SA Touring Cars

Zwartkops delivers dramatic GTC weekend

  • Saood Variawa took the opening GTC Championship race win on track, but final results remain pending.
  • Michael van Rooyen took his second win of the season in Race 2.
  • Brad Liebenberg to a GTC SupaCup grand slam.
  • Karah Hill made a solid debut.

A dramatic third round of the 2023 Global Touring Cars (GTC) Championship and SupaCup played out at Zwartkops Raceway this past weekend (19-20 May).

Saood Variawa crossed the finish line first in the opening race, for which the final classification will be released later before Michael van Rooyen made it a double for the Toyota Gazoo Racing team. In GTC SupaCup, Brad Liebenberg took a grand slam in his bid for a third title.

GTC Championship

Points leader Saood Variawa (Toyota Gazoo Racing Corolla) added a point to his title advantage in Saturday morning’s action-packed qualifying session. The Dunlop Pole Position swapped between him and main title rival, double reigning GTC champion Robert Wolk (Chemical Logistics Toyota Corolla), several times throughout the session. Variawa’s third pole position in as many rounds came on the back of him setting Friday’s practice time. Wolk lined up in second place, ahead of the all-Toyota-Gazoo Racing Corolla third row, where 2023 debutant Nathi Msimanga lined up ahead of the experienced Michael van Rooyen. Reigning Investchem Formula 1600 champion Josh le Roux (Vitro Frameless Audi S3) set the fifth-fastest time, ahead of Andrew Rackstraw (Sparco / RDSA Volkswagen Golf 8 GTI).

However, Rackstraw’s weekend, and his hopes to add to his recent maiden victory, was brought to a premature halt with four minutes remaining in the qualifying session when his Golf developed engine problems. With no spare unit and adequate time for a replacement, he was forced to attend the rest of the weekend as a spectator.

The drama started from the get-go in Race 1. Wolk got the drop on Variawa, but a series of opening lap incidents between the pair and Van Rooyen resulted in Wolk dropping to the back of the field Variawa continued to his third win for the season, ahead of Van Rooyen and Msimanga. This saw the Toyota Gazoo Racing trio cross the line in their first podium lockout, a lap ahead of Wolk. Le Roux was an early retirement.

However, the outcomes of the opening lap incidents are still pending. Therefore, the final classification will be published by Motorsport South Africa at a later stage.

Van Rooyen got the jump on Wolk off the line in the half-points reverse-grid second race, while Variawa did the same over Msimanga, with Le Roux holding a watching brief. This order remained to the flag.

GTC SupaCup

Liebenberg (Hype Energy Drinks), who had a fraught weekend at the Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit season opener before dominating Round 2 at Killarney International Raceway, continued his title fightback by topping the all-Volkswagen Polo SupaCup grid to the Dunlop Pole Position on Saturday morning before reeling off another two race wins with the fastest lap in each.

Another comeback kid, Arnold Neveling (GOSCOR Lift Truck Company), lined up alongside Liebenberg on the front row, ahead of Jonathan Mogotsi (Volkswagen Motorsport) and on form  Dominic Dias (Chemi / Liquid Energy). Championship leader Keegan Campos (Veloce Automobili), who topped the times in Friday’s practice sessions, lined up fifth.

Jean-Pierre van der Walt (Platinum Wheels) was next, alongside Tato Carello (Carello Auto) and rookie Tate Bishop (ANGRi Racing Academy). However, he dropped to 11th on the first race grid after picking up a testing penalty. That promoted Calvin Dias (Chemi / Liquid Energy) to eighth from the returning Danie van Niekerk (Van Niekerk Racing / Titan Stunts), Scottish racer Paul Luti (Finishline UK Ltd), Bishop, and debutant Karah Hill (Kalex), the first female driver in the series.

Mogotsi got the jump, but Liebenberg sold him the undercut through Turn 4 on Lap 2 and went into a lead he would not relinquish for the rest of the weekend. Zwartkops is notorious for being difficult to pass, so not much else happened behind as Liebenberg drove home to a one-second victory from Mogotsi, with Neveling on his case and Keegan Campos in pursuit.

Behind them, Van der Walt found a way past Campos early in the race but stopped late in the race, leaving Campos to fourth from Dominic Dias in a lonely fifth from brother Calvin, Van Niekerk, Carello. Luti, who provided some late-race entertainment as he fought Bishop and Hill off. Bishop left the track in the process, which allowed Hill into the top ten on her GTC SupaCup debut.

Being a little cooler later in the afternoon, Race 2 proved more entertaining. Liebenberg led from  Neveling, Mogotsi, Campos, and Dominic Dias. Carello and Calvin Dias were under pressure from Van der Walt, Bishop and Van Niekerk.

Then Carello’s car stepped out under braking after contact with Van der Walt on top of the hill into Turn 5 on lap 4, Calvin Dias could not avoid him, and they collided. This brought out the safety car to clean up the circuit and promoted Van der Walt, Bishop, and Van Niekerk. They continued their battle for sixth to the flag with Luti and Hill in pursuit as Van der Walt incurred a three-place penalty to drop to ninth between Luti and Hill as Carello and Calvin Dias took an early shower.   

Next Event

The 2023 season will reach its midway mark at Aldo Scribante Racetrack in Gqeberha on 16-17 June.

GTC Championship
GTC SupaCup

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