Volkswagen Motorsport returned to Cape Town’s Killarney Raceway for the second time in 2017 to take on Round 7 of the Sasol GTC Series. “Volkswagen Motorsport is by far the biggest player South Africa’s premier circuit racing formula,” commented Mr. Mike Rowe, head of Volkswagen Motorsport. The Uitenhage-based outfit features two Volkswagen Jettas driven by Mathew Hodges and Daniel Rowe in the top GTC class while no less than six of the nine cars that compete in the very competitive GTC2 category are Golf GTIs. “Our level of participation is proof of our commitment to South African Motorsport. But our involvement also comes with experience. And experience has shown that racing at this level can be an unforgiving and unpredictable sport.”
Mathew Hodges was successfully working on his car’s setup during the last of the Friday’s practice sessions when he heard a noise under the Jetta’s bonnet. Quick thinking allowed him to switch it off in time to save the engine. As a precautionary measure, the team decided to change the turbo powerplant, but it did mean that Hodges was forced to miss out on qualifying. “To change an engine in one of these racecars is no small feat,” said Hodges. “But Volkswagen Motorsport has a team of very skilled technicians that are on top of their game. Thanks to their hard work, we should have a good car ready for race one.”
Teammate Daniel Rowe managed to qualify his Jetta just seven tenths off the fastest time, setting the scene for a good race on the Saturday of the event. In the ultra-competitive GTC2 category, it was business as usual for the string of Volkswagen Golf GTi drivers who dominated the timesheets. Charl Smalberger and Trevor Bland set the pace in qualifying, just ahead of Volkswagen Motorsport’s own Keagan Masters. The youngster was due to race in Germany over the weekend, but decided that fighting for the GTC2 title on South African soil was more important. It almost didn’t pay off for the championship points leader as a technical issue prevented him from having any brakes coming down Killarney’s infamous long straight. In a fantastic display of driving skill, young Masters managed to save the day and avoid tragedy, but he was eliminated from the race leaving it to Bland and Smalberger to fight for victory. Bland managed to hold on to record his first win of the season ahead of Smalberger and Volkswagen Motorsport’s Mandla Mdakane who rounded out the podium.
Up ahead in the GTC category, Daniel Rowe was driving the race of his life. The Port Elizabeth-based driver managed to make two clean passes stick on the opening lap, elevating him up into fourth position. He spent the rest of the race planning his move before finally taking over third position on the final lap. With just one single corner before the checkered flag a podium finish was literally in sight, but the Jetta was hit from the side and forced to limp over the line in an eventual eighth position. “It was a very disappointing end to the race,” said Daniel Rowe. “We had the finish in sight when our car was spun around. I was a passenger at this point and there was nothing I could do.”
There was a little good news for the Volkswagen Motorsport squad later in the day when Hodges and Rowe brought their two Jettas home in fourth and fifth positions respectively in race 2, putting up a great show for the fans in the process. But the drive of the day belonged to young Keagan Masters in the GTC2 category. After the disappointment of race 1, the Golf driver set off in his quest to score as many championship points as possible in race 2. When the lights turned green, the Volkswagen Motorsport Golf disappeared into the distance and crossed the finish line 15 laps later for another dominant win. “It was the best I could do after failing to finish race one. This victory definitely puts me in a good position to fight for the title over the remaining two rounds,” said Masters afterwards.
“We are looking forward to the last two rounds of the season,” continued Mike Rowe. “The next event will take place at Kyalami early in November. We are hoping to end the season on a high and will do our best to help Keagan to the GTC2 title in the process.”