Sunday, October 28, 2012

Wet and wild at the final SA Production Car round at Kyalami

By Johan Laubscher

Gennaro Bonafede #32 Audi S4
The Bridgestone Production Cars arrived at Kyalami for the final round of the 2012 season. This was the first national event held at Kyalami since the start of 2011 and thus it was also the Kyalami debut for the Audi S4 race cars.

Michael Stephen had already wrapped up the 2012 title at the penultimate round of the season, held in Cape Town. This marked Michael’s second class A title back-to-back. The Audi teams arrived at the circuit hoping to end the season on a high. The four regular Audi entries were present, two cars from Terry Moss Racing and two from VMP Motorsport.

Melvill Preist #7 Audi S4

The weekend got off to a promising start as the S4 drivers were in and amongst the front runners during practice. Race day dawned with very warm and sunny conditions and many thought a traditional Gauteng thunderstorm could be possible near the end of the day.

Qualifying was a hard affair for the Audi drivers as Michael Stephen was the highest Audi in fourth followed by Gennaro Bonafede leading the trio of Audis from seventh on the grid. The first race of the day got under way with a rolling start. Michael Stephen showed early pace, but unfortunately suffered a puncture. He did go into the pits to have the puncture repaired and rejoined after loosing a lap. The rest of race one was dominated by Subaru and BMW at the front as the trio of Audis were battling in the lower half of the top ten. At the line it was Tschops Sipuka leading home the VMP pairing of Melvill Priest and Gennaro Bonafede in sixth through to eighth positions.

Terry Moss Racing #1 and #2 Audi S4
The second race got underway shortly after the first race, once again with a rolling start. Only the top four cars were inverted and thus the Audis had to work their way up from the back. Tragedy struck on the line for Gennaro as his fuel pump failed at the start of the warm up lap, ending his race. Starting from last in class A Michael Stephen put on a charge moving up to third and managing the fastest lap of the race, ensuring pole position for race three. Behind the lead battle Sipuka and Priest fought for sixth place all the way to the line.

The preparations for race three continued as everyone was looking to the sky. A thunderstorm over Johannesburg could be seen on the horizon and rain was imminent. The temperatures dropped, the wind picked up and the rain arrived just in time for the start of race three, a perfect case of quattro weather. Under increasing levels of darkness the race got underway with a standing start. The Audi S4 quattros made good use of the start, and none more so than Sipuka, who rocketed from half way down the grid to challenging his teammate for the lead going into turn one. 

Race 3 Michael Stephen on pole as the rain increased and the light decreased
As the cars came round to complete lap one Sipuka was leading followed by the Subaru and Gennaro in his S4. Michael had dropped back slightly and a race long battle between himself and Priest ensued. At the front the Subaru and Bonafede had moved past Sipuka, and Gennaro was hunting down the WRX as the rain intensity increased. Gennaro made his move and took the lead, but ran wide and had a wild ride in the gravel. The young Audi star held the car beautifully and rejoined loosing just two places to Sipuka and the WRX. Gennaro clearly had the pace and once again reeled in the pair ahead of him and made the pass stick. After taking the lead Gennaro managed to extend it to well over five seconds, taking a well deserved debut class A victory. All four of the Audi S4 quattro cars finished within the top five as Sipuka held on for third followed by Priest and Stephen in fourth and fifth respectively.

The 2012 season ended on a high for the Audi teams. Michael is the back-to-back champion and the young newcomer to the four rings notched up his first victory. We now look forward to the 2013 season, as it will be, without any doubts, another sensational season.

A gallery of the event can be seen HERE

More information:

Audi Motorsport in South Africa FB page
Results from Kyalami