Volkswagen on top while GTC crowns new winners in East London

Mike Rowe and Keagan Masters. Picture: Reynard Gelderblom

Volkswagen Motorsport has taken the lead of both drivers and manufacturers titles in the 2019 Global Touring Cars championship after strong results at Round 6 at the Border Motorsport East London Grand Prix Circuit last weekend.

The August 30-31 event saw Keagan Masters (Volkswagen Motorsport) move ahead of Simon Moss (Moss Racing / Audi / AllPower driver) on the outright GTC point stable while Brad Liebenberg (Volkswagen Motorsport) extended his lead in GTC2. The weekend also saw two maiden winners taking to the top step of the podium; Masters and Audi racer Tschops Sipuka.

Saturday morning’s qualifying session saw Masters taking his maiden pole position ahead of Michael van Rooyen (Gazoo Racing Toyota South Africa). Johan Fourie (EPS Courier Services BMW) headed up Row 2 ahead of Daniel Rowe (Volkswagen Motorsport). Robert Wolk (Chemical Logistics BMW) qualified in fifth position ahead of championship leader, Simon Moss. The Audi driver was involved in a large incident in Friday’s second practice session which saw the team having to work late into the night to have him ready for action on Saturday. Moss’ teammate Tschops Sipuka and BMW driver Niyaaz Modack (WC Auctioneers BMW) rounded out the GTC field.

Keagan Masters. Picture: Reynard Gelderblom

Race 1 saw Wolk retiring early due to an electrical problem while Masters and Van Rooyen delivered a fierce battle up front. Both drivers were in search of their maiden wins, but it was Masters who took a lights-to-flag victory at the end of the eight-lap race. Further back Fourie held off Rowe to add another podium to his 2019 tally. The Audi duo completed the top-six with Moss crossing the line ahead of Sipuka. Modack finished in seventh place.

Modack did not start Race 2 due to a drive shaft breakage which promoted Sipuka to pole position for the inverted-grid second race. This set him up to take his maiden win; although it did not come easy. The opening two laps saw him unchallenged while Rowe and Van Rooyen made their way to the front. On Lap 5, Van Rooyen passed Rowe and set off after the Audi driver who had his defences thoroughly tested in the closing stages of the 10-lap race. The battle up front kept the rest of the field in close contention with Sipuka, Van Rooyen, Rowe, Masters and Fourie crossing the finish within 1.8 seconds of each other. Further back Moss completed the top-six with Wolk again retiring due to an electrical issue.

Tschops Sipuka. Picture: Reynard Gelderblom

In GTC2, Charl Smalberger (Universal HealthCare Volkswagen Golf) took pole position ahead of the Volkswagen Motorsport Golf duo of Brad Liebenberg and Adrian Wood. Paul Hill (Kalex Volkswagen Golf) lined up in fourth place ahead of Bob Neill (Delmon Mining Ford Focus) and Mandla Mdakane (Transitliner MINI John Cooper Works).

Smalberger took a lights-to-flag win in Race 1 while Wood made his way into second place ahead of Liebenberg. Wood however started experiencing gear selection problems which allowed Liebenberg to retake the position. Hill finished fourth ahead of Neill while Mdakane who also struggled with electrical difficulties rounded out the field.

Brad Liebenberg. Picture: Reynard Gelderblom

In Race 2 Wood took an early lead and started to build a slight gap over the rest of the field. On Lap 4 his gear selection problems re-emerged which allowed Liebenberg and Smalberger back into contention. On the final lap Wood’s problems began to worsen which saw him slipping down to fourth place in the running order while Smalberger also passed Liebenberg to take the win on track. Smalberger’s car was however found to be over-boosting which saw a 20-second penalty added to his time following the conclusion of the event. This saw Liebenberg promoted to race winner ahead of Hill and Wood. Mdakane and Neill rounded out the finishers. Final classification of results are still pending due to investigations by stewards.

With two rounds remaining in the season, the top-five on the GTC points table will head into the next round with only 20 points separating them. Liebenberg now holds a 31-point margin over teammate Wood in GTC2. The penultimate round of the 2019 GTC Championship will see the field making their second visit of the season to the Killarney International Raceway on September 27-28.

Story by Reynard Gelderblom on behalf on Global Touring Cars.

Race 2 GTC2 podium. Picture: Reynard Gelderblom
Race 2 GTC podium. Picture: Reynard Gelderblom
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