Hectic action expected

It is ‘even stevens’ in the Falken Polo Cup as South Africa’s most robust form of track racing gears up for another two races this weekend at Zwartkops Raceway, Pretoria with Jeffrey Kruger and Bradley Liebenberg equal on 125 championship points.

Current champion Kruger was the first to show his cards when he took three race wins in the first five races of the year held at Dezzi Raceway and Zwartkops.

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His good form also included two more podium finishes as well as the additional points that a driver earns for pole position during qualifying and setting the fastest lap during a race. After those first two events that included the five races at Dezzi Raceway and Pretoria’s Zwartkops Raceway, the momentum swung in the direction of young Liebenberg who qualified on pole and won a race in Cape Town.

He followed it up with a clean sweep in Port Elizabeth that consisted of pole position, three race wins and points for fastest laps in two of them. The result is a tie at the top of the championship points table with 125 points each.

“I can’t wait for Zwartkops,” says Liebenberg. “Jeffrey is very strong there but I love the circuit and we have done some testing that was very positive. We will not know until we get there, but I am expecting a tight race on Saturday.”

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Defending champion Kruger had a similar view: “Zwartkops is the home circuit for most drivers in the field so I expect a number of them to be very quick. Having said that, we will also do our homework to ensure we have good pace. It is going to be a great fight with the whole field including Bradley.”

The duel between Kruger and Liebenberg is by no means the only exciting battle in the Falken Polo Cup field. Behind them, four drivers are separated by only seven championship points, with a further four drivers also still within striking distance just a few points back.

Third on the standings is Capetonian Jurie Swart (74 points) thanks to a popular victory at his home track earlier this year. He is closely followed by Chris Shorter (73) points with young Natalian Clinton Bezuidenhout (70 points) a further three points adrift with Keegan Campos (67 points) occupying sixth at the season’s halfway mark.

There is not much daylight between the top six and the next group that consists of Jason Campos (54 points), Volkswagen Motorsport’s Jonathan Mogotsi (49 points), Matt Shorter (46 points) and Capetonian Dario Busi (44 points).

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“Just looking at that crowded championship points table tells a story,” says Mike Rowe, head of Volkswagen Motorsport. “It is a very good reflection of what happens on the racetracks when a field of 20 identical cars all fight for the same piece of tarmac. The result is a crowded racetrack and an equally crowded points table which is exactly what people want to see and one of the reasons that the Falken Polo Cup is so successful.”

The fight between Liebenberg and Kruger, as well as 20 other equally determined and talented drivers is set to commence on Friday, July 26. The all-important qualifying session as well as two races are scheduled for the Saturday of the event.

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All eyes on Aldo Scribante

Regarded as the spiritual home of the auto industry in South Africa, Port Elizabeth is also home to the iconic Aldo Scribante circuit where the most hectic of the local racing formulae will meet this weekend as the Falken Polo Cup moves into Round 4 of the series.

For race fans this means practice sessions on Friday with three full races on Saturday.

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The Polo GTi cars are all built at the nearby Volkswagen factory in Uitehage, and head of Volkswagen Motorsport, Mike Rowe says: “We are very excited to have the popular series come to our backyard for the first time this season.

“To have 25 identical Polos driven by young and talented drivers all fighting for track position is always a great recipe for excitement. Add to that the nature and the layout of the iconic Aldo Scribante circuit and Eastern Cape race fans are in for a treat.”

Backing defending champion and current championship leader Jeffrey Kruger to be near the front of the field will always be a safe bet. After three victories, one pole position and two fastest laps in the seven races completed so far in 2019, Kruger has accumulated a mass of 94 championship points putting him 20 points clear of his nearest rival as the series aims to reach the halfway mark.

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The rival in question is Bradley Liebenberg who himself has managed to record two wins, two pole positions and two fastest laps. It is expected that the battle between these two will intensify even more in Port Elizabeth.

But they won’t be the only two fighting for victory as the very nature of Falken Polo Cup means that a number of people are all capable of winning. One such driver is former champion Chris Shorter who currently shares third on the points table with Clinton Bezuidenhout on 56 points.

