An exciting days racing at Kyalami saw Gennaro Bonafede convert his front row grid position into a 2.5 second victory in the first of two Sasol GTC races held under warm autumn sunshine in front of a large crowd at the Midrand circuit.
Robert Wolk, in the second Sasol GTC racing car banked his first points of the year and put up a competitive showing in the second race, a performance that is boosting his confidence as the season gathers momentum.
Bonafede raced a fast lap in Saturday morning’s qualifying session but missed pole position by seven tenths of a second. “Michael (Stephen) put in an impressive lap which I didn’t expect”, said Bonafede.
Wolk was consistently in the top half of the pack during free practice on Friday, but admitted he didn’t get the best out of his new super-soft tyres in qualifying, however was happy with his progress in the BMW GTC car.
The team made some set-up changes to Bonafede’s car ahead of the first race, which helped him hang on to the coat-tails of Michael Stephen’s Audi in the opening laps of the race. On lap seven, the Audi slowed and Bonafede was into the lead, which he held to the end.
Wolk lost two places at the start of race one in the run down to turn one, but quickly made them up again before he spun at Clubhouse Corner defending his position. He rejoined the race and with no chance to catch the drivers ahead, so reeled off the rest of the race to end in sixth place.
The second race featured an inverted grid for the first time and it produced a spectacular race. As the race one winner, Bonafede started at the back of the GTC grid, but by lap three, he was slicing his way through the pack in a series of breathtaking manoeuvres. He overtook Mathew Hodges (VW) in Turn Three and Johan Fourie (BMW) on the outside of the Mineshaft corner, the fastest part of the track. One lap later, he dived up the inside of Daniel Rowe (VW) and made short work of Simon Moss to run in third place. Bonafede was into second position in what looked to be the drive of the race, only to spin out three corners from the chequered flag. “It was entirely my mistake”, said the distraught driver. “I lost concentration and paid a high price”. Bonafede rejoined and crossed the line in fourth place.
Wolk started the second race from third place on the grid. He had a good battle with Rowe over the opening laps which allowed the two Michaels, van Rooyen and Stephen, to edge away. He caught and passed Van Rooyen but made a mistake, allowing van Rooyen ahead again. Wolk put his head down and again caught and passed Van Rooyen but on the second last lap, retired from the race after he spun off.
“I set good times in the top half of the field which is a big step forward for me. Gennaro is my benchmark and I was only three tenths of a second, off his time in qualifying so I have to be happy with my progress. I had some good racing but made a few mistakes which I can rectify”, said Wolk.
Team Manager Vic Maharaj said: “The important outcome of the weekend is that we have increased our points lead in the championship and that Robbie is on the pace. I was a little disappointed with our qualifying though. The old motor racing adage is ‘to finish first, first you have to finish’, which we achieved with Gennaro in the first race. Both cars have good pace and its now back to the workshop to prepare for East London”.
The next outing for the Sasol GTC Racing Team is at the historic East London Grand Prix Circuit on 20th May.