VW claims GTC manufacturers crown as drivers title remains wide open

<i>Image: Reynard Gelderblom/RacePics</i>
<i>Image: Reynard Gelderblom/RacePics</i>
Reynard Gelderblom/RacePics

The penultimate round of the 2019 GTC Championship in Cape Town last weekend (September 28-29) saw Volkswagen Motorsport claim the manufacturer's title one round early, while four different winners helped set up both driver title fights for a thrilling grand finale next month. 

Saturday morning’s Qualifying session at Killarney International Raceway saw Simon Moss (Moss Racing / Audi / AllPower) claim his fifth Dunlop pole position for the season. Local hero Johan Fourie (EPS Courier Services BMW) joined him on the front row while Keagan Masters (Volkswagen Motorsport Jetta) qualified in third place.

Setting the pace

This trio also set the pace during Friday’s three practice sessions and were split by less than 0.09 seconds in the Saturday morning qualifying session. Michael van Rooyen (Gazoo Racing Toyota South Africa) lined up in fourth place ahead of Robert Wolk (Chemical Logistics BMW). Daniel Rowe (Volkswagen Motorsport South Africa Jetta) completed the top six with Tschops Sipuka (Moss Racing / Audi / AllPower) in seventh place.

READ: Volkswagen aiming to extend points advantage at the top of the GTC standings

In the first 12-lap race, Moss took the lead off the line and held back Fourie to claim his seventh win of the season; the BMW driver finished runner-up. Masters and Rowe had a good tussle for third place during the early stages with Wolk in close pursuit.

Charl Smalberger

                                                                 Image: Reynard Gelderblom/RacePics

Van Rooyen made an error that caused him to lose ground but as the opening race progressed, the Toyota driver was able to regain position due to incidents involving Rowe and Wolk.

Masters finished the race in third place, but lost the position to Van Rooyen following a post-race hearing where he was penalised by three positions for his part in the incident with Wolk.

Rounding out the podium

Rowe and Wolk were also promoted to fourth and fifth places respectively with Masters rounding out the top-six. Sipuka retired after seven laps. Wolk started from pole position for Race 2's inverted grid and added his second win for the season after dominating the race up front.

Van Rooyen was in pursuit but had Masters behind to contend with throughout the race with the pair rounding out the podium in that order. The Audi pair of Moss and Sipuka came home in fourth and fifth places respectively.

Brad Liebenberg

                                                               Image: Reynard Gelderblom/RacePics

This battle also included Fourie for two thirds of the race, but contact between himself and Moss resulted in the Capetonian's retirement on Lap 9. Subsequently, Moss was excluded from the results for his part in the incident, promoting Sipuka and Rowe to fourth and fifth respectively.

READ: High expectations as Toyota Gazoo Racing's Van Rooyen heads to KIllareny for round 3 of GTC Championship

In GTC2, Brad Liebenberg (Volkswagen Motorsport South Africa Golf) set the pace throughout Friday's practice sessions, but he was beaten to pole position by his primary rival Adrian Wood (Kyocera Volkswagen Motorsport Golf). Paul Hill (Kalex Volkswagen Golf) lined up in third place on the grid.

Keagan Masters

                                                                  Image: Reynard Gelderblom/RacePics

Charl Smalberger (Universal HealthCare Volkswagen Golf) missed the latter two of Friday's practice sessions following an engine failure, and had a new power unit delivered overnight, but were unable to have the car ready for Qualifying which resulted in him lining up in fourth place by default. Wood took the Race 1 win, but received a penalty after the race that saw him swopping positions with second-placed Smalberger.

This gave Smalberger his fourth win for the season. Hill finished third with Liebenberg bringing his car home in fourth place; two laps down after struggling with brake issues from Lap 2 onwards. Race 2, however, saw Liebenberg capitalising on his pole position to take a lights-to-flag win; the eighth time that he took to the top step of the podium in 2019.

Robert Wolk

                                                                 Image: Reynard Gelderblom/RacePics

Wood finished as runner-up with Hill making it two third-place finishes for the day. Smalberger retired after seven laps. The season finale is set for the closest finish in the championship’s four-year history with Masters leading both Moss and Van Rooyen who are tied just two points behind. The gap between the top-five has now decreased to 17 points with both Rowe and Fourie also in with a chance of taking the title.

Liebenberg will have an easier time of things leading GTC2, with the only driver still able to dent his title hopes being Wood who finds himself 29 points adrift. Round 8 will also see the second new circuit on the calendar for 2019. Red Star Raceway in Delmas will play host to the championship decider on October 25-26, 2019.

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