The major national motor racing championship series are about to switch into high gear with the first round of the GTC Championship taking place at Killarney International Raceway in Cape Town on March 20.
It will see a head-to-head fight throughout the season between the Toyota and Volkswagen works teams with Corolla versus Golf.
“Motor sport plays a key role in our marketing strategy,” says Toyota South Africa Motors Vice President: Marketing, Glenn Crompton. “Our approach for the 2021 season allows us to showcase not only our tough and reliable Class FIA Hilux, but also the Toyota Corolla on the track.”
The 2021 GTC season promises to pick up where things ended in 2019 – with Michael van Rooyen in a tight battle for the title.
As it happened, Van Rooyen narrowly missed out on his first GTC championship during the last race of the season. The Rustenburg Rocket, as he is also known, will be aiming to rectify that during the 2021 season.
“We’ve done a lot of work to our Corolla during the off-season, and we’re excited to see how we measure up to the competition this year,” says Van Rooyen. “Our first race will be at Killarney later this month, and we hope for a strong start to the season.”
Van Rooyen will again be partnered by Mandla Mdakane, in a second Toyota Corolla. Mdakane showed promising pace during the limited races he took part in during 2020, but issues with misfires hampered his progress. The experienced track racer will be looking to get his teeth into the championship this year.
Volkswagen will also once again field its 2016 Driver Search winner, Jonathan Mogotsi, as the official Volkswagen Motorsport factory driver in this series. Mogotsi has shown his pace and will be considered a title contender against some of the stiffest competition on offer.
For Volkswagen as a motor manufacturer and a leading one when it comes to the South African passenger car market, 2021 will be all about the arrival of the new sporty Golf 8 GTI. As a result, Volkswagen Motorsport is perfectly positioned to align itself with Volkswagen’s overall marketing strategy surrounding the new Golf 8 GTI, thanks to the two new Golf GTI racecars that were built in 2020.
To coincide with the launch of the new Golf and its relevant marketing activities, the racing Golfs will be utilised at a number of races such as a selected few rounds of the South African Endurance Series as well as other prestigious motoring events like the Knysna Hillclimb
“The car will come up against very stiff opposition and fast cars on both accounts, providing us with a great opportunity to showcase its technology and reliability. Between all of these different motorsport programmes, we are happy that Volkswagen can continue to support and even expand our motorsport involvement. And that is exactly what the sport currently needs,” says Mike Rowe, head of Volkswagen Motorsport
The Volkswagen Polo Cup is renowned for its ability to unearth and nurture young talent with many of its former participants and champions going on to achieve huge success in various other racing series and a few more already reaching the very top on the international stage.
2021 should be no different as the entry list contains a good mix of experienced drivers as well as a few new names that have now made the switch to the successful tin top series. Some of the established names that will surely be title contenders include Keegan Campos as well as former race winner Jurie Swart. JP van der Walt has shown race winning pace during 2020 and KZN-based Clinton Bezuidenhout narrowly missed out on the 2020 title and will have every intention to go one better in 2021.
All eyes will be also on youngsters Jayden Els and Leyton Fourie. Both are former karting champions and both have bright futures, especially Fourie who became the youngest driver ever to win a Polo Cup Race when he did so in 2020.
Add to this list the talents of Baksi Komane and his teammate Nathi Msimanga, as well as karting sensation Kwanda Mokoena who will all enter their second year in the series, and it becomes very clear that the series once again will see very stiff competition. And that’s still before you add the newcomers to the mix.
This list contains the likes of lady driver Lonika Maartens and Cape Town karters Charl Visser, Jason Coetzee and Tate Bishop.
“It’s fantastic to see how this racing series can continue to attract so many young and talented drivers, and that after 25 years. It’s equally good to know that we have partners who also continue to support the series, such as Dunlop who will expand their involvement during 2021,” says Rowe.
For the new season, all Polo GTI’s will be shod with Dunlop’s Direzza DZ03G semi-slick racing tyres.
“The Dunlop brand is honoured to be a part of this prestigious series and we are looking forward to the exciting driver line-up and close racing that the Volkswagen Polo Cup always delivers,” said Shailesh Singh, Manager: Channel Development (Inland) and Motorsport.
The NRC will see defending champions Guy Botterill and Simon Vacy-Lyle return to action, this time behind the wheel of a locally built Class R4N Toyota Starlet. The pair will also compete in several rounds of the African Rally Championship (ARC).
