Simon Moss and Brad Liebenberg gradually extended their respective GTC and GTC2 championship leads during Round 5 at Zwartkops Raceway while their 2019 rivals moved closer to each other on the points table.
The July 26-27 race weekend became the third consecutive round to see four different drivers earn the top step of the podium, including a maiden win for the WCT Engineering team in GTC while Paul Hill celebrated his first victory in GTC2.
The weekend also saw two championship debutants on the grid, being Niyaaz Modack in the WH Auctioneers BMW and Gary Formato taking on the driving duties in the SMD Exotics Ford Focus.
Saturday morning’s Qualifying session was a closely fought contest with the top-six and main protagonists in the GTC Championship covered by 0.215 of a second around the 2.4km circuit. Moss took pole position for the Moss Racing / Audi / All Power team, beating Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa’s Michael van Rooyen by a mere 0.003 of a second. Row 2 was an all-Volkswagen Motorsport Jetta affair with Keagan Masters heading up Daniel Rowe. Robert Wolk qualified his Investchem WCT Engineering BMW in fifth place ahead of Johan Fourie in his EPS Courier Services BMW. Moss’ teammate Tschops Sipuka slotted into seventh place ahead of Formato and Modack.
Moss made a stellar start in Race 1 while Van Rooyen lost three positions on the opening lap and a mistake saw Wolk making an early pit stop. Moss led the two Volkswagen Jettas while Fourie and Van Rooyen battled for fourth place. Fourie showed good pace throughout the weekend and gradually started to pull away from the Toyota Corolla before passing Rowe. Moss took his sixth win for the season ahead of Masters with Fourie completing the podium. Rowe held off Van Rooyen in the closing stages to finish in fourth and fifth places respectively with Sipuka coming home in sixth place further back. Modack took seventh place in his first outing while completing the full 12-lap distance. After re-joining the circuit Wolk found himself three laps down, but gained a position when Formato was forced to pit at the end of the race.
Wolk started on the front row of Race 2’s inverted grid alongside pole-sitter Formato, but quickly moved into the lead to take his first victory for the 2019 season; he became the fourth race winner for the year with the WCT Engineering outfit taking their maiden win. The opening lap saw an incident between Van Rooyen, Formato and Sipuka through the middle sector. This saw Formato retiring a lap later while Sipuka was relegated to the back of the field. Van Rooyen however held onto second place; his fifth podium finish this year. Fourie kept Moss and Masters behind him on the opening lap before setting his sights on Rowe; taking the final podium position. This saw the top-six behind rounded out by Rowe, Masters and Moss following each other over the line. Modack made it two seventh place finishes on debut ahead of Sipuka.
In GTC2 Charl Smalberger showed good pace throughout Friday’s practice sessions in his Universal Healthcare Volkswagen Golf; following this up by taking pole position on Saturday morning. The Volkswagen Motorsport Golf duo of Liebenberg and Adrian Wood lined up behind him. Mandla Mdakane qualified his Transitliner MINI John Cooper Works in fourth place ahead of Hill in his Kalex Volkswagen Golf.
Smalberger built a solid lead in Race 1 to take his second win for the season while the rest of the field were involved in a cat-and-mouse tussle further back. Liebenberg and Wood retained their positions to complete the podium. Mdakane had his work cut out to keep Hill at bay, but as they were making way for the faster GTC field a lap ahead, Hill went off track momentarily. This relieved the pressure on Mdakane who caught up to the back of Wood to finish in fourth place.
Race 2 saw Hill capitalising on his pole-position start to take his maiden win in the championship. Smalberger had to make his way through the field from the back. After passing Liebenberg and Wood who proceeded to catch up to Mdakane. This battle came alive in the closing stages with Smalberger just beating the MINI driver to second place. Wood and Liebenberg finished in fourth and fifth positions.
Round 6 of the 2019 GTC Championship will see battles continue to the fast straights of the Border Motorsport East London Grand Prix Circuit on August 30-31.
Story by Reynard Gelderblom on behalf of Global Touring Cars