a strong performance, especially in qualifying.

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“I’ve been quick in practice at Zwartkops in the past, but somehow always lacked performance in qualifying. That’s something I’ve worked on, and I’m focussed on getting my qualifying right for the opening race this weekend,” said Van Rooyen earlier this week.

Despite this pressure, the Toyota Gazoo Racing SA driver is excited to show the new Toyota Corolla GTC car to the fans around the car’s home base, as well as sharing the excitement with some VIP guests from Toyota SA Motors.

Van Rooyen, however, is acutely aware of how tough the Zwartkops races usually are: “The competition is always fierce here. Zwartkops is home base for most of the teams, and we’ve also had most of our GTC races here. So everyone knows the track, and finding any advantage will be a challenge.”

With that said, Van Rooyen is possibly in the best physical shape of his career, having recently finished the Cape Epic mountain bike race. As such, he will be hoping that fitness may just give him a slight edge come this weekend’s racing.

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“I had a good opening round at Dezzi Raceway for Round 1, despite the mayhem of Race 1, where a number of cars came together,” concluded Van Rooyen. “In the end I managed to bag some valuable points, and I’m looking forward to this weekend tremendously.”

Round 2 of the GTC forms part of the Extreme Festival, which takes place on Saturday, 6 April at Zwartkops. The racing starts at 8am, and will continue throughout the day, with GTC, Falken Polo Cup and a variety of other formulae taking part.

Three practice sessions are scheduled for the GTC and GTC2 drivers on Friday, April 5 at Zwartkops Raceway. Qualifying for the two classes is expected to commence at 09:30 on Saturday, April 6, followed by the popular GTC Grid Walk at 12:00, which is open to specators. The two 12-lap races are planned to start at 12:15 and 14:50, respectively.

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