SA Touring Cars

Variawa, Van Rooyen and Campos victorious as GTC season starts at Kyalami

  • Toyota Gazoo Racing was victorious in the GTC Championship while debuting the new Toyota Corolla Hatchback.
  • Keegan Campos dominates the GTC SupaCup.
  • Josh Le Roux, Nathi Msimanga and Tate Bishop impress on debut.
  • Julian van der Watt was withdrawn from the event after being hospitalised following a practice session incident.

Round 1 of the 2023 Global Touring Cars (GTC) Championship & SupaCup, this past weekend (23-25 February) at the Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit in Midrand, saw Toyota Gazoo Racing duo Saood Variawa and Michael van Rooyen share the GTC Championship wins, while Keegan Campos took victory in both the GTC SupaCup races.

The season opener, which formed part of the support roster ahead of the Intercontinental GT Challenge Kyalami 9-Hour, also marked superb performances by all three debutants, Josh le Roux, Nathi Msimanga and Tate Bishop.

GTC Championship

The weekend to a dramatic twist on Thursday afternoon during the second practice session following a high-speed incident involving Julian van der Watt (Chemical Logistics Ford Focus RS), who ploughed into the Turn 13 barrier after a suspected mechanical failure. Van der Watt was taken to the hospital with multiple fractures. Further information will be provided in due course; however, he is confirmed stable ahead of the recovery period.

Teammate and reigning double champion Robert Wolk cheered the team up by putting his Chemical Logistics Toyota Corolla on the Dunlop Pole Position ahead of Toyota Gazoo Racing Corolla hatchback pair Saood Variawa and Michael van Rooyen. Andrew Rackstraw lined up fourth in his Sparco / RDSA VW Golf 8 GTI ahead of rookies, Polo Cup graduate Nathi Msimanga’s Toyota Gazoo Racing Corolla. Reigning Investchem F1600 champion and GTC Championship debutant Josh le Roux (Chemical Logistics Audi S3) completed the grid.

Variawa got the jump on Wolk at the start, and no matter what the latter tried, he would not find a way past Variawa, as his blue Corolla struggled with boost issues. Behind them, Van Rooyen initially held Rackstraw, Msimanga and Le Roux at bay, but Msimanga muscled his way around Rackstraw, who was experiencing gearbox trouble and dropped behind Le Roux. Rackstraw then worked around his troubles and caught and passed Le Roux in his old car to move up to fifth.

That became fourth when van Rooyen also slowed, but his Gazoo Toyota Corolla hatchback teammate was not stopping up front. Variawa added the fastest lap to his opening race win by 1.5 seconds over Wolk in the end, with a delighted Msimanga picking up third on his GTC debut. Rackstraw was fourth from Le Roux and the delayed van Rooyen well back.

If the first race was hectic, the reverse-grid second race was wild. Van Rooyen gained redemption for his horrible Friday by moving into the front from pole position, while second-placed Le Roux was swamped by Rackstraw, Msimanga, Wolk and Variawa in what was initially a tight race up front. Wolk made up a place on Msimanga, who fought back as the top five raced nose to tail, often side-by-side.

Variawa took advantage of Wolk’s attention to Msimanga to get by both of them and go after Rackstraw in second. Wolk then lined Msimanga up, and after a bit of banging and barging, the two came together at the end of the main straight. Wolk punctured a tyre and visited the pits while Msimanga limped on as Variawa started to pressure Rackstraw. That also ended in tears as Variawa bounced off the curve and banged into the side of Rackstraw’s Golf, and the two ended up stuck on the outside of Turn 3 as they struggled to fire their steeds back up.

Meanwhile, Van Rooyen held a sizeable lead over Le Roux as Variawa, Rackstraw, and Wolk re-joined to finish in that order. Variawa was later penalised for his part in the incident with Rackstraw and demoted to fourth behind the latter.

Variawa takes a provisional six-point Global Touring Car championship lead over Van Rooyen and Wolk, tied in second place. Rookie Le Roux sits a further point behind in third and one clear of Rackstraw, with Msimanga in sixth.  

The prize giving, based on accumulated race times but no reflection on the points table, saw Le Roux lift the winner’s trophy on his debut.

GTC SupaCup

Keegan Campos opened his GTC SupaCup season in perfect style when he claimed the Dunlop Pole Position in his Carello Auto Volkswagen SupaPolo. Jonathan Mogotsi (Volkswagen Motorsport) lined up alongside him on the front row ahead of the returning Brad Liebenberg (Hype Energy Drinks) and an on-form Dominic Dias (Chemi Liquid Energy). Tate Bishop was an impressive fifth on the grid in his Angri Racing car on his GTC SupaCup debut, with Tato Carello sixth in his Carello Auto SupaPolo.

Volkswagen Motorsport driver Keagan Masters was drafted into Damien Hammond’s Trinity Protection Services SupaPolo at the last minute but still qualified seventh despite having no time to set the car up to his liking. He started alongside Calvin Dias’ second Chemi Liquid Energy SupaPolo as Nathan Hammond (Trinity Protection Services), Platinum Wheels man JP dan der Walt and sole GTC SupaCup Masters’ driver Stefan Snyders (Telerex) rounded off the grid.

Campos made no mistakes in jumping onto the lead from his pole position in Friday’s first race, but Mogotsi would never let him get away. The Volkswagen Motorsport driver kept the Carello Auto man on his toes throughout to come home only 0.446 seconds adrift. Mogotsi’s efforts earned him a bonus point for the fastest lap in the race.

Behind them, Liebenberg never quite had the pace to stay with the leaders, but he certainly had enough to stave off the enthusiastic Dominic Dias and feisty rookie Bishop. However, Liebenberg and Dias were penalised for using Push-to-Pass on the opening lap, and this promoted Bishop onto the podium, with Carello slotting into fourth place. Calvin Dias, the struggling Masters, Hammond, Snyders and Van der Walt, who struggled with mechanical issues, completed the order.   

Race 2 on Saturday morning saw Liebenberg make a fantastic start to take the lead around the outside of Turn 2. However, first Calvin Dias and Nathan Hammond and then Dominic Dias and Tate Bishop made contact out of Jukskei Sweep. These incidents eliminated Calvin and Hammond from the race. Bishop kept his car out of the wall but ended up stranded in the Sunset corner gravel trap. That caused the safety car to be dispatched, and with the assistance of the marshals, he managed to escape seconds before the field approached to lap him. A frustrated Liebenberg ground to a halt, which required another lap behind the safety car to remove his stricken SupaPolo from the Support Race pit entrance.

Campos dominated when the race resumed, with Mogotsi, Dias, Carello, Masters, Snyders, Van Der Walt, and Bishop in pursuit. Dias then retired, too, leaving Bishop’s pursuit to become the highlight of the race. He came from way back to close down and pass both Snyders and Van der Walt. Masters proved a more formidable challenge as he stemmed the Bishop tide to keep the rookie in check.

Campos made it two wins for the weekend from Mogotsi, Carello, Masters, Bishop, Van der Walt and Snyders.

The prize giving, based on accumulated race times but no reflection on the points table, saw Campos crowned as the overall winner.

Next Event

Round 2 of the GTC Championship & SupaCup will see the first of two 2023 visits to Killarney International Raceway, on the western outskirts of Cape Town, on 17-18 March.

GTC Championship
GTC SupaCup

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