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There is another tie for the next position on the points table with brothers Jason and Keegan Campos each on 44 points with Cape Town driver Jurie Swart just a further two points back following a popular win at his home circuit a few weeks ago.

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From a Volkswagen Motorsport point of view, all eyes will be on Jonathan Mogotsi. The 2016 Volkswagen Driver Search winner went on to win a Polo Cup race in his first year of competivive motor racing during 2017.

The venue for this great moment was nowhere else than in Port Elizabeth, so Mogotsi who ended third in the 2018 title chase will be more than eager to claim yet another win and get his title fight back on course.

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“We are looking forward to a full day of action during the Volkswagen National Race Day and we cannot wait to see what the Falken Polo Cup is going to dish up. Kruger will have a hungry pack breathing down his neck and I’m sure we will see a competitive day form Mogotsi as well,” concluded Rowe.

Hectic action expected at Killarney

With the peaceful backdrop of Table Mountain, the iconic Killarney International Raceway in Cape Town is going to anything but peaceful this weekend as it hosts the third round of the GTC Extreme Festival.

Headlining the action on circuit will be the national championship GTC races, with Audi’s Simon Moss keen to get back to winning ways after a double at Dezzi in March, followed by a win and a big crash at Zwartkops at the beginning of April.

To do that, however, he will have to see off the new Volkswagens of Keagan Masters and Daniel Rowe, as well as a strong challenge from local hero Johan Fourie’s privateer EPS BMW.

Following mixed results at the opening two rounds, Volkswagen GTC drivers Keagan Masters and Daniel Rowe still occupy second and third on the Drivers’ standings points table respectively. Masters is just three championship points behind the current leader with Rowe a further four points back.

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Collectively though, the pair has done enough to place the team in a very strong position as Volkswagen currently leads the Manufacturers’ race by a full 20 points from rivals Audi.

“So far the season has been very competitive. Both Keagan and Daniel have recorded podium finishes which earned the team a substantial amount of points, but neither have been able to win a race yet. This is something we would like to achieve in Cape Town,” commented Mike Rowe, head of Volkswagen Motorsport.

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In the GTC2 category of the series, the kind of performance that saw the Volkswagen Golf GTi dominate the past few years seems to continue, this time with youngster Bradley Liebenberg behind the wheel. The talented driver has enjoyed a clean sweep in the first two events by claiming both pole positions and all four race wins.

This performance has earned him a full house of 100 points after two race weekends. It gets better for the Volkswagen team as the Kyocera-backed GTi of teammate Adrian Wood is currently second in the standings and he has every intention to bring Liebenberg’s winning streak to an end.

Expect even closer racing in the one-make Falken Polo Cup, where Bradley Liebenberg’s early series lead will be under threat from a host of hungry young drivers in identical cars – a perfect recipe for motoring mayhem.

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The Falken Polo Cup has most definitely lived up to its reputation as the country’s most competive and exciting racing series after the first two rounds of the 2019 championship with a host of drivers all battling for victory.

But, no one has tasted victory more than Jeffrey Kruger. The defending champion claimed overall victory at Dezzi Raceway during Round 1, and followed it up with a near perfect weekend at Zwartkops that included two race wins from three starts to go with two fastest laps. The net result is a tally of 73 championship points, or 17 clear of his nearest rival, Bradley Liebenberg.

Liebenberg will once again have a busy weekend in Cape Town as he will continue to contest both the Falken Polo Cup as well as the GTC 2 series. The youngster will try to break Kruger’s winning streak while at the same time trying to maintain his own streak in GTC 2 where he has won every race so far this season.

Third on the points table is a former champion in the form of Chris Shorter, the only other driver than Kruger and Liebenberg to have won a race in 2019. The points table is a crowded place with Jason Campos, Clinton Bezuidenhout and Keegan Campos all within striking distance and rounding out the top six.

