From the outset, Michael Stephen and his Engen Xtreme Audi A3 GTC and Daniel Rowe in his Volkswagen Golf GTI GTC Production set the pace for their respective classes. Stephen and Rowe were the quickest in qualifying on Friday afternoon, putting them at the front of the grid in their classes for race one – turning these pole position starts into their first race wins of the day.
“It was a fantastic day for the team,” says Stephen. “I qualified on pole and won all three races. I can’t ask for much more. The conditions proved challenging and this was the first time any of us have been out in the wet. We had to compromise in the end, preparing for a dry race and then competing in the wet. We got the wet weather tyres on but didn’t have time to do the rest of the setup – it was still enough to keep our opponents at bay.”
Rowe won two of the three races, taking third place in race two and extending his championship lead after a second strong showing for the season.
“A good qualifying session and then a tough first race,” says Rowe. “The Volkswagen Golf GTI was really good in the corners, helping at those times when I lacked a bit of speed. In race three I just put my head down and went – the wet conditions actually helped us with better handling against our competitors.”
Rowe’s teammate in the GTC Production category, Mandla Mdakane, showed up on the podium in both the first and third races with a braking issue in race two making it difficult to keep his pace up to that of his competition.
Stephen’s teammate, Simon Moss, was on the podium in race two in his first complete event after initial shakedown issues severely restricted his available laps at the first round. A problem with a rear tyre affected his handling at this event, but his pace closely matched that of his teammate on every other occasion.
Graeme Nathan and Mathew Hodges continued their challenge to master the rear-wheel drive layout of the GTC cars. Hodges went from second-last in the first race to third place in race two and was on track for another strong finish in the last race but spun off and did not have enough time to fight his way back through the field.
Nathan took a more conservative approach to the race day, progressing from seventh to sixth and then finally fourth in the final race. This put him in fifth overall for the day, just one position behind his teammate and confident for further improvement at round three in Cape Town.
The Volkswagen Motorsport entries will contest the next round at Killarney Raceway on Saturday, September 24, just two weeks after the PE round.
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