THE Audi S4 quattro racers showed their race pedigree at Kyalami on Saturday. A hot performance at an equally hot race meeting at Kyalami saw defending champion Michael Stephen (A1 – Engen Xtreme) grab the opportunity to post the fastest time during the Super Pole session and claim the first pole position of the season.
“I got some good points at this first event,” says Stephen. “Points from the racing and the Super Pole qualifying mean a brilliant start to the season. Our work during the off-season is clearly paying off.”
Stephen led race one with Melvill Priest (A7 – Mueller Sports Medicine) in second spot. When the safety car was deployed due to an incident on track, it was Stephen who made the most of the re-start while Priest fell victim to Hennie Groenewald, sliding down to third and then fourth spot as Johan Fourie also pushed his way past. Race two saw Stephen start from sixth under the reverse grid, finding his way through to claim third by the end of the six lap race. Race three was a second place finish for the defending champion, ensuring he was never off the podium the entire race day – claiming first overall for the day in the process.
For Priest the event might not have gone his way with a fourth in race one, 14th in race two and third in the final race, but it was still a fifth overall for the day with valuable points at the start of the championship.
“We made a wrong decision on the setup,” says Priest. “We couldn’t hold pace with the other competitors. A tyre delaminating in the second race spoiled what would otherwise have been a strong performance. Overall, the car is strong, I’m happy with it but we have to work on the handling a bit.”
For Tschops Sipuka (A2 – Engen Xtreme) the first race was the opportunity to advance to fifth from a sixth place start to put him second in the field for race two. This starting position in the second race gave him the sought-after inside line through the first two corners. Sipuka capitalised on this position to claim his first victory of the season. Race three saw him again cross the finish line for first place, but a penalty for a jumpstart in this final race saw him relegated to a ninth place result. The first race meeting ended with Sipuka in third place overall.
“It was a great opportunity, being able to show my strength from pole,” says Sipuka. “We have been strong here at Kyalami, the Audi S4 quattro is good and everything is working properly. It has been a great race day, and a great start to the season.”
The race day proved a trial for Gennaro Bonafede (A32 – Ferodo Racing). Race one was a 14th place finish, race two saw him seventh across the line and in the final race he was 13th, claiming sixth overall on the day.
“We simply had a bad day,” says Bonafede. “We rebuilt the car during the off-season and did hours of very successful testing. Then to come here for the first round and have all these problems is quite disappointing. On Friday we were the fastest and then lots of problems on Saturday. We’re looking forward to the next race meeting now, a chance to show what we can do.”
The Bridgestone Production Car field will head to Killarney in Cape Town on Saturday, 16 March when they tackle their national championship at round two of the Super Series.