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Friday, 16 March 2018 00:00

Gti Challenge & The Big Bang Theory

A successful opening round for the Burly Pro Gti Challenge 2018 season paves the way for the season preview of what
the many fans and supporters can expect to see during the year. With the 1 st heat only lasting 100m before a
controversial startline incident brought out the red flag, the hunger and excitement of the competitors were clear as
each driver fought hard in bid to claim top honours.
With each and every class having fierce rivalries and changes in the driver line up, the tensions were bound to explode
on the track.
In Class A, it was the ever quick ex VW Cup Campaigner Jurie “Umpie” Swart Jnr (Alpine Autohaus Polo Classic) who left
3 brand new Polo 6R’s in the dust as the young superstar claimed pole position. With blistering pace Swart Jnr was a full
second quicker than 2 nd placed John Pretorius (Universal Healthcare). Pretorius is no stranger to motorsport being the
team manager of the Universal Racing Group, however the Doctor just did not have the pace and had to settle for P2.
Claiming P3 on his Gti Challenge debut was another ex VW Cup Campaigner Paulus Franken (Manitou Group). Franken
joins the series for the 2018 season and brings a vast amount of VW cup drives to the table. 4 th on the grid and
completing the class line up was Francois “Trappies” van Tonder (Universal Healthcare).
With tensions going through the roof and excitement levels off the charts, each driver was anxious to make a good start
and get the hole shot for turn 1. But the for the 3 new drivers making their debut, their opening race lasted a mere
100m before the red flag beckoned and the race stopped.
The drivers then slowly proceeded around the circuit and returned to their original starting positions as the obstruction
on the circuit was cleared. Once the marshals gave the all clear, the green flags were signaled and the lights went out to
kick off the restart of the 1 st heat.
Swart Jnr got the holeshot with Pretorius and Franken side-by- side and van Tonder slotting in behind the duo in a steady
4 th position. With Franken & Pretorius fighting for P2, Swart Jnr slowly crept away and began to open up a cushion at the
front. With each passing corner Swart Jnr increased his advantage over the rest of the chasing pack making an
interesting tussle develop for 2 nd place between 3 late model vehicles. With all 3 drivers coming from VW cup, it
resembled a “local vs national” contest as Pretorius, Franken & van Tonder are familiar with close-knit racing.
The trio remained close for most of the heat when on lap 5 the perseverance of the Doctor would see the team manager
begin to edge away from trio and begin to sit comfortable in a safe 2 nd position with Franken slotting into a comfortable
3 rd and van Tonder just a tad further in P4.
The positions remained as Swart Jnr crossed the line with a comfortable lead to draw first blood and following suit was
Dr. Pretorius in a superb P2 in his Gti Challenge Debut. A delightful final podium spot was most welcomed by Franken
who along with van Tonder also wrapped up their debut in the series.
With all cars having an event free first heat, the teams had little preparations and adjustments required for the 2 nd heat.
With Swart Jnr picking up where he left off last season, the young talent came to the startline with a mountain of
confidence and ready to battle with some of his former competitors.
However the pressure just about seeped slightly as P2 man, Dr. Pretorius pulled up into his grid slot and was eager to
begin his 2 nd heat. Just a little too eager as the doctor accidently disengaged the clutch a tad too much and rolled
forward under starters orders, resulting in a jump start and 30s time penalty.

