Former multiple South African Production Car Champion Michael Stephen made the perfect start to his Sasol Global Touring Car Championship when he took pole position and followed that with both race wins at the Extreme Festival event held at Zwartkops Raceway earlier today.
Michael Stephen leads the pack at the start of the second race

Image by Paul Bedford – Action Images

The GTC series, where the cars share many common components but have manufacturer specific body panels and engines, debuted in front of a large crowd on a sunny Women’s Day public holiday.

Stephen showed that he meant business, setting the fastest time in the red-flag interrupted morning qualifying session in his Engen Xtreme Audi A3 GTC. He was almost quarter of a second quicker than Mathew Hodges (Volkswagen Motorsport Jetta GTC). The Sasol BMW GTC pairing of Gennaro Bonafede and Hennie Groenewald were next up with Graeme Nathan (Volkswagen Motorsport Jetta GTC) and Simon Moss, who brought out the red flag when he hit the barriers at turn one, in fifth and sixth places respectively.

In the opening 14-lap race Stephen was never seriously challenged in a lights to flag victory. Hodges, who was close in the early stages, fell back slightly towards the end and settled for second place ahead of Bonafede.

Groenewald’s BMW developed a misfire which allowed Nathan to catch and pass him. The Jetta driver then spun exiting the table top allowing Groenewald back into fourth place. Nathan wasn’t to be denied though and set after Groenewald again. He agin got past the ailing BMW and, this time, held the position until the flag. The Terry Moss Racing run Audi team did a great job of patching Moss’ damaged car back together to allow him to finish in six place albeit just over a minute behind his team mate at the head of the pack.

In race two it was again Stephen who did all the work at the front of the field, going on to take victory by almost 11 seconds. Hodges was his closest challenger in the early stages but gear shift gremlins slowed him down allowing Nathan, who had managed to work his way past Bonafede, into second place.

Bonafede, despite a spin in the closing stages, claimed his second podium finish of the day with Hodges finishing a lap down in fourth. Moss’ Audi cried enough in the early stages of the race while Groenewald didn’t make the start line after his team were unable to cure the misfire that plagued his car in the first race.