Multiple South African Production Car champion Michael Stephen put the new Engen Audi A3 on pole position for the gird ever Sasol GTC Africa series pole position at the Woman’s Day Extreme Festival at the Zwartkops Raceway outside Pretoria, South Africa today.

Stephen’s pole time of 1 minute 6.358 seconds around the tight and demanding demanding circuit saw off Matthew Hodges driving Volkswagen Jetta in a lap of 1 minute 6.602 seconds, who was in turn 0.16 of a second clear of Gennaro Bonafede’s Sasol BMW 220i . Hennie Groenewald was fourth in the second BMW from Graeme Nathan’s second Volkswagen and Simon Moss’ Audi.

Six brand new factory-entered machines turned up for the inaugural race in the new Sasol GTC Africa series set to become South Africa’s premier race championship, with designs on international competition. GTC cars run manufacturer-based 375kW (500 horsepower) engines and bodywork wrapped around a common rear-wheel driven chassis, Albins transaxle gearbox, running gear and suspension in a series designed to promote closest racing at a reasonable cost.

The three factory teams – Engen Audi, Sasol BMW and Volkswagen all had two cars ready for the first race, with four more cars in current build and several others set to be developed in the short term.

A second GTC Production class for near-standard production-based 2-litre turbo machines also race for the first time alongside the new premier category cars today, with Shaun Duminy putting his SMD Ford Focus on pole position ahead of factory Volkswagen GTI pair Daniel Rowe and Mandla Mdkane.