The lights went out for the 2 nd time and another good start for the class champion Swart Jnr with Franken making an
even stronger position and gaining a position by the end of T1 with van Tonder slotting into P4 behind team mate
Pretorius.
Franken put the hammer down and snatched the lead from Swart Jnr by the end of the first lap. Swart Jnr seemed a little
distracted in the 2 nd heat as the young talent slipped back to P3 behind Pretorius, but held station with van Tonder
further back in a solid P4. But then Swart Jnr found the magic of the 1 st heat and launched an attack on the 2 drivers
ahead of him as he slowly crept closer to the leaders. The young talent then made his first move and take back P2 from
Pretorius. Swart Jnr was not done yet and set his sights on race leader Franken.
However Franken would not make it easy on the youngster and made his vehicle as wide as possible to defend his lead.
Swart Jnr sat patiently and waited for just the right moment as the class champion overtook Franken on the penultimate
lap to see the champ make it a double whammy and come home in P1, with Franken going 1 better to cross the line in a
well deserved P2 with team mates Pretorius & van Tonder coming home in 3 rd & 4 th respectively. Even though van
Tonder suffered a spin in T2, the veteran was promoted to 3 rd place due to the time penalty incurred by Pretorius for the
startline incident.
Matters in Class B showed promise with 2 new drivers joining the class for the 2018 season and seeing a significant
increase in numbers. However it was current class champion Eden Thompson (Somerset Refrigeration/MAD
Performance Golf I Gti) who struck first with pole position. But the sensation of the class was newbie Gideon Serfontien
(Goeiehoop Onderdele Golf II GTi) who put on a splendid drive to secure a delightful P2 in his new vehicle with Challenge
veteran Mario Roux (Automar Jetta II) placing 3 rd for the 1 st heat.
Coming back with a strong return was Clubmans refugee Jean-Michel Masue (Provence Welding Polo Classic) who
clinched a strong P4 on the starting grid with 2017 sensation, Mr Consistency Wayne Field (Coetzee’s Auto Coachworks
Golf II GTi) rounding out the top 5. 2017 rookie Grant Cloete (Upstream Connect Golf I GTi) placed himself in a good 6 th
position and seemed on par with rest of the class.
It was a controversial start for class rookie and new series sponsor Emile Assure (Burly Pro/Krisp Air Coolers Polo 6R)
who topped the timesheets and looked poised to claim pole on his series debut, but Assure was then penalized and sent
to back of class after failing to come into parc ferme after the qualifying session. Another competitor caught out by
rookie error was 2016 rookie of the year, Earl Josephs (Silvermoon Roofing Polo Classic) who managed to just make the
qualifying session but forgot to attach his transponder and therefore did not set an official time. This would see Josephs
start behind Assure for heat 1.
As the pack made their way onto the grid, the excitement between the drivers could barely be contained as with an
interesting line up, the action was guaranteed to bring the crowd to their feet. In true Gti Challenge fashion, getting the
raw deal was veteran Roux whose 1 heat barely lasted a 100m when contact was made with a class c car and Roux’s car
getting turned around on the starting grid. With Roux stranded in the centre of the grid facing a hungry pack of class c
warriors, the inevitable happened. Class C competitor Christopher Swart (Jacks Paint & Hardware Edgemead Golf I GTi)
who was determined to get a good start, was unable to take evasive action and made contact head on with Roux,
sending Swart’s car airborne and into the pit wall. The damage being too severe for Swart to continue and bring his
opening round to an abrupt end.
Roux then pulled into the pit complex to assess the damage on his vehicle and thereby missed the restart of the 1 st heat.
The lights went out for to signal the restart of the 1 st heat and it was class champion Thompson who lead the way with
Serfontien getting off to a slow start and dropping just a tad off the pace of Thompson. The 2 managed to open a gap
over the rest of the class as Thompson lead the pack with Serfontein in hot pursuit and hunting down the leader. On lap
2 Serfontein was a man on mission as he showed amazing pace and was beginning to reel in the leader when former
class c graduate outbraked himself going into turn 5 and had a minor off. Luckily Serfontien managed to gather himself
and vehicle quickly only dropped 1 position to slot in behind 2016 rookie Josephs who made a lighting and worked
himself into 2 nd position from the back of class. This incident unfortunately put Serfontien out of victory contention and
Thompson settled into lonely lead at the front.