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For sheer speed and spectacle, however, there is nothing to touch the sports-racing prototypes and Extreme Supercars. A number of top Gauteng Supercar competitors, including Charl Arangies in his Aston Martin as well as assorted Ferraris and Lamborghinis, have served notice on Stuart White’s ultimate lap record of 1min06.745sec, set in a Ginetta G57 in March.

Expect fireworks when Gauteng’s fastest take on the Ginettas of the regional Pirelli Sports and GT Cars on their home turf.

Another lap record under threat is the 1min09.944 benchmark set by Clinton Seller in the SuperGP motorcycle class on a Yamaha R1 in March 2018. He’ll be trying to beat his own mark, but veteran Lance Isaacs (Supabets BMW S1000 RR) and local hero David ‘McFlash’ McFadden (RPM Centre ZX-10R) will have something to say about that.

The gates open at 6.30am, racing begins at 8:00am. Book at Computicket or pay at the gate: Adults R100, scholars under 16 R40 and children under 12 free.

Kruger on top in Polo Cup

With two race wins and a second place, Jeffrey Kruger rather dominated proceedings in the single-make Falken Polo Cup at Zwartkops Raceway at the weekend – despite some nasty wet weather during the Friday practice sessions.

To add to the excitement of Falken Polo Cup racing, the six fastest drivers after the initial qualifying session each get one flying lap to determine the starting grid for race one. Bradley Liebenberg set the initial pace by topping the standings, but he was pipped by Delon Thompson who managed to go one tenth of a second faster to claim the top spot. Volkswagen Motorsport’s Jonathan Mogotsi set the third fastest time, just ahead of Jeffrey Kruger who in turn was followed by Matt Shorter and Jason Campos.

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In Falken Polo Cup racing, qualifying is of extreme importance and often plays a huge role in the overall outcome, but race one this time around yielded a different result. Defending champion Jeffrey Kruger made a great start and quickly moved to the front of the field while pole setter Delon Thompson got swallowed by the pack. There was also a huge scare further down the field when Stiaan Kriel and Simon Need came together on the back straight, causing Kriel’s car to roll several times. Fortunately, they were both able to escape without any injuries.

When the chequered flag was waved, it was Kruger who took a fairly comfortable victory of four seconds over the car of Clinton Bezuidenhout with Bradley Liebenberg completing the race one podium. The Campos brothers Jason and Keegan finished fourth and fifth respectively with former champion Chris Shorter rounding out the top 6.

Race two saw much of the same with a full field all battling it out for track position. Kruger once again made an early dash for the front, this time with Jason Campos leading the chasing pack. There was nothing that anyone could do to stop Kruger from taking his second victory of the day, two seconds ahead of Jason Campos with Clinton Bezuidenhout hot on his heels in third.

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Chris Shorter just missed out on a podium finish in fourth with Jonathan Mogotsi and Bradley Liebenberg taking the points for fifth and sixth respectively.

had every intention to make it a full house with three out of three, but the starting order of the final race was determined by the second fastest lap time set during the early morning qualifying session. This meant that Bradley Liebenberg would be the first off the line with Kruger starting the race from second place.

Liebenberg had an extremely busy day behind the wheel as he contested both the GTC category as well as the Falken Polo Cup which meant that each time he had to jump out of his Golf GTI and straight into the driver’s seat of the Polo GTi. In the final race of the day, his efforts paid off as he managed to fend off a fierce attack from Kruger. In the end, just three tenths of a second separated the two with Kruger just missing out on a third successive victory.

When the three times were added up to determine the overall result, it was no surprise that Kruger walked away as the big winner on the day. Bezuidenhout got second overall just ahead of Jason Campos and Bradley Liebenberg. It was a good day at the office for the Campos brothers with Keegan taking fifth ahead of Chris Shorter.

“It was nearly perfect, but we scored some good points today so I’m really happy,” said Kruger. “The car is one piece and I am now looking forward to Cape Town.”

