Round 3 of the 2019 GTC Championships turned out to be a tough test for Toyota Gazoo Racing SA’s Michael van Rooyen, but despite this the Rustenburg Rocket bagged some meaningful points, cementing his position in the championship.
The Toyota Corolla driver squeezed a 4th place out of Race 1, and finished on the podium in Race 2, despite a number of niggles that took the edge off his attack at Killarney this weekend.
“We really started the weekend on the back foot, after struggling with brake issues during Round 2 last month,” said Van Rooyen after the race. “We tried several times to go testing in order to sort out the problem before Killarney, but the weather conspired against us.”
As a result, the team were forced to load the Toyota Corolla without putting the issues from the previous round to rest. And then things got worse: A problem with the wiring harness meant the car wouldn’t start on the day of departure. A jury-rigged solution allowed the technicians to get the car into the race truck and safely down to Killarney Raceway, on the outskirts of the Mother City.
“But the problem was still there during Friday’s practice sessions, which precluded me from doing a proper shakedown at the track,” continued Van Rooyen. “I mostly missed the first two practice sessions, and eventually only posted a proper time during the third sessions – setting the fourth-fastest time, roughly half a second off the leader.”
Despite the relatively strong performance, Van Rooyen was disappointed in not having the opportunity to do a proper setup of the car for the race: “And to make it even tougher, we didn’t want to make any adjustments after practice without testing them, as qualifying is a critical part of the weekend, and even a small mistake could cost us dearly.”
In the end, the Toyota Gazoo Racing SA driver went fifth-fastest in qualifying – certainly not the performance he had hoped for, but exceptional given the circumstances.
Race 1 saw a major scrap for fourth place – a position eventually occupied by Van Rooyen, bagging good points as a result: “I had a good tussle with Audi’s Simon Moss, but unfortunately he just pipped me to the finish.”
In the second race, Van Rooyen started in third place, but the race was red-flagged after a crash early on. After the restart, the Toyota Corolla driver found himself in a three-way brawl for third place, with both Johan Fourie and Robert Wolk vying for a piece of the action. The two BMW drivers, however, got so caught up in their own race that Van Rooyen managed to squeeze by both of them – taking the chequered flag in third place, and banking the points for third.
“It was a really tough outing for us, due to some unexpected challenges,” concluded Van Rooyen. “But coming away from Killarney with points for a fourth place and a third place is pretty good, all things considered. And more importantly, it keeps us in the fight for the championship.”
Race 1 was eventually won by Volkswagen’s Daniel Rowe, with Robert Wolk in second and Simon Moss in third place. Race 2 saw Simon Moss take the top honours, while Volkswagen’s Keagan Masters finished in second place, ahead of Van Rooyen.
Next up is a visit to the Windy City, when the GTC Championship moves to Port Elizabeth for Round 4, on June 14th and 15th 2019.