…As Jettas Thrills Crowd With Close Racing
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he Volkswagen South Africa Motorsport team leaves Kyalami as a clear crowd favourite following an exciting weekend at the spiritual home of circuit racing.
The new tarmac of the iconic Kyalami circuit in Midrand provided the manufacturer with the perfect stage to thrill the large crowds that attended Round 2 of the Sasol GTC Championship.
“We were very excited to come to Kyalami for the first time in 2017,” said Mr. Mike Rowe, Head of Volkswagen Motorsport. “With the combination of fast and flowing corners and a few more technical ones, it really is the ultimate driver’s circuit, and our GTC drivers were looking forward to the challenge.”
It started well during Friday’s practise sessions with the two Jettas of Hodges and Rowe improving their lap times in every session as they both got used to the track and the cars in preparation for Saturday’s qualifying session. Hodges quickly clocked his fastest lap of the weekend so far and put the Jetta in a solid third place on the starting grid, but young Daniel Rowe was less fortunate.
“I was coming down the main straight and hit the brakes to slow the car for turn one, but as I turned in the car snapped and spun out,” said Daniel Rowe who was forced to start race one from the back of the grid as a result of the technical issue.
When the lights turned green to signal the start of the race, both Hodges and Rowe came out swinging. It didn’t take long for the two Jettas to fight for the same piece of tarmac, and what followed will go down as one of the fiercest GTC battles to date. “I had a few nervous moments when our two cars started trading paint, but that’s racing and that’s what the crowds want to see. We don’t have team orders in place, but we also don’t want our two cars to take each other out. In the end, they put up a great show for the crowds,” continued Mike Rowe. Hodges crossed the finish line in 4th, with Rowe finishing in 5th.
For race two, the grid was determined by reversing the finishing order of race 1, which meant that Rowe would start in 4th, followed by teammate Hodges in 5th. This resulted in even closer racing throughout the field with the two blue and white Jettas again in the midst of the action. The race was characterized by a number of thrills and spills, and unfortunately for Rowe, he was once again forced to stop on lap four with an electrical problem. Hodges on the other hand kept his head down and stayed out of trouble to cut through the field and crossed the finish line in a fine second position.
“It was tough out there with oil all over the place. I made the decision to simply survive and it paid off as the second place together with a fourth in race one means a good haul of valuable championship points,” said Hodges from the second step of the winner’s podium.
Perhaps the performance of the day came from the Golf GTi brigade that contests the very competitive GTC 2 class. Youngster Keagan Masters came into the Kyalami event as the clear favourite following two wins during round 1, and once again he didn’t disappoint as he took the checkered flag in race 1. But then came race two. Teammate Mandla Mdakane didn’t make the best of starts, but the man from Johannesburg quickly found his stride and started to clock fast and consistent times as he worked his way through the field. By the end of the 9 lap race, Mdakane not only set the fastest lap, but he made history by becoming the first driver of colour to claim victory in a Sasol GTC race, following in the footsteps of other racing driver greats such as the late Gugu Zulu and Tschops Sipuka.
“We are very pleased to see that our investment and strategy of nurturing young talents is starting to pay dividends,” said Mike Rowe. “Mandla has always been a very quick driver, and now he has a victory behind his name, hopefully the first of many.” Mdakane is a product of Volkswagen’s commitment to develop future talent, and following the recent Volkswagen Driver Search, the company has a few more raw talents in the pipeline.
“Overall a great day for the Volkswagen Motorsport squad. We made history in GTC 2 where we remain unbeaten at the same time, and although we would have liked to have both our Jettas finish higher up on the leaderboard, we still managed to gather valuable championship points for Mathew and our cars put up a great show for the crowds,” concluded Rowe.
Round 3 of the Sasol GTC series will travel to the Eastern Cape when the Jettas will take on the infamous Potter’s Pass corner of the East London Grand Prix circuit on 20 May.