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The Sasol GTC Racing Team topped the overall results sheets after two exciting Sasol GTC Championship races at the East London Grand Prix circuit which hosted the final round of the series. Gennaro Bonafede took his fifth race win of the year, while Hennie Groenewald raced to two second place finishes to take the overall honours on the day.
Practice got underway on Friday with Groenewald setting the second fastest lap time in each of the four sessions. In qualifying, Bonafede put in a lap that gave him third on the grid, while Groenewald ended up in fourth spot on the grid. The second best qualifying lap time establishes the grid for race two, so Bonafede was fourth and Groenewald fifth.
The first race started in hot and blustery conditions. Groenewald made a good start and was challenging Michael Stephen (Audi) but he had to back off as going side-by-side through Potter’s Pass, the single fastest corner in the country is not regarded as a good move. On lap two, Mathew Hodges (VW Jetta) tried to pass Groenewald by putting two wheels on the grass on the long straight. The inevitable nudge came, and Hodges dropped back down the order.
Three laps later, Hodges caught up with the Sasol GTC car and under braking into the last corner, he slipped past. Had Groenewald held his position he would have passed the chequered flag in first place, for the race leader Simon Moss (Audi) retired with a broken engine half way around the final lap. “I was battling with grip levels and traction out of the corners as the race went on and couldn’t do much to defend my position from Hodges”, Groenewald related. “I really enjoyed a competitive race and it was great entertainment for the spectators to watch. We have made a significant step in showcasing the true potential and technology of GTC racing”.
Bonafede, already secure in second place in the overall GTC Championship standings, opted to try a totally different set-up on his BMW GTC car. He lost out in the slower infield complex of corners and was all but last until Michael Stephen spun out, letting him into fourth place. “At least we learned what doesn’t work”, said Bonafede. The team put the car back into qualifying specification for race two, with a few minor adjustments.
Michael Stephen rocketed into the lead of race two but it was short-lived as he encountered electrical problems. The two Jettas tangled with each other and by mid-race, Bonafede found himself in the lead followed by Groenewald, delivering their second consecutive one-two result in the space of eight days. Bonafede said: “When Michael had issues on lap seven, I was able to cruise home to my fifth win of the year and win the last race of the season. I’m very happy for the team”.
Groenewald said of his second race: “I made a poor start but gained a few places when the Volkswagen boys took each other out. I was about 1½ seconds behind the leaders so I put in a series of qualifying type laps to catch up but when Michael fell back I backed off and slotted in behind Gennaro to the end”.
Team Manager Vic Maharaj was happy with his team’s performance: “There was a regulation change which aided our competitors and our drivers had to once again dig deep to match our rivals at the most power-hungry circuit in the country. We ended the year with a pair of fast, reliable cars and the results came to us. It’s been a great debut year for the Sasol GTC Racing Team and next year we will be gunning for the championship honours”.
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