Brad Liebenberg shone a little light at the end of Volkswagen's GTC tunnel following the tragic events in the aftermath of the previous round. He stormed to a dominant double victory in Saturday's Red Star Global Touring Car races moments after a minute's silence for the VW team members lost in a road accident earlier in May.
Leyton Fourie also maintained his advantage at the top of the GTC SupaCup points table, sharing the wins with his primary rival Jeffrey Kruger.
It started with Liebenberg's Universal Motorsport Volkswagen Golf 8 GTI squeaking onto his maiden GTC Dunlop Pole Position on Saturday morning. He ended up just 0.095 seconds clear ahead of Robert Wolk's Chemical Logistics Toyota Corolla, with the latter's teammate Julian van der Watt's Ford Focus RS close behind in third.
Fourth man Michael van Rooyen was within a second of the leader in the quickest of the Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Corollas, with Andrew Rackstraw's Chemical Logistics Audi S3 next up. He ended up a sliver in front of Toyota Gazoo Racing Corolla GTC duo Saood Variawa and Mandla Mdakane.
A first race win is always a great moment for any driver but doing it by leading from lights out off the front of the starting grid and staying there to the flag is even better. This is precisely what Bradley Liebenberg achieved in the opening encounter of the GTC clash.
He grabbed the holeshot into Turn 1 and was never headed as Wolk hung on in second place from Van der Watt for the duration. Van Rooyen spent the initial part of the race all over Van der Watt's tail, but the Gazoo man's Corolla ground to a halt to let Variawa, Rackstraw, and Mdakane through.
The interest was now on GTC rookie Rackstraw and Mdakane, with the Audi driver having gamely held the Corolla man at bay. Mdakane's perseverance paid off a lap after Van Rooyen stopped to see him gain two places to fifth, and it stayed that way through to the finish.
So, as always, the reverse grid second race saw the first six places inverted, which meant that Andrew Rackstraw sat on pole position from Mdkane, Variawa, and Van der Watt. Wolk and Liebenberg occupied the third row ahead of van Rooyen's repaired machine as the safety car led them away into a fiery Delmas sunset.
Rackstraw made the perfect getaway and was aided by a fair amount of jostling behind as Mdkane got hustled down the pack. Wolk soon put one on Variawa for second, and Van Rooyen muscled his way up to third in the gloom of dusk. Wolk quickly closed on Rackstraw, bringing Van Rooyen, Variawa, and Liebenberg in his wake.
It all came to a head at the bottom of the short straight on Lap 4 when Rackstraw and Wolk came together and got clobbered by van Rooyen. Liebenberg saw a considerable gap, took it, and sped off. Wolk was now struggling in second from Variawa, Mdkane, Rackstraw's sick Audi, and Van Rooyen way back.
Nothing would stop Liebenberg and his Hype Energy Golf GTI from not only taking a hugely popular Volkswagen double victory but also a grand slam with pole position and both fastest race laps. Variawa duly picked Wolk off for second, with Mdkane fourth from Van der Watt and the touring Rackstraw and Van Rooyen.
Wolk, meanwhile, did enough to eke out a tiny extra championship advantage over Variawa, with Van Rooyen third from Van der Watt and Liebenberg, the big mover behind.
Fourie started the weekend on the front foot when he put his Express Hire / Universal Motorsport Polo SupaCup onto his commanding maiden GTC SupaCup Dunlop Pole Position from Universal teammate Jeffrey Kruger. Keegan Campos' Turn 1 Insurance Brokers / Campos Transport Polo SupaCup shared the second row with Arnold Neveling's PAGID Stradale Motorsport entry and brother Jason Campos' Turn 1 Insurance Brokers / Campos Transport Polo SupaCup.
Team Perfect Circle's Keagan Masters and JP van der Walt's Platinum Wheels cars occupied Row 4, ahead of VW factory driver Jonathan Mogotsi who has shifted across from GTC to a Sonax Motul Polo SupaCup following the tragic events following the previous round. Mogotsi lined up ninth alongside Tato Carello's Carello Auto car.
Trinity Protection Services duo Nathan and Damian Hammond were next up ahead of a surprise in front of the Masters class grid as fresh grandpa Iain Pepper put Rui Campos' car on pole as Rui took the weekend off. Danie van Niekerk in the Titan Stunts Van Niekerk Racing entry was next up from Masters Class trio Nick Davidson, Paul Luti, and Stefan Snyders.
Fourie and Kruger escaped a wild first turn melee, where the Campos brothers, Mogotsi, Nathan Hammond, and Pepper, were either spinning or avoiding contact. Neveling best navigated the carnage to chase the escaped leaders ahead of Masters, Van der Watt, and Carello.
Masters then slowed and stopped while Keegan Campos and Mogotsi fought back gamely. Fourie took a measured win, his first right-way round win after a couple of reverse race wins the past two rounds from Kruger, Neveling, and Van der Walt. Keegan Campos drove his way back up to fifth from Carello, Mogotsi, Damian Hammond, and Van Niekerk.
Davidson got ahead in the GTC SupaCup Masters class from the get-go and stayed there to win from Luti, with Nathan Hammond next home from Masters class third and fourth men, Pepper and Snyders. Jason Campos succumbed to damage from that Turn 1 incident to join Masters in retirement.
The top six were inverted for reverse grid Race 2, putting Carello on a sunset pole position from Keegan Campos, Van der Walt, Neveling, Kruger, and Fourie. This time it took three turns for the trouble to start. Van der Walt was tagged as he, Damian Hammond, and Davidson fell back and Mogotsi was rendered hors de combat.
There was more drama at slippery Turn 3 a lap later. Leader Keegan Campos slipped wide and a fast-starting Kruger, who had best navigated his way through, took the lead. A wild lap later, Fourie was through to second but had a sizeable gap ahead of him.
The drama behind took four laps to settle as Kruger led Fourie, Neveling, Keegan Campos, Van Niekerk, Masters, Carello, Nathan Hammond, and Van der Walt. It took Fourie half the race to close the gap to Kruger, but once he was there, no matter what he did, he could not draw alongside to pass the leader.
Behind them, Van der Walt passed Hammond, and Campos found a way past Neveling. Kruger won from Fourie, Campos, Neveling, a delighted Van Niekerk, resurgent duo Masters, Carello and Van der Walt, Nathan, and Damian Hammond. Luti took his maiden Masters class win as Snyders kept Davidson behind for a close second.
Round 5 of the 2022 GTC Championship and SupaCup will take place at the East London Grand Prix Circuit on 5-6 August.