THE Audi S4 quattro racers set the pace at Aldo Scribante Raceway in Port Elizabeth. The qualifying session for round three of their championship in the Super Series saw the top four positions all claimed by Audi S4 quattro drivers.
Right at the top of the qualifying results is championship leader Michael Stephen (A1 – Engen Xtreme) who made good use of home-track advantage to qualify at the head of the field. Stephen then turned this front row start into a race victory – knowing he faced starting at the back of the grid for race two as the championship leader.
“The goal for the weekend was to qualify on pole,” says Stephen. “It doesn’t make things easy, but it does help to boost your chances. In the second race Gennaro and I had a tussle once or twice, but I managed to get past – the same as with Gavin Cronje. He did hold me up a bit, but I managed to get past although it did mean I couldn’t catch Johan Fourie.”
Stephen’s last place start in the second race was transformed into a second place finish as he fought his way through the pack and claimed the overall race win for the day – extending his championship lead in the process.
Just behind Stephen on the qualifying sheets was Simon Moss (A38 – Engen Xtreme) who showed his pace in an extremely close qualifying session just 0.157 of a second slower than the champion.
“In the first race I tucked in behind Michael and tried to get away from the field,” says Moss who crossed the line for second place in that first event. “In race two things got very interesting. I started the race in pole position and tried some late-braking to prevent the BMWs from getting past me, but I got that wrong and went off.”
“I got back on track behind the field and managed to catch them again. I could have won, but that mistake cost me.”
Moss’ fight from the back saw him overtake the entire Class T field and claw his way up to fourth place in Class A to finish the day in fourth place overall.
Audi’s strength in qualifying continued with the Audi Sasolracing’s Hennie Groenewald (A8) third quickest and just marginally behind Stephen and Moss.
“The track is far more abrasive here,” says Groenewald. “We had to make changes to ensure better use of the tyres and we found a setup that worked better – making a change for race day that brought better balance to the car.”
“Unable to get past Gavin Cronje in the first race allowed the leaders to get away. I finally managed it in the last corners of the first race but an issue with oil on Cronje’s tyres saw him run off the track, taking me with him. In the second race, something went wrong with the engine – a highly unusual problem with the Audi S4 quattro – but it meant we only did a few laps of the long race and we weren’t classified as a finisher.”
“We look to East London now as an opportunity to see a change in our fortunes, I just want to go and win some races – have some solid race days and get our championship back on track,” says Groenewald who finished sixth overall on the day.
For Gennaro Bonafede, the PE race day saw him produce a valuable and consistent performance. Bonafede qualified as the fourth fastest driver on the day, working his way into third place – and on to the podium for race one, repeating the performance in a hard-fought second race and finished in third overall for the day.
“Our pace was quite close in qualifying, but with Cronje ahead of us it really affected our race,” says Bonafede. “Just before the start of the second race we discovered a hole in the charge cooler so we had to try make some quick repairs. They didn’t work too well and it drained in just a few laps so I had to manage it for the rest of the race.”
With no coolant, it affected engine temperatures and Bonafede had to drive defensively rather than challenge for position. Bonafede managed to effectively fend off the opposition and did not give up too much during the race to claim his second third place finish of the day.
The Audi S4 quattro racers now turn their attention to the East London Grand Prix Circuit which will hold the mid-season race for the 2014 season on Saturday, 5 July. Famed for its high speed layout, it is a driver favourite which demands dedication, preparation and total commitment from the racers.