SA Touring Cars

GTC heads to Gqeberha with title battles wide open

Michael van Rooyen and Brad Liebenberg both hold a slender lead in the respective GTC Championship and GTC SupaCup as the field heads to Aldo Scribante Racetrack in the Gqeberha (formerly Port Elizabeth) for Round 3 this coming weekend (May 28-29).

This will be the first venue on the 2021 calendar where both the GTC SupaCup as well as the new generation of GTC Championship cars have competed previously.

GTC Championship battle on a knife-edge

Michael van Rooyen (Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa Corolla) accumulated 65 points this season and thus far has taken both the Race 1 wins for the first two events. One point adrift is Robert Wolk (Chemical Logistics Toyota Corolla) who, unlike Van Rooyen, is yet to pick up his first win for the season. He does hold the upper hand heading into the coastal circuit as the only current driver to have won at Aldo Scribante to date. The circuit is where he took his first of four career wins back in 2017 while he is also the most recent winner.

Julian van der Watt (Euro Performance Ford Focus) made his GTC Championship debut in Gqberha in 2020 on a weekend that also saw him collecting his first podium. He has 55 points to his name, leading the newest race winner Scott Temple (Chemical Logistics Toyota Corolla) by two points. Both drivers have taken a single victory thus far in 2021 in the reverse-grid races. With Van der Watt and Temple alternating seats in 2020, this will be Temple’s first outing at Aldo Scribante Racetrack.

Fifth-placed Mandla Mdakane (Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa Corolla) has accumulated 49 points thus far with two podium finishes to his name. After taking a career-best finish of runner-up to Temple at Zwartkops Raceway, he will be eager to take the final step to the top of the podium. Lee Thompson (Universal Racing BMW 2 GTC). The team has been working on substantial improvements to Thompson’s car in the break between rounds, with the aim being to add to his solitary podium finish from the season opener. Like Temple, this will be Thompson’s first GTC Championship outing at Aldo Scribante Racetrack. But while Temple has competed at the circuit in recent years in the Investchem Formula 1600 category, Thompson’s last appearance in Gqberha was in the 2014 South African Production Car Championship.

Only 21 points separate these six drivers after two rounds.

Slight advantage for Liebenberg in the GTC SupaCup

Brad Liebenberg (Sparco / Nathan’s Motorsport) has accumulated 74 points from the two opening rounds and holds an eight-point lead over Jeffrey Kruger (Universal Racing) in the all-Volkswagen SupaPolo class. While Liebenberg remains the only driver to have finished every GTC SupaCup race to date on the podium, Round 2 marked the first weekend that he did not take at least one victory. History does favour him at Aldo Scribante Racetrack though, having won all three of 2020’s GTC SupaCup races in the penultimate round. Kruger is however the driver heading into Round 3 with current form in his favour. At Zwartkops Raceway, he took the Dunlop Pole Position, a victory and a fastest lap while narrowly missing out on two wins for the day.

Jonathan Mogotsi (Volkswagen Motorsport South Africa) has 56 points will be more eager than ever to take his maiden victory after dropping out of the lead at Zwartkops Raceway due to mechanical issues. Gqeberha is the home of Volkswagen South Africa and as the brand’s sole representative in the class, it will mean a lot to him to take his maiden GTC SupaCup at the same venue where he took his first national win four years prior in the Polo Cup. Saood Variawa (SV Safaris / Varia / Mariner) sits on 48 points and will be eager to build on his record of consistency that sees him occupying fourth place on the points table in his maiden season, making him the highest-ranked rookie to date. Jason Campos (Turn 1 Insurance Campos Racing) is four points adrift and will be aiming to add another win after his maiden victory in Round 2. In 2020, he missed the Gqberha round while Rui Campos substituted for him. Mikael Pitamber (Toys R Us / Creative Ink Media) did participate at the circuit in 2020 in an older-specification MINI.

Andre Bezuidenhout (Motul Team Perfect Circle) with 28 points has also been consistent and heads up the unofficial GTC SupaCup Masters field. He is expected to face fierce competition from Nick Davidson (Stu Davidson & Sons) who resides in Gqeberha and who has also race his Volkswagen SupaPolo in regional events at the circuit. Currently, Davidson has 10 points to his name, leading fellow series debutant Dawie Joubert (Wild Rose Gin Rembrandt Racing) by one point.

Johan de Bruyn (OdorCure) and Shaun Duminy (SMD Exotics) are tied on six points. After a difficult second round, De Bruyn will be eager to record two strong results. Duminy missed the season opener and had a bittersweet outing at Zwartkops, with all his points coming from his Race 1 finish before retiring in Race 2. Manogh Maharaj (SMD Exotics) will also be hungry to add to his tally of five points after not collecting a single point in Round 2. Paul Hill (Kalex Racing) is yet to open his account for 2021 with only one race-start thus far.

Weekend programme and broadcast

Friday will see three practice sessions before the field heads out for Saturday morning’s qualifying sessions. Saturday will see two races, the first one scheduled to start at 10:55 (a 10 lap sprint race) while  Race 2 will see a return to the 30 Minutes Plus-One-Lap format introduced at the season opener (scheduled to start at 14:00).

The prohibition of in-person attendance of spectators at sporting events remains in place under the extended National State of Disaster. The event will be streamed via Facebook and YouTube with more details to follow on the weekend.

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