Cape Town, 25 September, 2018. At the most crucial stage of the 2018 Sasol Global Touring Cars Africa Championship (GTC), the Engen Audi team delivered a picture perfect performance by taking 1st and 2nd place in every race session at the Killarney International Raceway this past weekend. From the first practice session up until the final race, it was reigning champion, Michael Stephen who was first, with his team mate Simon Moss closely matched in second place.
On Friday (21st September), the penultimate round of the GTC Championship started off well, with Michael Stephen and Simon Moss dominating all three practice session in a one – two formation.
The qualifying round results on Saturday (22nd September) were no exception for the Engen Audi team’s performance. Michael Stephen set a new GTC qualifying record around the 3.2 kilometre track with his pole position, while Simon Moss made it the team’s 6th full front lock down of the GTC season with his second position. But, there were worried faces in the Engen Audi pits as a misfiring engine plagued Simon Moss yet again. “I only had one good lap to set my time when my engine started giving me problems. We thought we had resolved it overnight, but it came back,” said Simon Moss.
While the whole GTC field lined up for the grid walk, the team engineers were working on the #38 Audi race vehicle until the last minute, to resolve the intermittent misfire issue. With little time left, Moss eventually joined the grid, much to the delight of the spectators, to sign some of the fan’s posters.
In GTC race one, Michael Stephen had an excellent departure from the starting line and with Simon in his slip stream, he instantly opened up a gap. That breathing space was enough for Michael to instantly take control, and dictated the race pace until he received the finish flag in first position. Simon had his hands full in the first few laps, but as soon as he found his rhythm he also pulled away to make it a one – two finish for the Engen Audi team.
With the unbeatable performance thus far over the weekend, it was time to tackle the reverse grid in GTC race two. Regardless of the team’s quick pace, winning from the back of the grid had been the only remaining challenge for the Engen Audi team. With the main championship contender, Bonafede (BMW), in second position, Michael and Simon saw it as extra motivation to push hard.
Simon Moss had a blistering opening lap and he was already hunting down Bonafede from second position in lap 2. Michael Stephen in the meantime, took a relatively conservative approach but steadily worked his way through the field. In lap 4, it was Moss who took the lead and by lap seven Michael joined him for a 1 – 2 formation. With only 4 laps to go, Michael caught up and swiftly passed Simon, who was struggling with his brakes and the Engen Audi duo claimed the second double podium of the day. Along the road Michael Stephen set a new GTC lap record and made it a picture perfect weekend.
“There aren’t enough superlatives for a weekend like this,” Terry Moss said after the race. “We dominated this weekend in an unimaginable way - a first and second place in every single session and race, plus a new lap record. Most importantly, Engen Audi is now 1st and 2nd in the GTC Championship, again, with one more round to go.”
Michael Stephen has already one hand on his third consecutive GTC Championship title with a 31 point lead over his team mate, Simon Moss. Simon has a five point gap to third man from Bonafede and is in a good position to end the season on an all-time high for Engen Audi.
The final round of the 2018 GTC Championship will take place on 20 October at Zwartkops Raceway in Pretoria.