Engen Audi Team’s Michael Stephen powers into GTC lead

The Engen Audi Team treated their home fans to a masterclass this weekend during Round Five of the Sasol Global Touring Cars Championship (GTC) at a soggy Aldo Scribante in Port Elizabeth. Determined racing and extreme weather conditions, delivered a mouth-watering spectacle of action.

Ahead of the weekend’s action, the main talking points were the new track surface and the weather forecasts. Both delivered, creating a series of incredible racing battles.

Engen Audi Team drivers, Michael Stephen and Simon Moss dominated practice on Friday, topping the leader board in every session. While the first two sessions were soaking wet, the final practice was on relatively dry asphalt with both Engen Audi A3s dominant.

Qualifying on Saturday was on a dry track. Stephen powered into pole despite a slipping clutch, just ahead of Moss. It was their fourth consecutive 1- 2 on the grid, which is a Sasol GTC record.

Ahead of the opening race, the Engen Audi team faced the challenge of replacing the clutch on the number 1 car. With plenty of time to spare, Stephen rolled out of the pit box without a problem.

However, shortly after qualifying, the rain started to fall.

In Race One, Stephen took the lead with Moss following in his slipstream before the latter faulted and went off at the start of the second lap. While Moss frantically fought his way back up, reigning Sasol GTC champion Stephen took full control and cruised to victory. Moss excelled in his fightback to cross the line in second place after an impressive series of overtakes.

With his win in the opening race, Stephen took the lead in the Sasol GTC Championship for the first time in 2018.

Race Two, also in the wet, saw the Engen Audi duo start from the back of the grid, in line with the reverse grid ruling.

Moss made a blistering start and battled fiercely for the lead after two laps. Stephen took a more conservative approach, taking extra care to move up the field in the tricky conditions.

By the mid-point of the race, Stephen made a move into third place but contact on his left rear sent him spinning into the outfield – losing ground on the leaders. Although managing to finish the race in seventh position, Stephen did set the fastest lap of the race.

Moss, in the meantime, was one of the key players in some of the hottest action ever seen in a GTC event.

Forced off the field several times, Moss made more passes than the entire field combined. During the fifteen-lap race, he moved from seventh to lead in five laps, out-braked himself and dropped back down to fifth. Six laps later, a battle with Volkswagen Motorsport Team’s Daniel Rowe on the outside of the sweep forced him off the track. Moss fought back hard and quick as he took the final podium spot with a third position. This ensured that he claimed second spot in the championship behind Stephen.

Team Principal, Terry Moss said Race Two was one of the craziest he had ever seen. He was however extremely happy for the spectators who endured the torrential rain.

“We’ve dominated the weekend until the final race and with this number of bumper accidents, combined with wet and slippery conditions, we can be happy with the weekend.

“Leaving the track with yet another full front lock-down, fastest lap of the race, 1-2 podium, a third for Moss in the final race and, most importantly, first and second in the championship.”

Stephen was as cool as ever after the weekend.

“I think we did the business here at home. We’ve now taken control over the championship, and we’ve proven that we’re the team to beat. With these weather conditions, racing becomes a very unpredictable game and we’re glad that the fans enjoyed a thrilling weekend.”

Round Six of the Sasol GTC takes place in four weeks’ time, when the series returns to Zwartkops Raceway in Pretoria.