Audi Sasolracing Press Release
The penultimate round of the Bridgestone Production Car Championship promised much for the Audi Sasolracing team after qualifying saw the white, yellow and blue racers the fastest of the Audis on circuit. Hennie Groenewald claimed a strong second place finish in race one but mechanical problems blighted the team’s weekend, leaving Gennaro Bonafede 4th overall and Hennie in 5th.
Practice and Qualifying:
The team spent Friday’s free practice sessions optimizing the cars’ set-up for the blustery conditions. At the end of the day, both Gennaro and Hennie were happy with their race car’s handling.
Saturday’s overcast and windy conditions saw Hennie set the second fastest time with Gennaro slotting into 4th place. Gennaro suffered a faulty clutch which made gear-shifting tricky and cost him a couple of tenths of a second.
The reverse championship starting order for race two gave Hennie a 2nd place and Gennaro another 4th grid slot.
In the drag off the line into turn one, Hennie clashed with Michael Stephen while defending his line but already his gearbox became scratchy shifting between 3rd and 4th gears.
The incident with Hennie and Michael allowed Gennaro to take the outside line but as Hennie recovered, he inadvertently squeezed Gennaro onto the grass, dropping him back to 4th place. With the machinery in class A so evenly matched, Hennie reeled off the laps to take 2nd place with Gennaro in 4th spot.
A post-race review of the incident between Hennie and Stephen, saw officials reverse their finishing order, leaving Hennie on the bottom step of the podium.
The Audi Sasolracing team changed Hennie’s gearbox between races and he lined up with an unknown quantity in his right hand.
Immediately, the gearbox in the #8 Audi was reluctant to change smoothly from 3rd to 4th and with five such changes per lap, Hennie dropped 0.5 seconds on each gearshift, dropping rapidly down the order.
Gennaro made a decent start but found a lack of pace to compete. With Hennie missing gears, Gennaro was caught out as he swooped up to his team-mate and the two Sasol cars touched momentarily on the straight.
Gennaro and Hennie ended 5th and 6th respectively and were classified 4th and 5th respectively after a race day that promised so much.
From the pit wall:
Vic Maharaj, Team Manager: “It is a disappointing end to the weekend. Both cars were quick and we were the fastest Audis out there. The gearbox and clutch issues need to be dealt with. A day like this motivates the team and makes us more determined to turn things around for Zwartkops”.
Gennaro Bonafede #32: “I made a decent start and was up into 2nd place after Hennie and Michael Stephen indulged in some argy-bargy. Hennie squeezed me on the exit of turn 1 and I dropped back to 4th in an otherwise straightforward race.
In race two, I had no pace in the car and dropped to the back. With Hennie missing gears, I quickly caught him but his sudden lack of drive caught me out and we tangled as I tried to pass him. It was a disappointing weekend that promised to deliver so much”.
Hennie Groenewald #8: “The car felt good after practice and I felt I had a chance to fight for a win. I had an altercation with Michael in the run to turn 1 but held my second place. I was able to catch Johan (Fourie) around 0.1 second per lap but ran out of laps.
In race two with the new gearbox, I knew I was in trouble immediately. I was losing half a second per gearshift and I was swamped by the field. I had a race winning car today and it’s disappointing not to be able to capitalize on it”.
The final round of the championship sees the Audi Sasolracing team return to their most successful track, Zwartkops in Pretoria, on 1st November.
Photo credit: David Ledbitter