The Volkswagen Race Driver Search Semi Finals came to a thrilling head at Red Star Raceway near Delmas Wednesday afternoon, when Jonathan Mogotsi beat Ryan Rhode to second in a split decision. Both those Search Drivers now go through to a dramatic final round that will see them share a VW polo in the Port Elizabeth 3-hour on 19 November before racing against each other in similar Polos in the Superhatch races at Zwartkops a week later, from which one of the two will win a drive in the Engen Volkswagen Polo Cup in 2017.
The four Semi Finalists – Mogotsi, Rhode, Ayrton Good and Rishay Moodley emerged following an intense two-day series of driving tests in Volkswagen Golf GTIs at the Gerotek Vehicle Testing Facility Monday and Tuesday and assembled at Red Star Wednesday morning, where they were soon strapped into four of the Volkswagen Polo 1.2 TSI DSGs that were raced in the weekend’s Media and Celebrity Challenges and sent out in a raceday simulation.
Practice laps were followed by a little advice and instruction from the Volkswagen Motorsport team before it was into qualifying. The four then started the first 8-lap race, 20 seconds apart and driving flat out to the finish. Following another re-group, it was on to race 2.
Five disciplines – qualifying positions, race 1 fastest lap, race 1 and race 2 positions and an Index of Performance measure, rating each driver’s fastest lap versus his race time, were scored in championship style, with Rhode and Mogotsi tied and a short head clear of the other two with the Index still to be calculated.
Index saw Mogotsi pip Rhode, who had a slip on one of his laps, but both of them now go through to the Finals in the Port Elizabeth endurance race, where they will share their Polo with current VW Cup driver Kuda Vuzhare and race against each other at Zwartkops races. The winner will race alongside Vuzhare in Polo Cup next year.
“We were thoroughly impressed by these four young gentlemen,” Volkswagen South Africa Motorsport Manager Mike Rowe admitted. “None put a foot wrong all day and each improved dramatically as the day progressed, all conducted themselves utterly professionally in and out of the car and throughout the process that has brought us to where we are today. “Well done to the finalists and good luck to the others.”
“This decision was almost impossible to call,” Motorsport South Africa Sporting Services Manager Wayne Riddell concluded. “But the stopwatch was the judge today as it will judge them throughout these guys’ careers. “All of them – and all sixteen of the Volkswagen Driver Search candidates will be an asset to any race team in future – they have become far better equipped through this program that will stand them in great stead, well into the future.”
The Volkswagen Race Driver Search set out to find, nurture and develop South Africa’s future motor racing talent. Run in conjunction with Motorsport South Africa, the various modules not only served to train all candidates on the many driving, theoretical and practical aspects they will deal with in their future race careers, but the process will go on to select the top driver and reward him with that prized Engen VW Polo Cup drive.