Gennaro Bonafede extended his lead of the Sasol GTC Championship after powering his Sasol GTC racing car to a first and third place positions in the two races held at Zwartkops Raceway on Friday.
Bonafede bagged 11 bonus points for qualifying in pole position and setting both race fastest laps, a handy boost as the season nears the halfway mark.
Robert Wolk, in the second Sasol GTC Racing Team entry, slotted his BMW GTC into third on the grid, his best qualifying performance to date. He raced to fourth in the first 17-lap race, but was an innocent victim in a first-lap incident that put him out of race two.
Thursday’s three free practice sessions saw both Bonafede and Wolk using the track time to set their cars up for Friday’s early morning qualifying session, held in cool conditions. Bonafede’s time was 0.4 seconds ahead of Mathew Hodges (VW Jetta GTC), while the next four competitors were separated by just 0.21 seconds, leaving Wolk only 0.04 seconds off the front row.
Bonafede converted his pole position into the race lead where he set three very fast laps, opening a lead over the chasing pack. Thereafter, he eased off the power to manage his tyre wear and engine temperature, taking the chequered flag 1.9 seconds clear of Michael Stephen (Audi GTC).
Wolk, from third on the grid, initially held his position but soon got involved in an intense bumper-to-bumper battle with Stephen and Hodges, who boxed Wolk in which dropped him behind the Audi driver, bringing his car home in fourth place.
The inverted grid saw Bonafede last in the GTC pack and Wolk in fifth place. On the opening lap Wolk was hit by Hodges in turn six, spinning the BMW off the track with a broken wheel. The race was red-flagged to recover the stricken race car. At the re-start, Bonafede picked his way through the pack before his progress was halted, stuck behind Daniel Rowe (VW Jetta GTC) for four laps, denying him a realistic chance to catch the leading pair. He crossed the line to take the final podium position and the 28 points that go with it.
Team Manager Vic Maharaj said: “It was nearly a perfect day. Our cars had the pace all weekend. The technical support work by the Sasol technology team is continuously delivering the results we want with Gennaro staging a perfect race one and Robert showing consistency. I told Gennaro to stay out of trouble in race two which he did, but Robbie was a victim of circumstances after a mindless challenge. We are looking forward to the next round”.
Championship leaderBonafede was very happy with his day’s work: “My qualifying session was one of my best yet. I really got the car hooked up for a near-perfect lap. At the start of the first race, I set three super-fast qualifying laps to open a gap and thereafter I could focus on managing the car to the flag. Race two was quite hectic. Once I got up to Daniel, he blocked me for four laps which left me without enough laps to catch Johan (Fourie) and Michael ”.
A downbeat Wolk said: “I was happy with my qualifying pace in spite of getting held up on my two fastest laps. The first race was great until I got boxed in by Michael and Mathew and lost a position. I spent the rest of the race defending against Simon (Moss) but overall, I am happy with my race. In race two, Mathew hit my car’s right rear at turn six. The impact broke a wheel and my race was run. It was a disappointing end to what promised to be a strong race”.
The Sasol GTC Racing Team travels to Port Elizabeth for round five of the Sasol GTC Championship on 15th July.
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Race one results:
|Gennaro Bonafede||Sasol BMW GTC||18m32.794|
|Michael Stephen||Engen Audi GTC||18m34.711|
|Mathew Hodges||Volkswagen Jetta GTC||18m40.379|
|Robert Wolk||Sasol BMW GTC||18m44.453|
|Simon Moss||Engen Audi GTC||18m45.183|
|Daniel Rowe||Volkswagen Jetta GTC||18m47.538|
|Johan Fourie||EPS BMW GTC||19m15.748|
|Michael van Rooyen||RSC BMW GTC||-5 laps|
Race two results:
|Michael Stephen||Engen Audi GTC||16m33.736|
|Johan Fourie||EPS BMW GTC||16m34.980|
|Gennaro Boanfede||Sasol BMW GTC||16m38.171|
|Mathew Hodges||Volkswagen Jetta GTC||16m39.668|
|Simon Moss||Engen Audi GTC||16m50.598|
|Daniel Rowe||Volkswagen Jetta GTC||16m36.180|
|Michael van Rooyen||RSC BMW GTC||-5 laps|
|Robert Wolk||Sasol BMW GTC||DNF|