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“Total joined the Falken Polo Cup as the official fuel supplier through their Excellium brand for the rest of the season,” said Mike Rowe, head of Volkswagen Motorsport. “It really is great news and it will help to further ensure the Falken Polo Cup remains such a successful series in the years to come. We would like to welcome Total to our family. All in all, it was good weekend for motorsport,” he concluded.

Round three of the championship will take place on the weekend of 10 and 11 May. The venue will be Cape Town’s fast and furious Killarney circuit where all the protagonists will once again try and influence the outcome of the championship fight.

Tough times at Zwartkops

Despite a coming together with the VW Motorsport Golf of Daniel Rowe in the final heat, Simon Moss kept himself and All Power Audi at the top of the Global Touring Cars Africa Championship (GTC) with a pole position and one race win in the second round of the series at Zwartkops Raceway at the weekend.

On the Friday morning, the Audi team appeared for the first time in a new colour scheme from their title sponsor, All Power, and both black and yellow Audi S3’s were baptised with torrential rain in the opening sessions. With the possibility of rain throughout the weekend, Simon Moss and Tschops Sipuka maximised their track time without taking excessive risks.

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The sun appeared on Saturday morning ahead of qualifying and, with some additional overnight work by the Audi team, it was back to business. Moss confidently took his second consecutive pole position of the season, while Sipuka surprised the field by taking a credible second row, third spot on the grid.

Moss, utilised his pole position to the max and took an instant lead when the lights turned green to build up an impressive 4,5 second lead, and his third win of the season.

The reversed grid second race always poses a challenge and risk for the leaders of the pack – in this case the Audi Team. Simon Moss, starting from the back of the field wanted to repeat his Dezzi Raceway spectacle but on the opening lap he had an encounter with Daniel Rowe (VW Motorsport), in which he damaged his GTC Audi and had to retire. Sipuka stayed clear of all the carnage and gained four positions during the 12 lap race. He scored another fourth position, giving him an equal position in the overall standings.

It was a mixed bag Volkswagen Motorsport’s Global Touring Car outfit but even so, the team left Pretoria as the overall points leader on the manufacturer’s points table while its two drivers Masters and Rowe are both within striking distance of the top spot on the driver’s table.

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The team’s domination of the GTC2 category continued with a clean sweep of victories for Bradley Liebenberg.

A fourth and fifth on the grid after the early morning qualifying session for Daniel Rowe and Keagan Masters was not ideal, but the two teammates knew it was how they would finish in the two races that counted. Rowe made a great start in race one to move into third position before finally crossing the line in second. He was followed by teammate Masters who ended race one in third position.

The first lap of the second race however caused havoc throughout the field. Daniel Rowe was near the front of the field but contact between himself and the Audi sent him off the track and into the kitty litter. With Moss then crashing out of the race a few corners later, the organisers were forced to red flag the race while the cars were recovered from the circuit.

Quick thinking by the Volkswagen crew saw them sending Rowe’s Jetta out on track just in time as the race restarted to collect the valuable points that come with a race finish.

Meanwhile at the front of the field, it was Masters who closed in on the leaders. But the young man ran out of laps and crossed the finish line to claim his second third placed finish of the day.

In the GTC series, the total times for both races are added up to determine the overall winners on the day, and when the calculations were made, Masters missed out on the overall victory by one single second while Rowe’s recovery earned him the points that came with sixth overall.

“I had a good and consistent day, exactly what you need as far as the overall championship is concerned,” said Masters after the day’s racing.

Rowe on the other hand was somewhat disappointed. “We had a great first race and I had made up a lot of positions on the first lap of race two when I got taken out. Even so, I’m happy the team managed to get me back on track and I still earned valuable championship points.”

It was a weekend of mixed results for Toyota Gazoo Racing SA’s Michael van Rooyen, after setting some of the fastest times on the Friday, despite the wet weather that dampened proceedings for most of the competitors.

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“I relish racing in poor weather conditions,” said Van Rooyen of the Friday sessions. “Everything just felt right, and I managed to set some really fast times.”
But then, during official qualifying, Van Rooyen experienced brake issues, and as a result he posted the seventh-fastest time on the day – 1.1s off the pace set by Audi’s Simon Moss.

