Despite a coming together with the VW Motorsport Golf of Daniel Rowe in the final heat, Simon Moss kept himself and All Power Audi at the top of the Global Touring Cars Africa Championship (GTC) with a pole position and one race win in the second round of the series at Zwartkops Raceway at the weekend.
On the Friday morning, the Audi team appeared for the first time in a new colour scheme from their title sponsor, All Power, and both black and yellow Audi S3’s were baptised with torrential rain in the opening sessions. With the possibility of rain throughout the weekend, Simon Moss and Tschops Sipuka maximised their track time without taking excessive risks.
The sun appeared on Saturday morning ahead of qualifying and, with some additional overnight work by the Audi team, it was back to business. Moss confidently took his second consecutive pole position of the season, while Sipuka surprised the field by taking a credible second row, third spot on the grid.
Moss, utilised his pole position to the max and took an instant lead when the lights turned green to build up an impressive 4,5 second lead, and his third win of the season.
The reversed grid second race always poses a challenge and risk for the leaders of the pack – in this case the Audi Team. Simon Moss, starting from the back of the field wanted to repeat his Dezzi Raceway spectacle but on the opening lap he had an encounter with Daniel Rowe (VW Motorsport), in which he damaged his GTC Audi and had to retire. Sipuka stayed clear of all the carnage and gained four positions during the 12 lap race. He scored another fourth position, giving him an equal position in the overall standings.
It was a mixed bag Volkswagen Motorsport’s Global Touring Car outfit but even so, the team left Pretoria as the overall points leader on the manufacturer’s points table while its two drivers Masters and Rowe are both within striking distance of the top spot on the driver’s table.
The team’s domination of the GTC2 category continued with a clean sweep of victories for Bradley Liebenberg.
A fourth and fifth on the grid after the early morning qualifying session for Daniel Rowe and Keagan Masters was not ideal, but the two teammates knew it was how they would finish in the two races that counted. Rowe made a great start in race one to move into third position before finally crossing the line in second. He was followed by teammate Masters who ended race one in third position.
The first lap of the second race however caused havoc throughout the field. Daniel Rowe was near the front of the field but contact between himself and the Audi sent him off the track and into the kitty litter. With Moss then crashing out of the race a few corners later, the organisers were forced to red flag the race while the cars were recovered from the circuit.
Quick thinking by the Volkswagen crew saw them sending Rowe’s Jetta out on track just in time as the race restarted to collect the valuable points that come with a race finish.
Meanwhile at the front of the field, it was Masters who closed in on the leaders. But the young man ran out of laps and crossed the finish line to claim his second third placed finish of the day.
In the GTC series, the total times for both races are added up to determine the overall winners on the day, and when the calculations were made, Masters missed out on the overall victory by one single second while Rowe’s recovery earned him the points that came with sixth overall.
“I had a good and consistent day, exactly what you need as far as the overall championship is concerned,” said Masters after the day’s racing.
Rowe on the other hand was somewhat disappointed. “We had a great first race and I had made up a lot of positions on the first lap of race two when I got taken out. Even so, I’m happy the team managed to get me back on track and I still earned valuable championship points.”
It was a weekend of mixed results for Toyota Gazoo Racing SA’s Michael van Rooyen, after setting some of the fastest times on the Friday, despite the wet weather that dampened proceedings for most of the competitors.
“I relish racing in poor weather conditions,” said Van Rooyen of the Friday sessions. “Everything just felt right, and I managed to set some really fast times.”
But then, during official qualifying, Van Rooyen experienced brake issues, and as a result he posted the seventh-fastest time on the day – 1.1s off the pace set by Audi’s Simon Moss.
“It was extremely disappointing to qualify so far down the grid,” said the Corolla driver. “Especially after such a good show during practice. The worst was that we weren’t sure where the problems lay, and couldn’t quite get it sorted for Race 1.”
Despite the short track, which traditionally offers limited passing opportunities, Van Rooyen managed to improve from 7th on the grid to 5th place by the end of the first race. And things improved markedly for Race 2.
“The reverse grid gave us the opportunity to score some points, and the Corolla certainly didn’t disappoint,” said Van Rooyen. “I started in the middle of the pack, and again moved up two positions.”
It took just two laps for the Corolla driver to go from fourth on the grid to second place, but the race was red-flagged due to a crash further back. As a result, the race was restarted, and Van Rooyen had to do it all again. The Rustenburger proved that his success earlier was no fluke, by again moving up two spots soon after the restart.
This saw the Toyota Gazoo Racing SA driver take the chequered flag in second place, securing a third place in the overall standings for the day. Privateer Johan Fourie, in the BMW M2 took the overall win; with Volkswagen’s Keagan Masters finishing the day in second place.
Round 3 of the 2019 GTC is set to take place on May 11, at Killarney in Cape Town. “We’ll make 100% certain that the brakes are suited for the Cape, and we’re hoping to score more meaningful points on the next round,” concluded Van Rooyen.