Two wins, the fastest qualifying time and best lap times for both races. These are the impressive stats racked up by the Engen Xtreme Team at the Sasol GTC Africa event at the Prince George Circuit in East London on Saturday, May 20.
The common thread for the third round of the series was the Engen Xtreme Audi A3’s appearing at the top of the timesheets for every session. Simon Moss was fastest in the first two practice sessions on Friday, followed by his teammate and defending Sasol GTC Africa champion, Michael Stephen.
The pair swapped positions in the third session with Stephen quickest. Come qualifying, it was again Moss to the fore, setting himself up for a pole position start in race one. Stephen qualified third-quickest, behind Moss and Johan Fourie in an EPS Couriers BMW.
In race one Stephen managed to pass Moss and Fourie on the opening lap and take the win 1.5 seconds ahead of his teammate. Afterwards, he hailed Moss for putting the team in pole. “Simon did a fantastic job in qualifying. It was a great race one for both of us, and for the Engen Xtreme Team as a whole.”
The reverse grid race two saw the Sasol BMW duo of Robert Wolk and Gennaro Bonafede start from the front row. Such was Stephen and Moss’ pace on the day that they were soon up to third and fourth, having started from the back of the grid.
“In race two we reeled in the competition, but it was quite a challenge from last to get into first as Gennaro had good pace during that second race. I suffered a bit of understeer in the beginning of race two but the car improved with every lap. When Gennaro made a mistake, I got up close down the back straight and overtook into Cocabana Corner,” said Stephen afterwards.
Moss faded in the closing stages to finish race two in sixth place. This after he put a wheel on to the grass through a corner and damaged the splitter mounted under the nose of his car.
“I locked up the rear going into Cocabana, I touched the grass and ran slightly wide, but enough to damage the splitter,” said Moss. “This became a problem later and I landed up at the back of the field.”
Stephen claimed first overall for the race day, with two race victories and the fastest lap in race two. Moss finished fifth overall, with a fastest qualifying time, second place in race one and the fastest lap of the first race.
With two chequered flags on the day, Stephen is now right back into contention for championship honours. Starting the weekend in fifth position, the Port Elizabeth-based racer is up to third on the standings, 64 points behind leader Bonafede. Moss is in second place, 36 points off the lead – and there are 50 points up for grabs for every race win.
“At this point I’m taking each round as it comes, focusing on finishing each race. I’ll concentrate on the championship at a later stage,” commented Stephen.
Said Moss: “We had very good pace today and we’ve got really valuable points that are going to count for a lot in this championship. It will become very close from this point on, especially as Michael climbs the championship ladder and I continue to close the gap on my opposition.”