It could be a red letter day at Red Star Raceway this weekend if the red and white Toyota Gazoo Racing Corolla of Michael van Rooyen crosses the finish line in first place to secure a hard-fought 2019 Global Touring Car Championship (GTC).
Van Rooyen (Toyota Corolla) finds himself tied for second place in the series, just two points behind log leader Keagan Masters (Volkswagen). The ‘Rustenburg Rocket’ steadily moved up the leader board during the latter part of the season and is now tied with Audi’s Simon Moss on points. This means a three-way championship tussle is on the cards for this weekend’s final round, at the tricky Red Star Raceway in Delmas.
Van Rooyen, who sealed his slot in the title fight with a scintillating performance during the penultimate round, held in Cape Town last month, has a simple plan for the weekend: Stay ahead of his two rivals, in every race at Red Star.
“The formula is really quite simple,” explains Van Rooyen. “As long as I finish ahead of both Keagan [Masters] and Simon [Moss], I’ll be sitting pretty. But to do that, I really need to nail qualifying on a track that I’ve never raced on before.”
Red Star Raceway is known as a twisty, technical track, which is quite narrow in many places. As such it will make for a spectacular showdown between the three championship contenders.
“In the meantime we have gone through the Toyota Corolla with a fine-toothed comb again, checking and making sure that absolutely everything is ready for this weekend’s race,” concludes Van Rooyen.
The Volkswagen Motorsport team wrapped up the GTC2 Manufacturers title at the previous round of the Extreme Festival in Cape Town, and a key objective for the crew will be to make it a double by taking the GTC Manufacturers championship for the country’s premier circuit racing formula.
Volkswagen holds a 46-point advantage over BMW in the current standings, with Audi 89 points adrift – so the team effectively has one hand on the trophy and will be more focused than ever on taking the silverware home.
While the bragging rights of the brand are at stake, fans will also be eagerly anticipating an almighty battle between some of South Africa’s best racing drivers as they go head-to-head for ultimate glory. Volkwagen Motorsport’s Keagan Masters leads the standings on 264 points after the Killarney race weekend in September, which reaffirms the talented 19-year-old driver’s stellar performance during his debut GTC season.
However, a slender two-point margin separates Masters from Simon Moss (Audi) and Michael van Rooyen (Toyota) who are tied for second place. The top three will also come under extreme pressure from Johan Fourie (BMW) and Volkswagen Motorsport’s Daniel Rowe who are evenly matched on 247 points, and remain in contention for the overall victory.
Adding to the challenge, this will be the first time the GTC series competes at Red Star Raceway. As a tight and technical circuit designed primarily for motorcycle racing, the complexity of the layout – with numerous sweeping corners flowing into each other – ensures the drivers and race engineers will have their work cut out during Friday’s practice sessions to find the ideal set-up for Saturday’s qualifying session, as well as the two fast-paced races.
“It is really tough at the top right now, as any one of five drivers can walk away with the championship at Red Star, and it’s going to be very interesting right to the end,” says Mike Rowe, Head of Volkswagen Motorsport.
“It will be a big learning curve for all of us. Johan Fourie will be strong at Red Star Raceway as this is the circuit he chose as his test track, where we test at Zwartkops like most of the teams, so he will be the guy to beat.”
“However, we will prepare well for the last event and hopefully we can walk away with the championship.”
In GTC2, Volkswagen Motorsport has already claimed the Manufacturers crown, but it remains a two-way battle for the 2019 Drivers championship between current leader Bradley Liebenberg and second-placed Adrian Wood. A margin of 29 points separates the two Golf GTi drivers, with a maximum of 50 points up for grabs over the race weekend.
“We are close to wrapping up both Manufacturers championships, and it will be fantastic for Volkswagen if we can end the season with both Drivers championship titles,” Rowe says. “It’s going to be an exciting weekend, and we’re going to be on the edges of our seats right to the end.”