However Serfontien was determined to make up for his earlier off and set about hunting down Josephs who was gifted a
delightful P2. Serfontein was soon back on his blistering pace and on lap 5 retook 2 nd position from Josephs who also
found something extra and showed some improved pace in his new vehicle. Josephs looked set for his 2 nd podium
position when a fuel surge developed coming out turn 5 on lap 6 and would see Josephs’ podium finish slip away as the
2016 rookie was forced to retire on the penultimate lap.
Following Josephs’ retirement, new series sponsor Assure was promoted to the final podium who also managed to
capitalize with a strong start. However Assure was not out of the woods just yet as 2 hungry wolves in the form of Field
and Cloete were determined to teach the new class rookie a lesson. But Assure held his own and maintained a sufficient
margin ahead of the 2 more experienced drivers just a tad further behind.
As the flag beckoned it was class champion Thompson who crossed the line in P1 with Serfontien recovering fantastically
to finish his 1 st class b outing in an amazing P2 and an outstanding 3 rd position for series sponsor Assure on his debut.
Coming home in a delightful P4 was 2017 sensation Field who just pipped Cloete to the line rounding out the final class
position. Another unfortunate twist of luck for Masue who began to drop back in the latter part of the heat and
complained about a lack of power, causing Masue to retire from the heat.
With an eventful start to the season, the pack returned to the start line for the 2 nd heat. Serfontien was rewarded for his
amazing performance in the 1 st heat and clinched his first ever class pole position. This was a clear sign to current class
champion Thompson, who put his vehicle in P2, that Serfontien had his sights firmly set on the top step. A consolation
for Josephs after his 1 st heat bad luck was placing himself in a strong 3 rd position with 1 st heat star performer Assure
slotting in behind the 2016 rookie in a splendid 4 th position with Masue rounding out the top 5.
The lights went out as Thompson and Serfontien immediately cleared off at the front making the class honours a 2 way
fight at the front with Josephs, Assure & Masure locked into tussle for the final podium spot. Just further back Field &
Cloete were again locked into a fight of the own. The action at the front heated up intensely as Thompson managed to
get the holeshot with Serfontein latched on the class champion like a bad rash. Keen on his first victory, Serfontien kept
his composure and followed Thompson throughout the heat, waiting for an opportunity. Serfontein’s patience paid off
as on the penultimate lap, the class A Polo of van Tonder spun in turn 2 just as Serfontein & Thompson were
approaching the entry. Fortunately Serfontein saw a gap and snatched the lead from the class champion.
This then put van Tonder between Serfontein and Thompson, allowing Serfontein to eke out a small advantage.
However Thompson snuck in behind the faster class A car and managed to get a tow down the back main bringing the
class champion right back into the fight. But Serfontein was not willing to give the lead away that easy and made his
vehicle as wide as possible and blocked Thompson in the final corner to seal his fate and claim his first class victory, with
Thompson on his rear bumper to finish in a well deserved second place.
Coming home to take his 2 nd podium and making up for his 1 st heat woes was 2016 rookie Josephs in a lonely P3 after
Masue and Assure lost touch with Josephs during the latter stages of the heat. Masue’s vehicle again suffered a lack of
power and “lady luck” saw Masue make light contact with lady racer Nadia Nair in turn 1 after taking evasive action
trying to avoid a sliding Nair.
Assure who had a strong 1 st heat result, would rather want to forget about the 2 nd heat after having a spin in the opening
laps of the 2 nd heat and then an off on the inside of turn 4 which caused some damaged to the vehicle and in turn
sprayed oil onto the track on the final lap.
This incident would see Assure drop way down the order and allow Field to come home in P5 with Cloete again playing
2 nd fiddle to Field rounding out the top 5.
In Class C it was 2017 overall and class champion Marco Busi (Automan Golf I GTi) who drew first blood from the Torso
when the ex WP Karter kicking off his title defense in fine style with a double victory. Busi made a fantastic start after
qualifying in P4 and made his intentions abundantly clear. Although one to watch out for this season is 2016 overall
champion Bryan Morgan (Greatsoft Payroll Golf I GTi) who came away with pole position, followed my class newbie