“The decision to build our own car is quite a big one,” explains Botterill, “but in an effort to bring the costs down, not only for us but also other teams who might want to enter into the new, competitive Class R4, we felt that it was imperative to come up with a local solution, rather than relying on cars bought from abroad.”
The new car will be based on the Class R4 regulations from the World Rally Championship. However, certain components will be replaced with local units in order to keep the costs down, and as such the locally produced versions will be known as Class R4N cars, with the ‘N’ indicating that the cars conform to the South African national specifications.
“We are not entirely sure when the new car will be ready for competition,” says Botterill. “There’s still a mass of work to be done, but we are excited to enter a completely new, locally-built, car in the championship. In the meantime, we will compete in various cars in order to accommodate both our local and international schedule.”
This year’s NRC will consist of 12 rounds, with each race weekend hosting two rounds of the championship. This will allow competitors to score points on each day separately, giving them the opportunity to remain competitive even if they have to withdraw on one of the days of the race weekend.
Rounds 1 & 2 are in Delmas, with Rounds 3 & 4 following on the weekend of 21-22 May, at a venue that is still to be announced. Rounds 5 & 6 follow in Port Elizabeth on 16-17 July; with Rounds 7 & 8 taking place on 3-4 September in the Mpumalanga town of Secunda. Next up is Rounds 9-10 on 8-9 October, though the venue has not been finalised yet; before the season draws to a close on 5-6 November in Dullstroom, Mpumalanga.
With that said, Guy Botterill will be in action at the Barberspan 300 this weekend, behind the wheel of the Class FIA Toyota Hilux. This will be Botterill’s first outing in the cross-country Hilux, and he will have Brett Cummings in the car, reading the notes.
“We’ve decided to give Guy the opportunity to experience the Hilux in race conditions, since Henk Lategan’s shoulder isn’t fully healed yet after he underwent surgery to make repairs after his crash at Dakar earlier this year,” says Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Team Principal, Glyn Hall. “Guy has been keen on cross-country racing for some time now, and with Lategan side-lined for the next few weeks, he was the obvious choice to do stand-in duty in the Hilux.”
This weekend’s Barbersban 300, part of the Northern Regions Championship, will offer Botterill the chance to get to grips with the Hilux, but also to familiarise himself with the race format, which is similar to that of the Mpumalanga 400, Round 1 of the SACCS, where he will also be fielding the Hilux.
“Overall, we are looking forward tremendously to the 2021 motorsport season,” concludes Crompton. “The three different disciplines offer us the opportunity to demonstrate the reliability of all our products, and we will be aiming to continue our winning ways on racetracks, rally stages and the tough cross-country routes that play a key role in the development of our Dakar Hilux.”
Toyota Gazoo Racing SA will again be fielding a three-car team for the 2021 SACCS season. The team will be spear-headed by double defending champions Henk Lategan and navigator Brett Cummings, though Lategan will sit out the opening round of the championship while he recovers from shoulder surgery.
Dakar stalwart and multiple former champion Giniel de Villiers will again be in action, this time with Dennis Murphy beside him in the Hilux. Murphy, himself a multiple national champion, is no stranger to the hotseat in De Villiers’ car, having previously navigated for him in the SACCS. The pair will be looking to capitalise on Lategan missing the opening round, and is sure to push hard throughout the season.
With Murphy moving into the car with De Villiers, there is a vacant seat next to Shameer Variawa in the third Toyota Hilux. The businessman, who successfully completed the 2021 Dakar Rally with Murphy, will have to contend with a new navigator for the SACCS, but an announcement in this regard will be made in due course.
The first race of the 2021 SACCS is the Mpumalanga 400, which takes place in the area around the town of Dullstroom on the weekend of 26-27 March. Next up is a visit to KwazuluNatal for the Sugarbelt 400 on 21-22 May; before the Toyota 1,000 Desert Race on 18-20 June, which will take place in the area around Upington for the first time.
Rounds 4 and 5 will be run consecutively on 13 and 14 August as the Vryburg 400 in the North West Province; with the Nampo 400 set for 1-2 October, in the Free State. The final round for the 2021 season will be the Parys 400, which is scheduled to take place on 13 November, again following a single day format, similar to that of the 2020 race.
“The SACCS remains a key component in our continued development of the Dakar Toyota Hilux,” explains Hall. “With some exciting rule changes on the horizon, our local series may again prove pivotal when we take on the very best drivers and cars globally at the Dakar Rally.”