Round 4 of the 9 event Sasol GTC Series was contested at the Zwartkops Raceway to the west of Pretoria on Friday, June 16 and provided another opportunity for the Volkswagen squad of Mathew Hodges and Daniel Rowe to show their mettle. And it didn’t take too long for Hodges to find the pace needed to be competitive. “We’ve done some work after the previous round in East London, and the car felt good,” said Hodges after the first few practice sessions.
Daniel Rowe on the other hand had to wait until late on the Thursday afternoon before he got the opportunity to put his Jetta to the test. “I had to write exams in Port Elizabeth first before catching an afternoon flight to Gauteng,” said Rowe. “The organisers allowed me a few laps before we had to qualify the next morning.”
Qualifying arrived early on the morning of the public holiday and when the flag was waved to signal the end of the session, it was the name of Hodges that appeared in second position, with Rowe placing his Jetta sixth on the grid, just two tenths of a second slower than his teammate. “GTC racing is serious business,” said Mike Rowe, head of Volkswagen Motorsport after qualifying. “The cars are separated by only fractions of seconds so things can go either way when the racing starts.”
When the racing did start, it was a mad dash to the first corner with all of the GTC cars aiming to occupy the same piece of tarmac of the 2.5 kilometer Zwartkops circuit. Racing at Zwartkops is usually very competitive, and race one was no different with Hodges having to fend off a fierce attack from the rest of the field who were all gunning for his second position. He managed to hold on for a few laps but the Jetta slid a little wide in the fast sweep going up the hill, allowing one of his rivals through. His Jetta was the third car across the finish line, while Rowe maintained his sixth position in race one.
Race two saw even more drama. The starting grid for the second race is determined by reversing the finishing order of race one, so Daniel Rowe initially ran in a very strong third position while Hodges was forced to fight his way through the field when the race was stopped with a competitor’s car blocking the circuit. Hodges eventually fought his way up into fourth, while a technical issue forced Rowe to the sidelines just two laps from the end. When the scores were added up at the end of the day, Hodges claimed the overall third position for the weekend.
“It was really a case of mixed fortunes for us,” said Mike Rowe. “We were having a strong weekend with Mathew climbing onto the podium yet again, but at the same time we are disappointed that Daniel couldn’t quite finish the final race. We are currently investigating the cause.”
Behind the GTC cars, the Volkswagen Motorsport Golf GTi returned to its winning ways in the now very competitive GTC2 category. Keagan Masters placed his Golf in third on the grid following the qualifying session. After a tough 17-lap tussle with his rivals Masters crossed the line in third, but the youngster managed to turn the tables in race 2 with a comfortable victory. Teammate Mandla Mdakane also made a good comeback to finish race 2 in second position, while Master’s third and first place finishes was good enough for the overall victory on the day.
The Volkswagen Motorsport squad will now turn their attention to the weekend of 14 July when they will take on Round 5 of the 2017 Sasol GTC Series. “The next round takes place in Port Elizabeth, whichis of course also the home of Volkswagen, so we will be aiming for more good results,” concluded Mike Rowe.