Round 3 of the 2021 Global Touring Cars (GTC) championship, held on May 29th at the Aldo Scribante Race Circuit, saw TOYOTA GAZOO Racing SA’s Michael van Rooyen triumph in the second race of the weekend.
Run over a period of thirty minutes, the race offered a stern test to both man and machine, but the Rustenburg Rocket and his Toyota Corolla came through with a win.
“It was a really tough weekend in Port Elizabeth,” said Van Rooyen after the weekend. “We struggled during qualifying, and our results in race one were disappointing. But then it all came together in race two, keeping our championship chase alive, and leaving the entire team feeling positive about our prospects going forward.”
The weekend started with qualifying on the Saturday morning, where Van Rooyen posted the 4th-fastest time. Teammate Mandla Mdakane went 6th-fastest, and it was clear that the TOYOTA GAZOO Racing SA team had a lot of work ahead of them.
Race 1 saw fellow Toyota Corolla driver, Robert Wolk, seal the win; with the TGRSA drivers finishing in 5th and 6th, with Van Rooyen besting Mdakane by 10.4sec after ten laps. Mdakane struggled with a loose wheel nut throughout the session, but managed to restrict his time loss to his partner.
But then came race two, and a reversed grid order. With Mdakane on pole, and Van Rooyen in second, the team quickly devised a strategy to give Van Rooyen a shot at the win.
“We knew that the entire field would be breathing down our necks, but with a good start, it would be possible for me to stay ahead of the pack,” said Van Rooyen.
When the flag dropped, Van Rooyen managed to squeeze by teammate Mdakane to take an early lead. But since the race was run over thirty minutes, with one lap added after the time ran out, it was always going to be challenging to manage tyres over the race distance, which worked out to 30 laps.
“We had to take care of our tyres, fend off a hard charge from Robbie (Wolk) and try to bag as many points as possible,” said Van Rooyen. “In the end, things worked out for us – but by the smallest of margins.”
In the end, Van Rooyen managed to keep Wolk at bay, despite a late charge into the final corner. It was a close-run race, but Van Rooyen was ecstatic with his victory. At the same time, Mdakane ran in third place for the bulk of the race. A problem with a wheelnut, however, forced him to slow his pace.
“We had a wheelrim split during practice, which resulted in a scary moment when we went into the kitty litter at the final hairpin of the circuit,” said Mdakane. “This obviously played on my mind, and when I felt a vibration mid-way through race 2, I realised that I couldn’t continue at the same pace.”
In the end, Van Rooyen secured the win, bagging maximum points in the process. Next up is Round 4 of the championship, to be contested at the East London Grand Prix Circuit in July.