Things are revving up for the start of the long-delayed Global Touring Cars (GTC) series to get under way, the first race this weekend at the Red Star Raceway near Delmas.
This will also be the first outing for the Volkswagen Golf 8 GTI race car and the locally built Golf GTC is the first Golf 8 race car anywhere in the world to take part in a national championship.
“We have tested the car extensively over the past few months and we are confident the hard work that went into the initial design and building phases as well as the setup of the car during testing sessions since, will pay off when the lights turn green in Delmas,” said Mike Rowe, head of Volkswagen Motorsport South Africa.
“The car already competed in an endurance race during August in Port Elizabeth but only as part of a shakedown and its development process, so Round 1 of the GTC series at Red Star will be the official debut for the new Golf 8 and the first real opportunity to weigh it up against its direct competitors from the other rival manufacturers.”
The squad from Uitenhage is defending GTC Manufacturer’s champions while young driver Keagan Masters is the defending Driver’s champion. The team also retains the services of the equally-fast Daniel Rowe who helped them to the title in 2020.
“Daniel and I work very well together,” commented Masters. “We continue to learn from each other and it makes us both more competitive as a result.”
Rowe shared his sentiment: “It’s a pleasure to be a part of this team and both Keagan and I can’t wait to finally race the beautiful Golf 8 GTI against our competitors. Our goal will be to claim the top steps of the podium, but we’ll have to wait and see in what order.”
During August, the brand new Supa Cup class was cause for much excitement during the first race post the initial lockdown. The class was created to become the support category for the GTC series, and with no less than 10 cars expected to be on the grid at Red Star, the Supa Cup is already proving to be a huge success.
It also contains the two most recent champions from the competitive Volkswagen Polo Cup Bradley Liebenberg and Jeffrey Kruger, as well as Volkswagen Motorsport’s own young gun Jonathan Mogotsi. This trio put up a spectacular fight at Zwartkops last month with Kruger and Liebenberg claiming a win a piece with Mogotsi hot on their heels on each occasion and there is every reason to believe that this fight will once again provide most of the fireworks on the day.
The Red Star Raceway is the venue where the championship ended last season – and also the location of Toyota Gazoo Racing SA’s Michael van Rooyen’s first GTC victory.
“Red Star hosted an amazing race weekend at the end of last year,” says Van Rooyen. “I was in contention for the title, but it slipped away at the last moment, despite bagging my first race win in the GTC Toyota Corolla.”
During the ensuing months, Van Rooyen has prepared an all-new version of the GTC Corolla, which now sports the latest body shape, as well as plenty of refinements under the skin. The new car was put through its paces during numerous test sessions, and also took part in an endurance race in Port Elizabeth, in preparation for its GTC debut.
“We’re looking forward to measuring our performance against the competition this weekend,” says Van Rooyen. “There are a number of new cars in the field, and it is always exciting to see how everyone measures up. We are confident that our new car will be competitive from the start.”
As with many sporting leagues, the GTC was put on hold as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This weekend’s race meeting will see the GTC machines take on three heats on Saturday.
To add to the excitement, Toyota Gazoo Racing SA’s Mandla Mdakane will also make his debut for the team, fielding a version of the GTC Toyota Corolla. The highly experienced Mdakane will be looking to make a positive impression during his first outing with the team, and has been champing at the bit during the extended off-season.
“Of course, nobody knew that it would be the end of September before we could go racing again,” says Mdakane. “But now the time has come, and I cannot wait to strap into the Toyota Gazoo Racing SA car for my first race with the team.”
This weekend’s race meeting will start with a number of practice sessions on Friday, September 25th. Qualifying for the first race will take place on Saturday morning, with three race heats following during the day. Fans are not permitted in the Red Star Raceway facility due to restrictions imposed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.