They came, they saw, they conquered. This sums up the performance of the Engen Audi team in Round Three of the GTC Africa Championship at Zwartkops Raceway on Saturday.
At what was the second Gauteng round of the season, and in the very backyard of most of their competitors, Engen Audi drivers Michael Stephen and Simon Moss were the dominant forces out on the track from Friday’s first practice session to the end of Race Two on Saturday afternoon.
The Engen Audi team had flawless preparation ahead of the race weekend, and with Moss entering the round as championship leader, the stakes were high - and motivation higher – for the Port Elizabeth-based team. Team engineer and reigning GTC Africa champion, Stephen aligned all resources to the max in order for both cars to come out in full force.
Friday’s practice saw the team’s Audi A3s operate in a different league. Stephen disheartened the competition from the first session with a sequence of blistering times. With his confidence in the stratosphere, he sat back for the remainder of the day, knowing his times would take some beating. Moss showed impressive speed throughout the day and clocked the fastest time in the second session.
The atmosphere in the Terry Moss Racing pit-box was calm ahead of qualifying. With little work overnight for the team engineer, the team was brimming with confidence. When the 10-minute session ended, a mere 0,015 separated Stephen (on pole) and Moss.
Race 1 got underway with Stephen leading the way, followed closely by Moss. The duo set the pace and stormed through the 12-lap race. In the early stages, Moss seemed to be quickest, but after a small mishap he left a small 1,1 second gap across the line. With a 1-2 victory for the Engen Audi team, the tone was set for the rest of the day.
Race 2 was always going to present a massive challenge for the Engen Audi team due to the reverse grid rule. With the Pretoria track known for its limited overtaking opportunities, both Stephen and Moss had to act swiftly in the opening stages to work themselves up from the back of the grid to challenge for positions on the podium. Moss worked his way up to third early on but came unstuck with a small gear change glitch which demoted him back. While Stephen was working his way up in the field, he encountered sudden power loss. A cracked manifold stalled his march, and he had to settle for third position. Moss finished fourth.
Team Principal, Terry Moss, was extremely happy with the performance.
“We knew that we would be strong this weekend and did everything in our power to ensure we would come out on top. We made our point in qualifying and in Race One and I feel that it is in the benefit of the series to have a reverse grid for the second race. With our current strength, it would have been a whitewash for our team, and most probably a boring second race to watch.”
After three of the nine round 2018 GTC Africa completed, Moss leads the championship, three points ahead of Sasol GTC Racing Team’s Gennaro Bonafede. Stephen is third, now just three points off second place.
The GTC Africa championship heads back to the coast in mid-June, with Round Four taking place at the East London Grand Prix on 15-16 June.