Cape Town, April 23, 2018. Round 2 of the Global Touring Cars (GTC) Africa Championship turned out to be the perfect Hollywood script for the Engen Audi Team, with Simon Moss and Michael Stephen as the big winners at Killarney International Raceway.
Until the first practice session on Friday morning (20 April), the Engen Audi team was the black horse of the field. A day earlier, the team was still busy finalizing the repairs on Michael Stephen’s Audi A3 race vehicle. This was due to an unfortunate accident which occurred three and a half weeks earlier at the first round of the GTC season at Kyalami.
Twelve hours before the opening practice session, the team hadn’t even arrived in Cape Town from their home base in Port Elizabeth, yet when the 20 minute session came to an end, Simon Moss topped the table with the fastest time. The biggest uncertainty for the team was the Number 1race vehicle of double reigning champion Michael Stephen. With zero kilometers driven, Michael and the team weren’t sure what to expect.
Simon used the three remaining practice sessions to the max, with consistent quick times and ample track mileage. Michael, on the other hand, performed his trademark set-up and fine tuning strategy to shake down and run-in his repaired Audi throughout the day and built up his speed in preparation for race day.
Throughout Friday practice, team principle Terry Moss, put all his effort into assessing a dragging overweight issue on Simon’s car. The base weight of his Audi A3 had been with a weight disadvantage for a while now and it was time to start competing on equal terms. With the utmost effort from Terry, the controllers raised the base weight by five kilograms as a solace to enter race day.
During the qualifying rounds, the Engen Audi team reigned supreme when Simon Moss took pole position ahead of Michael Stephen. Michael had clearly done his meticulous preparation on Friday and was hot on the heels of his team mate. Terry Moss smiled convincingly after the first session, and elaborated in short sweet terms, “I told you we’d be ready!”
A full front Engen Audi lock down was the scene for the public grid walk at Killarney and the team were displaying their optimal race readiness. This was a familiar sight from the past two years of the GTC Africa Championship.
Race one was dominated by the Engen Audi Duo. With the combined forces of Simon and Michael, the rest of the field stood no chance when the rolling start got underway. Simon took the lead from his pole position and Michael Stephen defended his team mate and secured his second place. Gradually, the duo increased their pace and settled the score in the early stage of the race to take a one – two formation to victory 8 laps later. The team engineers, who endured severe sleep deprivation for the past five days, were hailed as heroes along with the Engen Audi drivers.
Race two was a challenge as Simon and Michael had to start from the back of the grid due to the reverse grid principle. It was a blessing in disguise for the large contingent of spectators as the Engen Audi duo worked themselves through the field. With smooth overtakes and great team work, Michael drove his way up to second position. Simon had third position in sight, when he underestimated the length of the race and came one lap short of securing the last podium spot, finishing in fifth place.
“I cannot explain how proud I am of my team” Terry Moss beamed after the race. “In my long racing history, I’ve never endured so much pressure with getting the team ready for the race, then walking away with these results. It is unbelievable and an incredible effort by the team”.
With his win in the first heat, Simon took second overall victory of the day while Michael took overall honors. Simon emerged as the championship leader for the first time, while Michael is within reach in third. Michael underlined his success with the fastest lap of the weekend and a new lap record, taking home the final glory.
The next round of the GTC Africa Championship heads to Zwartkops Raceway and will take place on 12 May.