Wednesday, November 6, 2013

BPCC: Audi teams 2013 season review

By Johan Laubscher

The 2013 South African Bridgestone Production Car Championship had another excellent season with the Audi S4 coming out on top once again.

Michael Stephen made history by taking his third consecutive Class A championship title, the only driver in the series’ history to achieve three in a row.

Four Audi S4 cars competed during 2013, entered by two different teams. Two cars each were fielded by Terry Moss Racing (Michael Stephen - A1, Tschops Sipuka - A2) and VMP Motorsport (Melvill Priest - A7, Gennaro Bonafede - A32). All four of the Audi S4 drivers enjoyed race victories during the 2013 season.

The season review has been compiled from the 2013 Audi Motorsport Blog Weekend Round Up posts. Each round has been added as was seen in the individual Weekend Round Up posts during 2013, which can be accessed via the links throughout the review below:


Round 1: Kyalami - Johannesburg

The South African Bridgestone Production Cars Championship got underway this weekend. Four Audi S4s were entered, the same team and driver combinations as in 2012. Terry Moss Racing returned with reigning champion Michael Stephen and his teammate Tschops Sipuka. VMP Motorsport were back with Melvill Priest and Gennaro Bonafede. The weekend took place with very warm conditions. Michael Stephen put his S4 on pole and then maintained that by setting the fastest lap in SuperPole as well. The first race saw a flag to flag victory for Stephen with the other Audis in the lower half of the field. The reverse grid for race 2 ensured a front row start for Stephen’s teammate, Tschops Sipuka. Sipuka made good use of the standing start and rocketed into the lead and went onto victory, with Stephen rounding out the podium in third. Two Audis were on the front row for race 3, Sipuka and Priest. The two battled hard during the race. Both were eventually being passed by Johan Fourie (ex-Audi driver and two time Audi champion) in his BMW and Michael Stephen. Fourie and Stephen lead the way for the rest of the race. Ultimately Stephen finished in second place, ensuring that he was the overall victor for the day and the current championship points leader. Priest made it another double Audi podium by finishing third. The youngster, Bonafede, had a very difficult day as his S4 suffered a number of problems.

Round 2: Killarney - Cape Town

Killarney in Cape Towe hosted round 2 of the South African Bridgestone Production Cars. Michael Stephen arrived as the championship leader and all four Audi S4 cars were entered. The BMWs had the pace during practice / qualifying and dominated race one. Melvill Priest achieved the highest Audi finish in race one by finishing on the podium. The Audis of Sipuka and Priest achieved podium results in the second race. The third and longest race on the day saw a fantastic 1-2-3 Audi S4 result as Gennaro Bonafede took the win ahead of Stephen and Sipuka. Tschops Sipuka was the overall winner on the day in his S4.

Round 3: Aldo Scribante - Port Elizabeth

The third South African Bridgestone Production Cars round took place at Aldo Scribante. The track traditionally favours quattro cars and that was definitely the case this weekend. The Audis topped all of the sessions. Terry Moss Racing made it a clean sweep as they won all three races, Michael Stephen winning race one and three and teammate Tschops Sipuka taking race two. Melvil Priest also showed very good form in his VMP S4 with consistent results securing him second overall for the day. The Ferodo S4 of Bonafede also showed very good pace on the day and lead race two. The highlight was an Audi S4 1-2-3-4 finish in race three.

Round 4: Zwartkops - Pretoria

The South African Bridgestone Production Cars Championship were at Zwartkops this weekend, in Pretoria, South Africa. The four regular Audi S4 entries were present at the event, which was dominated by the BMW team. Despite the BMW domination, the second race victory went to the reigning champion, Michael Stephen, in his Terry Moss Racing Audi S4. Stephen remains the clear leader in the championship points standings.

Round 5: Top Gear Festival Street Course - Durban

The South African Bridgestone Production Cars Championship headed to Durban this week, hosting round five at the temporary Durban street circuit. It is the second year in succession that this race meeting has been hosted, as part of the Top Gear Festival South Africa. The regular four Audi S4 race cars took part, entered by VMP Motorsport and Terry Moss Racing. Free practice showed well for the Audis and the day ended with a S4 1-2-3 in the overall times. Qualifying was cancelled on Saturday morning due to a massive crash suffered by Richard Pinard in a Subaru. Pinard was subsequently admitted to hospital where he underwent reconstructive surgery on his leg. It was reported that his surgery was a success and everyone is grateful to hear that he is now on his road to recovery. The first race starting order was dictated by the overall free practice times, ensuring the Audi 1-2-3. The race itself, on the narrow and difficult to pass on street track, saw the 1-2-3 being maintained and Michael Stephen won ahead of Melvill Priest and Gennaro Bonafede. The second race was held on Sunday, again with the Audi 1-2-3 on the starting order. The race saw them running in formation until Melvill Priest retired, thus making it an Audi 1-2 with Michael Stephen winning ahead of Gennaro Bonafede and Tschops Sipuka in fourth.

Round 6: Phakisa - Welkom

Rounds six of the South African Bridgestone Production Car Championship headed to Phakisa in Welkom. All four of the regular Audi S4s were entered, fielded by VMP Motorsport and Terry Moss Racing. The BMW team proved to have the pace this weekend, but the Audi squad held their own in the races. Two podium results highlighted the weekend, with Michael Stephen finishing third in race two and Gennaro Bonafede finishing third in race three. Bonafede proved to be the fastest Audi driver on the day, and his consistency netted him third overall. Michael Stephen remains the championship leader in his TMR Audi S4.

