Gennaro Bonafede finished the 2018 Sasol GTC Championship in third place overall after being pushed off the track in the final race of the season and crashing into a wall at Zwartkops Raceway.
Going into the final round of championship, Bonafede was one of three title contenders, setting the scene for a tense showdown. Qualifying saw Michael Stephen and Simon Moss (Audi GTCs) fill the front row with Bonafede a scant 0.163 seconds adrift of pole position. Teammate, Robert Wolk lined up his BMW GTC racing car in fourth place, a slender 0.068 seconds further back.
In the opening 12-lap race around the 2.4km Pretoria circuit, Bonafede tucked in behind his rivals in a high speed train, unable to make a move on Moss. With the championship settled in favour of Stephen, who ran out the winner, Bonafede’s sights were firmly set on the championship runner-up fight. Wolk shadowed his teammates every move, ending in fourth position.
In the second race, from an inverted grid, Bonafede lined up in fifth place. With the bit between his teeth, he made a blistering start and was quickly up into fourth and challenging Mathew Hodges (Volkswagen Jetta GTC) for third place. Moss hit the Sasol powered BMW’s right rear under braking in Turn Five, causing the car to spin out of Bonafede’s control and subsequently hit the wall and that was the end of the race for the Sasol driver.
At the re-start, Wolk was embroiled in a thrilling race for second place with Rowe, Hodges and Moss. He dropped as low as fifth place before racing back to third as positions changed by the lap. On the final lap, he raced side-by-side with Rowe between turns five and six. Into Turn Six, he made a bold attempt to drive around the outside line. As he cut back to take the apex, the two cars touched and he spun off backwards into the gravel trap, out of the race.
Reflecting on his weekend, Bonafede said: “By the end of free practice, my lap times were coming together. In qualifying I had a strange steering issue which meant I couldn’t find that last tenth I needed. In the first race, we all ran in starting order, I got quicker as the race progressed and closed the gap to Simon, but there weren’t enough laps left to make a pass for a second place.
In the second race, I made a great start and thought I could challenge for the win. Under braking for Turn Five, Mathew braked, I braked, but Moss just kept coming. He hit my right rear and although I tried to catch the spin, he kept going and spun me around into the wall. It was a very disappointing end to the year”.
“I had a reasonably strong weekend”, said Wolk. “The car felt good and fourth on the grid was a fair reflection of my pace. I followed Gennaro in the first race and finished fourth. In the second race I had a great tussle with Simon and Daniel. We exchanged places all the time. I was in fifth, then third, then fourth, and then back into third. On the last lap I tried to pass Daniel for a second place around the outside of Turn Six, but he gave me no room and we made contact. I landed up going backwards through the gravel trap, which ended my race and season prematurely”.
Team Manager, Vic Maharaj said: “I don’t know what Simon was thinking in the second race. That incident cost us a shot at second in the championship. Gennaro had a car capable of challenging for pole, but he had a problem balancing the car with the wind constantly changing direction.
Overall, we had a strong first half to the year with Gennaro leading the championship. The turning point in the season came at Port Elizabeth and Kyalami. We would like to congratulate Terry Moss racing and Michael Stephen on a job well done and relish the opportunity to compete against them next year”.
“Our team sponsor, Sasol has been very supportive on- and off the field and was instrumental in the success the team enjoyed this season. A big thank you to one and all at Sasol for believing and supporting the team,” Vic concluded.
Race One: Bonafede – 3rd, Wolk – 4th
Race Two: Bonafede – Retired, Wolk – 6th
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