Michael Stephen from Engen Audi retains GTC championship lead
• Fifth consecutive full front lockdown of the 2018 GTC season for Engen Audi team • Pole position for Michael Stephen • Fastest lap by Simon Moss at the Zwartkops Raceway in Pretoria • Heat win for Michael Stephen • Double podium finishes for Engen Audi in both GTC races
Pretoria, 20 August, 2018. “The Lions’ Den” of Zwartkops Raceway hosted Round 6 of the Sasol GTC Africa (Global Touring Cars) Championship, as the Engen Audi team displayed their optimal form yet again. Without taking excessive risks, Michael Stephen maintained his leading position, while Simon Moss kept his championship hopes very much alive.
The practice session on Friday (17th August) saw utter domination by the Engen Audi racing team, when they topped the time sheet at every single session. Michael Stephen was the fastest Audi A3 Sedan in the first two practice runs while Simon Moss was quickest in the closing practice of the day.
While Friday’s practice ended under the hot winter sun, the qualifying session on Saturday (18th August) saw a cold and windy race day. Michael Stephen only needed two laps to secure his third pole position of the year and Simon Moss locked down the front grid with only 0,025sec from Michael’s time. The Engen Audi duo were the only two competitors who managed a time in the 1:01’s, making them the unbeatable qualifying champions of the 2018 season with five consecutive front row lock downs.
With both cars in top shape, the Engen Audi team engineers had minimal preparations to do ahead of the opening race. Michael took full advantage of his pole position and had a committed Simon chasing him for the first three laps. Simon felt he had the upper hand and tried to take the lead in the third lap, using push to pass. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough space for both Engen Audi team members and Simon out-braked himself at turn five trying to go around the outside of Michael’s Audi A3 Sedan, allowing a fellow competitor to take advantage of the situation.
Simon’s minor excursion came at a three second expense and despite the fight to make up for lost ground, the remaining nine laps weren’t enough for Simon to regain his second position. In the meantime Michael “cruised” away and claimed his third victory of the season.
For race two, Simon and Michael found themselves fourth and sixth on the grid respectively for the reverse grid race ruling. A challenge in itself and as the race would prove, Zwartkops Raceway isn’t an easy proposition to overtake. From the beginning of race two, Simon struggled with the new set-ups that were made in between the races and wasn’t able to hold on to his starting position.
On the other hand, Michael clamped onto fellow competitor, Bonafede (BMW) and went with the flow of the race. In the front of the field, three GTC competitors faced the tricky overtake opportunities and lost out on a solid finishing position. While Michael had a few opportunities and sufficient speed to overtake Bonafede, he played the safe card and secured his 10th podium of the year with a second position. Moss eventually came to grips with the renewed set-up and completed the final GTC podium of the day with an impressive third position.
“Round 6 was a true reflection on how the season has been going so far for our team”, said Engen Audi team manager, Terry Moss, after the podium ceremonies. “Our Engen Audi team dominated practice, qualifying and the opening race and we have to consolidate in the second reverse grid race of the weekend. Considering that, it’s given us the lead in the championship and we’re still on course to end the2018 GTC season in 1 -2 formation. With the next race in just two weeks’ time, I think we did a great job and no excessive work is needed on either of our cars.”
Round 7 of the GTC championship will take place on 1st September at the Festival of Motoring event at the Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit in Johannesburg.