Round 7: Zwartkops - Pretoria

The South African Bridgestone Production Cars headed back to Zwartkops Raceway for round seven. All four regular Audi S4s were entered, from Terry Moss Racing and VMP Motorsport. The cars showed well during practice and Michael Stephen qualified as the leading Audi in fourth place. Race won was dominated by the BMW team and the highest Audi was Stephen in fourth. Race two saw the reverse grid and the Audis lead from the front. It was an Audi S4 1-2-3 finish, with Melvill Priest winning ahead of Bonafede and Sipuka. Race three was a race of attrition and it finished with a double podium, as Gennaro Bonafede finished second ahead of Stephen in third. Stephen remains the clear championship points leader.

Round 8: Killarney - Cape Town

The South African Bridgestone Production Car Championship headed to Killarney in Cape Town. Four Audi S4s were entered for this eighth round of the 2013 season. Two Audi S4s from Terry Moss Racing and two from VMP Motorsport. The highest Audi during qualifying was that of Gennaro Bonafede, who lead all four Audis placing in positions four through seven. Race one finished with Michael Stephen in third ahead of Bonafede and Sipuka. Priest did not start in race one, due to an engine issue. Race two with the reverse grid yielded an Audi S4 victory as Stephen won ahead of Bonafede in third and Sipuka in fifth. Priest was able to go out and complete one lap during race two, a fast flying lap which was enough to claim pole for race three. The third and final race saw Melvill Priest starting on pole and going flag to flag for a dominant victory. Behind Priest it was Stephen in third and Bonafede in fourth, however Priest was disqualified for a boost irregularity, which promoted Stephen to second and Bonafede to third. Michael Stephen, the reigning two-time class A champion, remains the clear championship points leader.

Round 9: Kyalami - Johannesburg

The South African Bridgestone Production Cars were at Kyalami for the ninth and final round of the season. The four regular Audi S4 cars were present at Kyalami, two each from Terry Moss Racing and VMP Motorsport. Michael Stephen arrived at Kyalami as the clear leader in the Class A championship points standings. Stephen was aiming to clinch his third consecutive Class A drivers’ title and Terry Moss Racing’s fourth since 2007. The Terry Moss Racing squad were once again represented by Michael Stephen in the #1 Audi S4 and his teammate, Tschops Sipuka, in the #2 Audi S4. VMP Motorsport also had their regular two car team, with Melvill Priest in the #7 VMP Audi S4 and the #32 Ferodo Audi S4 of Gennaro Bonafede. Very close times were seen during the three practice sessions on Friday. Qualifying kicked off the day’s proceedings on Saturday. The battle for pole position was won by Melvill Priest in his VMP Audi S4. Gennaro Bonafede qualified in fifth and Tschops Sipuka in sixth, but both were later disqualified for a breech in Parc Ferme regulations. Michael Stephen had brake issues during qualifying and did not set a time. The first race got underway with Melvill Priest leading from the front. The race finished with Melvill Priest in third and Gennaro Bonafede in fourth. Sipuka had gone into the pits before the race ended. Michael Stephan had been running well, but he suffered radiator damage when he touched the Subaru from behind and he then circulated slowly at the back of the field to collect points. The teams had a very short break to prepare the cars before the second race. Michael Stephen had switched to Sipuka’s Audi S4 and lined up in sixth place. Race two saw a tremendous battle for second position. Bonafede dropped back from the fight for second due to technical issues, whilst Melvill Priest was battling hard for second. The race concluded with Michael Stephen in third and Melvill Priest in fourth. Bonafede finished sixth. Sipuka had joined the tail of the field in Stephen's repaired S4 during the first lap of race two and he was classified in seventh by the finish. These results were enough to crown Michael Stephen as the 2013 Class A champion, his third consecutive title. Michael Stephen again used his teammate’s car in race three. Sipuka lined up on the grid with Stephen’s repaired Audi S4. The final race of the season, race three on the day, got underway with the BMW leading from the front. There was a tremendous battle for second place. The Subaru was battling hard with Gennaro Bonafede in second and Priest in fourth. The battle continued for the bulk of the race before both Priest and Bonafede dropped back. Stephen had remained in touch with the leading group and pounced during the final few laps, as he moved up to second. Gennaro Bonafede finished fourth with continuing fuel pressure issues and Melvill Priest nursed his car across the line for sixth, ahead of Sipuka in seventh. This concluded the final round of the 2013 Bridgestone Production Cars Championship. It was a great season which saw many Audi S4 victories and podiums, and most importantly, Michael Stephen clinched his third consecutive Class A drivers’ title.

Melvill Priest swansong at Kyalami

Melvill Priest, a long time Audi race driver in South Africa, has decided to retire from his current racing commitments. His decision has been based on his business commitments away from the track. Priest has been competing with Audi race cars since 2005. He started in the South African Production Car Championship with the VMP Motorsport Audi A4 B7 mid-way through 2005, when Audi race cars returned to the top level of South African saloon car racing for the first time since 2000. Priest was also the first Audi driver to score race victory after the return of the Four Rings in 2005. He continued to campaign the VMP A4 from 2005 until 2009, when he switched to a BMW drive for 2010-2011. Priest and the VMP Motorsport squad returned in 2012 with a brand new Audi S4 race car, with which they competed in 2012 and 2013. Priest has enjoyed multiple race victories in Class A of the South African Production Cars and also took pole position and a podium at his swansong event at Kyalami this weekend.

Taken from Weekend Round Up - Audi Motorsport Blog (2-3/11/2013)

Photo credit: [Deon Venter and Paul Blackburn] [Reynard Gelderblom] [Paul Bedford]
Production Cars on Facebook [Gary van der Spuy]
Audi Motorsport in South Africa on Facebook [Johan Laubscher]