Jacques Geldenhuys (Ferroli/G&A Motorsport Golf I GTi) who reveled in the handling of his new machine. Lining up in P3
was ex international Seat cup driver Shane Williams (Driving Force Golf I GTi) with young Dario Busi in an identically
themed Golf I GTi as older brother Marco.
The lights went out for the restart and Morgan was the man who got the holeshot with Marco getting a perfect launch
and gaining 2 positions to slot in behind the leader with Geldenhuys following suit. Young Dario also made a great start
and gained a place as Williams was the unlucky man in the leading group dropping 2 places. The current champion was
not content on staying in his position and on lap 2 clinched the lead from Morgan. The ex champ dropped another
position soon after as Geldenhuys also passed the ex champ who dropped 2 places in 1 lap.
It remained a closely contested battle at the front of the class, as the top 3 broke away from the chasing pack. Morgan
suffered another crucial blow as the hub broke coming out of the kink and see the ex champ retire with only two corners
to go. Luck was clearly on Marco’s side as Geldenhuys’ car experienced fuel surge coming out of the final corner on the
last lap dropping to 7 th position as the rest of the class C pack come flying pass the limping ex overall champion.
Benefiting from the misfortunes of Morgan & Geldenhuys was Williams who came home in a delightful 2 nd position after
being involved in a 6 car scrap with young Dario, Jarred Simpson in the 2 nd Payroll Golf, returning ex VW Cup campaigner
Giordano Lupini (CIR Construction/La Vie De Luc Golf I GTi), series vice chairman Gert du Plessis (Cheapercars.co.za Golf I
GTi) and Dillion Joubert (TAC Steel/Powder Coating World Golf I GTi). The pack remained pretty close throughout the
heat with a little argie bargie between Lupini & Simpson on lap 2. What looked poised to be another enthralling finish
was then met with havoc on the final lap as the unsuspecting group of 6 was not aware of the oil spill and would see
Lupini, Simpson & Dario who chose the wider line for the final corner all veer off the circuit under braking. Luckily for
Williams, du Plessis & Joubert, the tighter line was clear and the trio came through the final corner cleanly. However
Lupini & Simpson recovered quickly to come home in 3 rd & 4 th position respectively, with du Plessis rounding out the top
5.
The drivers assessed their vehicles for any findings and then proceeded to line up for the 2 nd heat. This time round it was
current champion Marco whose 1 st heat performance rewarded the champion with a pole position, followed by Simpson
and matriculant Lupini rounding out the top 3. Williams this time could only manage a 4 th position on the starting grid
with Geldenhuys also unable to better his 1 st heat starting position.
The lights went out for the 2 nd time and current champion Marco got off to another flyer as the young gun immediately
began to open up a buffer on the rest of the pack. With the current champ not waiting around for anyone or leaving
anything to chance, the current champ put the hammer down and maintained a steady lead to take the 2 nd heat in a flag-
to-flag style victory.
Also having another good run was Williams who continued his 1 st heat performance with a faultless run to take a
successive 2 nd position on the trot. The sensation of the 2 nd heat was undoubtedly du Plessis who stunned the others by
taking the final podium spot. The vice chairman was ecstatic about his podium and found a different kind of magic in the
2 nd heat. With a freshly repaired vehicle, 2016 champion Morgan crossed the line in a reserved 4 th position after settling
into a relaxed pace and deciding to rather go for points and risk another DNF for the day. Rounding out the top 5 was 1 st
podium finisher young Lupini.
Class newbie Geldwnhuys had an even more eventful 2 nd heat as the ex champion could not seem to find his rhythm of
the 1 st heat. The ex champion was lucky to escape with minimal damage when Geldenhuys had a big moment coming
out of turn 3 and made minor contact with inside WRX circuit wall. Fortunately the damage was minor and former class
B front runner was able to finish the heat.
Competitors lower down the order included Ian Kapp (Hydracor Hydraulics Golf I GTi who had a successful first outing
for the season. For returning 2016 rookie Alfie Van Zyl (Golf I GTi), it was a round to regret as Van Zyl was unable to
finish any of the heats to overheating issues. Lady Racer Nadia Nair, had an eventful 2 nd heat having a light collision with
a class B contender and then having another huge moment in turn 4 on lap 6 which would see Nair going backwards into
the tyre barriers, but fortunately sustained minor damage from the impact.

With all the drama in the opening round, the action is sure to intensify as the season progresses. With new
championship contenders across all classes, the masses will be in for much more close racing and driving finesse by none
other than the Western Cape’s most wildly popular circuit series.
Be sure not miss round 2 which is set to unfold on March 10 th at Killarney International Raceway in conjunction with the
Wingfield Power Series.
- Written By: Byron Wanza

Last modified on Monday, 19 March 2018 11:37

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