Sandton, South Africa – The Aldo Scribante circuit in Port Elizabeth is the next battleground for the Sasol GTC Championship teams to conquer as the premier touring car championship reaches the mid-season on Saturday, 15th July.
Gennaro Bonafede leads the defending champion Michael Stephen by 59 points and this is where the championship gets really interesting. Stephen is based at the Port Elizabeth circuit and after thousands of laps around the 2.48km long circuit is widely regarded as being virtually unbeatable on home turf.
Bonafede, driving the #32 Sasol BMW GTC car doesn’t care much for reputations and is out to prove he can beat the hometown hero, while Stephen, in the #1 Engen Xtreme Audi GTC will want to put on a winning show for his legions of fans.
The battle lines have been drawn in the sand with the evenly matched pair, each having scored four victories apiece to date. It is anyone’s race when the lights turn green!
Added to this potent mix, the Volkswagen factory team based down the road from the Port Elizabeth race track in Uitenhage also have a point to prove with Mathew Hodges and Daniel Rowe both wanting to show the competitiveness of the Volkswagen Jetta GTC racing car. Hodges (#57) has visited the podium twice this year while Rowe (#11), the current GTC2 champion will be aiming for his first top three finish since moving up to the main GTC class.
Not to be outdone by his team leader, Simon Moss in the second #38 Engen Audi has been knocking on the door of victory lane and local fan support could be the impetus the youngster needs to make it to the top step of the podium. He is third in the rankings, 35 points behind his multiple saloon car championship winning team leader.
Johan Fourie (#14 EPS Couriers BMW GTC) came agonisingly close to his maiden GTC win last time out and will once again be in the thick of the action. He is in fourth spot on the points log, within striking distance of Moss, so the Cape Town-based driver has every incentive to head into the second half of the season in third place.
Fifth and sixth places are filled by Hodges and Rowe, the latter just two points ahead of an on-form Robert Wolk in the second Sasol BMW GTC. Wolk has adapted well to the touring car series and is determined to move up the order and challenge for the podium in PE.
Michael van Rooyen, affectionately called the Rustenburg Rocket, has endured a tough season, beset with small technical issues that have kept him away from the sharp end of the field. The RSC BMW driver has a point to prove and will be looking to maximize his chances at the coastal circuit.
The front-wheel drive class has been the domain of Keagan Masters and his factory backed Volkswagen Golf GTi, building up a healthy 326 points to date. His lead has come under threat from Brad Liebenberg and his Ferodo MINI John Cooper Works, who has won three of the last four races, in spite of the MINI being in its first season of Sasol GTC2 racing.
The former teammates in their junior seasons are hard but fair racers and the sparks will surely fly as they fight for victories.
Trevor Bland (VW Golf GTi) and Charl Smalberger (iCorp VW Golf GTi) have been consistent all year and find themselves in third and fourth places in the title chase, separated by 62 points. With no quarter asked or given, these two chargers will certainly entertain the fans on the day
Chris Shorter (Champion MINI JCW) is just four points behind Smalberger and after his performance last time out, is a sure bet to snatch fourth on the log unless Smalberger pulls a rabbit out of the hat.
Mandla Mdakane, in the second factory Golf GTi, is a further 19 points adrift. He bagged his first victory at Kyalami in April but has dropped off the pace in the last few outings, claiming only 44 points in the following four races.
Iain Stevenson (Comsol VW Golf GTi) is learning the ropes having spent much of his career in regional saloon car categories and is getting quicker to the leading pace, while Dayne Angel (Honda Civic Type R) is expected to make the trip from his home in Cape Town to add variety to the field. If Kosie Weyers (Chevrolet Cruze) also arrives to race, the GTC2 field is in for an even tougher weekend.
The Sasol GTC Championship features a fan grid walk before the first race , followed by one ten lap race and a 17 lap race from an inverted grid, giving Eastern Cape fans a thrilling day out.
Join the conversation on social media using #SasolGTC and visit www.sasolmotorsport.co.za for the latest #Sasol GTC Championship news, broadcast schedules and so much more