Sasol GTC Racing Team still leads the Sasol GTC Championship after East London outing

East London, South Africa: Round three of the Sasol GTC championship proved a “tough day at the office” for the Sasol GTC Racing Team, yet holding onto their championship lead  after three rounds of the  season.

Gennaro Bonafede convincingly clinched  a second place in a 10-lap race at the renowned fastest track in South Africa. Robert Wolk banked third place points in the same race, a welcome boost for his inaugural season in the premier catergory of South African circuit racing.

The weekend started well with Gennaro Bonafede running within a second of the pacesetter, Michael Stephen, while Robert Wolk in the #41 Sasol racing car settled into the mid-pack during the free practice sessions on Friday.

Late afternoon qualifying, held under cooling conditions, saw the top four qualifiers separated by just 0.248 seconds.  Bonafede,  was unfortunately on the wrong side of that sliver of time, lining up fourth on the grid. Robert ran wide at the notorious Potter’s Pass corner at around 220km/h and his  BMW racing car’s front end dug in and damaged the front subframe where all the cooling radiators are housed. He was unable to start the session and was relegated him to the back of the grid.

At the start of race one, Bonafede was immediately on the attack, passing Johan Fourie (BMW GTC) but succumbed to Daniel Rowe (VW Jetta). Lap two saw Rowe spear off the track at Potter’s Pass and Bonafede dropped a wheel onto the dirt. The wheel dug into a small ditch which damaged the aerodynamic front splitter, while the fender was forced onto the tyre. There was no option but to pit, losing a lap as the Sasol GTC team effected repairs during the race. At the rear of the field, Bonafede passed Wolk and with another competitor failing to finish, ended in a disappointed sixth place.

Wolk’s  #41 Sasol GTC racing car experienced  power steering challenges  during the warm-up lap and was unable to race at competitive speeds, but remained in the race , to gather some championship points.

Race two featured an inverted grid, so Wolk and Bonafede lined up at the front of the pack. As the pace car peeled into the pitlane, Bonafede took an immediate lead and built up a small lead. Race one winner, Michael Stephen (Audi GTC) raced through the pack and was soon challenging Bonafede. Lap after lap, the gap was constant but Stephen wasn’t to be denied his second win, passing the BMW GTC car into Cocabana Corner with two laps remaining. Bonafede secured second place while Wolk finished in fourth place on the road  after being forced onto the less grippier side of the track in Turn One and was swamped by his rivals.

Mid-race, Wolk made a move on Daniel Rowe (VW Jetta) for third place and collided with the Jetta under braking, sustaining cosmetic damage after his rival vigorously defending his position. The Driving Conduct official agreed with the Sasol team that Rowe had breached the blocking rules and penalized the Volkswagen driver with a three place drop in the results, elevating Wolk into third place.

After the race, Bonafede explained his race one incident: “The splitter is critical to achieving front end downforce and after I went off and damaged it, the handling on my car changed dramatically. I lost a lap in the pits which effectively put me out of the running. I had a great race two, but Michael caught me and I just knew that was that”.

Wolk said: “The car is undriveable without power steering. There was absolutely nothing more I could have done. The second race was much better although I started on the dirty side of the track.  At Turn One, I was swamped by the others.  I fought back and tried to pass Rowe, who doggedly stuck to his line. I tagged Rowe under braking, fortunately without damage and ended in fourth”.

Team Manager, Vic Maharaj summed up the Sasol GTC Racing Team’s weekend: “We pulled a rabbit out of the hat in race two. We didn’t have a clean weekend which shows in the results. Gennaro and Robert had good pace which didn’t translate into the desired results. It was a weekend of damage limitation for us.  We are still in a good championship position and our reliability issues have been resolved”.

The Sasol GTC Racing Team will be in action again at Zwartkops Raceway in Pretoria on 17th June.

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