“It was extremely disappointing to qualify so far down the grid,” said the Corolla driver. “Especially after such a good show during practice. The worst was that we weren’t sure where the problems lay, and couldn’t quite get it sorted for Race 1.”

Despite the short track, which traditionally offers limited passing opportunities, Van Rooyen managed to improve from 7th on the grid to 5th place by the end of the first race. And things improved markedly for Race 2.

“The reverse grid gave us the opportunity to score some points, and the Corolla certainly didn’t disappoint,” said Van Rooyen. “I started in the middle of the pack, and again moved up two positions.”

It took just two laps for the Corolla driver to go from fourth on the grid to second place, but the race was red-flagged due to a crash further back. As a result, the race was restarted, and Van Rooyen had to do it all again. The Rustenburger proved that his success earlier was no fluke, by again moving up two spots soon after the restart.

This saw the Toyota Gazoo Racing SA driver take the chequered flag in second place, securing a third place in the overall standings for the day. Privateer Johan Fourie, in the BMW M2 took the overall win; with Volkswagen’s Keagan Masters finishing the day in second place.

Round 3 of the 2019 GTC is set to take place on May 11, at Killarney in Cape Town. “We’ll make 100% certain that the brakes are suited for the Cape, and we’re hoping to score more meaningful points on the next round,” concluded Van Rooyen.

Close action expected

Based on the hectic opening round of the Falken Polo Cup series at Dezzi Raceway recently, the no-holds-barred, no-fear action moves to the Zwartkops Raceway near Pretoria for the second round of door-handle to door-handle racing.

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Reigning champion Jeffrey Kruger claimed the early advantage with a comfortable victory in the first race at Dezzi Raceway in March, add to that a third-place finish in race two and the champion ended the day at the top of the standings. He will be as determined as ever to also claim the upper hand at Zwartkops – the venue of his title victory at the close of the 2018 season.

However, he will be up against former champion Chris Shorter who won the second heat at the season-opener. Behind the leading pair, several other talented drivers are sure to also be challenging for race wins, including Bradley Liebenberg who secured pole position and third overall on his first Falken Polo Cup outing since 2016. Series newcomer Stiaan Kriel caused quite a stir on his debut, coming agonisingly close to podium finishes in both races, and wrapping up his first Falken Polo Cup weekend in an impressive fourth place overall.

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Experienced Polo Cup drivers such as Jason Campos, Clinton Bezuidenhout, Matt Shorter and Keegan Campos are also sure to be in the mix.

For Volkswagen Motorsport’s Jonathan Mogotsi, the Zwartkops race weekend will be the ideal opDSC_5916aerall at the first round of the 2019 championship.

Team-mate Raais Asmal will continue building his confidence and race pace in the second Volkswagen Motorsport Polo GTi, under the guidance of veteran racing driver Graeme Nathan and his team. Asmal is currently 18th following the Dezzi Raceway event.

 

“The opening round of the 2019 Falken Polo Cup produced exceptional racing, and I have no doubt that we’ll see more of the same at Zwartkops Raceway which always delivers lots of close and exciting action,“ commented Mike Rowe, head of Volkswagen Motorsport.

“It’s fantastic to see several Polo Cup champions battling it out with experienced drivers as well as some of the newcomers to the series, which sets the scene for a superb season for the drivers and spectators alike,“ Rowe added.

Battleground Zwartkops

Following a thrilling outing at the Dezzi Raceway, Oslo Beach for the opening round of the Global Touring Car series, there are stern challenges ahead for all teams heading to Zwartkops Raceway, Pretoria for the second encounter of the season this weekend.

Volkswagen Motorsport had an impressive showing at the season-opening round and is aiming to continue this strong performance in both the GTC and GTC2 categories on April 6.

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Round 1 of GTC at the undulating Dezzi Raceway circuit in Port Shepstone saw Volkswagen Motorsport claim the early advantage in the Manufacturer’s championship thanks to a sterling performance from its factory drivers. After tasting victory at Zwartkops during the 2018 season, the team has its sights set on returning to the top of the podium this year.

