SA Touring Cars

MOSS, FOURIE AND LIEBENBERG VICTORIOUS AS GTC THRILLS AT ZWARTKOPS

Allpower Audi Team’s Simon Moss held on to the 2019 GTC Championship lead after sharing race wins with BMW racer Johan Fourie at Zwartkops Raceway last weekend, while Brad Liebenberg extended his margin over the rest of the GTC2 field as he dominated the class throughout the April 5-6 race weekend in Gauteng.

Heading into Round 2 as championship leader after dominating the season opener at Dezzi Raceway, Moss set the pace during Saturday morning’s dry qualifying session to take pole position in his #38 Audi GTC, while the WCT Engineering team worked hard to resolve their technical problems on the Chemical Logistics BMW allowing Robert Wolk to take second place on the grid for the opening race. Tshops Sipuka in the second All Power Moss Racing Audi backed up his form by heading up Row 2 on the grid, followed by the Volkswagen Motorsport duo of Daniel Rowe and Keagan Masters to fill the top five in qualifying.

Despite Friday greeting the field with wet conditions for practice, Michael van Rooyen in his Gazoo Racing SA Toyota Corolla showed good pace and control on the slippery track, but during P3 in dry conditions it was Fourie who took a psychological advantage into the evening break after setting the fastest time in his EPS Courier Services BMW.

Race days’ first race saw Moss take his third consecutive win for the season while the rest of the field battled for position. Wolk again seemed to experience difficulties while gradually sliding down the pecking order. The Volkswagen Motorsport pair made a good start and rapidly moved into second and third places to round out the podium with Rowe finishing ahead of Masters. Sipuka followed up his good qualifying form by keeping Van Rooyen and Fourie at bay to finish in fourth place, while Daniel Duminy finished in seventh place in his SMD Exotics BMW ahead of Wolk.

The reverse-grid second race saw the red flag deployed on Lap 2 following two separate incidents involving Moss and Rowe and Moss and Wolk. This resulted in a full restart, but both Moss and Rowe missing from the grid. During both starts it was Fourie who took the early lead.

The sight of Fourie leading the field at Zwartkops has become a familiar one in GTC history, yet misfortune has always prevented the Cape Town based driver from converting this into a victory. This time round he dominated proceedings at the front to take home his first win of the 2019 season. Behind him a battle for second place ensued for the runner-up spot with Van Rooyen finishing ahead of Masters. This pair was closely followed over the line by Sipuka who took his second fourth-place finish for the day. Duminy recorded a career-best fifth place finish. With Moss already eliminated and Wolk experiencing problems, Rowe capitalised on the opportunity to take home some points. He joined the race from pit lane and two laps down but finished in sixth position.

The GTC2 field saw a new name and two former competitors join the grid at Zwartkops Raceway, with Delmon Mining team entering a second Ford Focus for Lee Thompson who, despite being known as one of South Africa’s top drivers and leading engineers, made his GTC2 debut behind the wheel. A back injury sustained in the week prior to the race day saw Paul Hill unable to pilot his Kalex Volkswagen Golf which provided Trevor Bland the chance to move back into the driving seat for the first time in 2019. Mandla Mdakane also made his return to the championship following a sabbatical in 2018, who during the off season acquired one of the former Signature Motorsport MINI John Cooper Works cars; preparation for Mdakane is being conducted by Fast Developments.

During practice and qualifying, Liebenberg dominated the field in his Volkswagen Motorsport Golf but it didn’t take long for Bland to settle back; taking second place on the grid for Race 1. Liebenberg’s teammate Adrian Wood in the Kyocera-liveried Volkswagen Golf experienced problems turning into the left-handed first corners but qualified in third place ahead of Charl Smalberger in the Universal Healthcare / Compcare Volkswagen Golf. Mdakane and Thompson completed the top-six.

Liebenberg took an unchallenged Race 1 victory while Bland initially lost track position to Wood, but with the latter’s problems not completely resolved he retook the position on Lap 3 to finish in second place. Wood meanwhile had his mirrors filled by Smalberger, but successfully kept him at bay to finish in third place. Further back the Delmon Mining Ford Focus pair of Thompson and Bob Neill completed the top-six. Mdakane showed good pace during the early part of the race but was forced to retire after three laps.

The initial start for Race 2 saw Wood with the early lead and upper hand over Liebenberg, but the second time around Liebenberg briskly made his way to the front to take home his fourth consecutive win in the 2019 season. Wood had the better of Bland throughout the race with the pair taking the final two podium positions. Smalberger found himself in middle of a Delmon Mining sandwich until his retirement on Lap 5. This saw Thompson and Neill finishing in fourth and fifth places respectively.

CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS:
GTC – 1. Moss (80), 2. Masters (77), 3. Rowe (73), 4. Van Rooyen (72), 5. Fourie (68), 6. Sipuka (50), 7. Wolk (46), 8. Duminy (40)
GTC2 – 1. Liebenberg (100), 2. Wood (85), 3. Neill (62), 4. Smalberger (60), 5. Bland (41), 6. Thompson (32), 7. Mdakane (10), 8. Hill (10)

Round 3 of the GTC Championship will be the first of two visits this season to Killarney International Raceway in Cape Town on May 10-11.

[Written by Reynard Gelderblom for GTC]

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