Michael Stephen eyeing hat-trick
PE driver moves closer to third GTC champs title
As the Sasol GTC Championship draws to a close, two-time GTC champion Michael Stephen took another step closer to his third title after some action-packed racing at the Festival of Motoring Kyalami at the weekend.
Stephen is now on 281 points in the championship standings, with his next rival, Gennaro Bonafede, 16 points back in second, and his Engen Audi teammate Simon Moss a further nine points behind in third.
Saturday’s first race started with a wonderful scrap as Stephen led Sasol BMW driver Bonafede, VW Motorsport Jetta driver Daniel Rowe, Moss and Robert Wolk (Sasol BMW), before Bonafede moved ahead and raced clear, looking set for an easy victory.
However, the BMW’s engine let go two corners from home to leave Bonafede stranded trackside as Stephen took the win.
Rowe chased Stephen home, with Moss four seconds further back to make it an allPort Elizabeth podium.
Mathew Hodges was fourth over the line in the second VW Motorsport Jetta, but incurred a 30-second over-boost penalty and dropped to seventh.
Engen Audi team principal Terry Moss said the victory was unexpected, but admitted it now placed them in prime position going into the last two rounds of the season.
“We never really expected to win at Kyalami, it is always a difficult circuit for us” he said.
“But both our cars finished both races and got points, so we are happy with the results we got at the weekend.”
He said the team would need to up their game going into the final few races and, despite the positive results, would need to get the car firing on all cylinders for the Killarney race later this month.
“Our race setup for Kyalami was not that great,” Moss said.
“We were fast for the first few laps and then it would taper down. The tyre wear was not great – everything that worked for us on the shorter circuits just did not work out for us at the weekend.”
Sunday’s second race was chaotic and red-flagged.
Rowe went off into the wall out of the Esses and Keegan Masters (GTC 2) could not avoid debris strewn from his teammate’s car to instantly eliminate both and bring out the red flag.
Bonafede made off after the restart, to take an easy win from Johan Fourie, Hodges, Stephen and Moss, after Wolk and Michael van Rooyen stopped.
However, the fat lady had not yet sung as four drivers were caught out by the red flag and found to be underweight, and excluded from the results.
The drama continued after a re-weigh as Hodges and Devin Robertson were reinstated, to leave Bonafede a vindicated second race winner as he clawed back some of the losses of the first race engine failure.