Keagan Masters stole the show in his debut outing at Dezzi Raceway in the premier GTC series, driving the powerful Volkswagen Motorsport Jetta for the first time. Having moved up from the GTC2 championship which he dominated for the past two years, the 19-year-old scored an outstanding second-place place finish in race one followed by fourth in race two with the reverse-grid starting order. This earned him a well-deserved second overall for the opening round.

Zwartkops is effectively the home circuit for Masters, who lives in nearby Hartbeespoort, and he knows the circuit very well after winning multiple GTC2 races there in his Golf GTi in recent years. He will be hoping to continue his impressive form to consolidate his position at the sharp end of the GTC field.

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Team-mate Daniel Rowe scored a GTC win at Zwartkops last year and has a wealth of experience to count on during his third season behind the wheel of the GTC Jetta. Having enjoyed a clean and consistent opening round in which he scored two third-place finishes at Dezzi Raceway, Rowe is well placed to challenge for victory when the lights turn green.

In GTC2, the VW Golf GTi continues to be the class of the field. Volkswagen Motorsport’s Bradley Liebenberg claimed a clean sweep of the opening race, handing him the early championship lead.

Liebenberg’s biggest challenge will come from team-mate Adrian Wood in the Kyocera-branded Volkswagen Motorsport Golf GTi. Wood was second in the opening event and, with just six points separating the two drivers, both will be racing for maximum points in front of the Zwartkops crowd.

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“The first race of the season proved that we have a fantastic team and a great car this year, and our objective is to win next time out,” said Mike Rowe, head of Volkswagen Motorsport. “Daniel won at Zwartkops last year so the circuit suits the Jetta, and with two excellent and highly motivated drivers, we will be gunning for victory.

“It will be fantastic if we can wrap up the race weekend leading the manufacturer’s and driver’s championships,” Rowe added.

There will be plenty of pressure on Toyota Gazoo Racing SA’s Michael van Rooyen, when he takes to Zwartkops Raceway for Round 2 of the 2019 GTC this coming weekend. Admittedly, most of that pressure is self-imposed, but even so the man from Rustenburg is keen to put in a strong performance, especially in qualifying.

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“I’ve been quick in practice at Zwartkops in the past, but somehow always lacked performance in qualifying. That’s something I’ve worked on, and I’m focussed on getting my qualifying right for the opening race this weekend,” said Van Rooyen earlier this week.

Despite this pressure, the Toyota Gazoo Racing SA driver is excited to show the new Toyota Corolla GTC car to the fans around the car’s home base, as well as sharing the excitement with some VIP guests from Toyota SA Motors.

Van Rooyen, however, is acutely aware of how tough the Zwartkops races usually are: “The competition is always fierce here. Zwartkops is home base for most of the teams, and we’ve also had most of our GTC races here. So everyone knows the track, and finding any advantage will be a challenge.”

With that said, Van Rooyen is possibly in the best physical shape of his career, having recently finished the Cape Epic mountain bike race. As such, he will be hoping that fitness may just give him a slight edge come this weekend’s racing.

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“I had a good opening round at Dezzi Raceway for Round 1, despite the mayhem of Race 1, where a number of cars came together,” concluded Van Rooyen. “In the end I managed to bag some valuable points, and I’m looking forward to this weekend tremendously.”

Round 2 of the GTC forms part of the Extreme Festival, which takes place on Saturday, 6 April at Zwartkops. The racing starts at 8am, and will continue throughout the day, with GTC, Falken Polo Cup and a variety of other formulae taking part.

Three practice sessions are scheduled for the GTC and GTC2 drivers on Friday, April 5 at Zwartkops Raceway. Qualifying for the two classes is expected to commence at 09:30 on Saturday, April 6, followed by the popular GTC Grid Walk at 12:00, which is open to specators. The two 12-lap races are planned to start at 12:15 and 14:50, respectively.