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GTC Africa – Audi man takes opening GTC races

Engen Audi A3 driver and multiple South African race champion Michael Stephen completed an historic clean sweep in the first-ever Sasol GTC Africa races, when he added a second race win to his pole position and opening race success at Zwartkops Raceway outside Pretoria, South Africa today.

Stephen put the Audi on pole position for the opening race ahead of Matthew Hodges’ factory Volkswagen Jetta, before the PE driver led from flag to flag to beat Hodges and take an historic first-ever GTC victory by 1.1 seconds. Gennaro Bonafede’s Sasol BMW ended up third from Graeme Nathan’s Volkswagen Jetta, Hennie Groenewald (Sasol BMW) and Simon Moss (Engen Audi A3 GTC).

Stephen beat Graeme Nathan’s Volkswagen to second in the second race, with Gennaro Bonafede third again. Matthew Hodges’s second Volkswagen ended up fourth and a lap down after late problems, while Simon Moss (Audi) and Hennie Groenewald (BMW) retired. Stephen thus won the day overall, with Nathan second from Bonafede, Hodges, Moss and Groenewald.

Shaun Duminy took inaugural GTC Production honours in his SMD Ford Focus, ahead of factory Volkswagen Golf GTI duo Daniel Rowe and Mandla Mdkane, with Charl Smallburger’s Golf GTI next up. Rowe then put one over Duminy to take Production honours in the second race, while Smallburger benefited Mdkane taking an early shower. The overall GTC Production results ended up as per the second race finishing order, while Paul Hill won the all-comers Class X in his BMW.

Michael Stephen established the first GTC lap record of 1 minute 6.552 seconds around Zwartkops en route to his race 1 victory, while Rowe set a Production marker of 1m 09.342s.

Six brand new factory-entered machines turned up for the inaugural races in the new series tipped to become South Africa’s premier race championship, with designs on international competition. Sasol GTC Africa cars are powered by manufacturer-based 375kW (500 horsepower) turbocharged 2-litre engines and original bodywork wrapped around an identical rear-wheel driven chassis featuring a common 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 each 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. The second-tier GTC Production class caters for near-standard production-based 2-litre turbo machines also raced for the first time alongside the new premier category cars.

GTC proved highly popular with fans at the racetrack and on social media and while the first races were still part of the series’ shake-down, GTC can pat itself on the back – South African motorsport finally has a creditable premier race class again…