Sunday, November 2, 2014

BPCC: Audi Sasolracing dominates at Production Car finale

Audi Sasolracing Press Release

Gennaro Bonafede claimed his first victory of the season at the 8th and final round of the Bridgestone Production Car Championship and claimed first overall on the day, giving the Sasolracing Audi Team the perfect end to a tough season of racing.  Gennaro was a comfortable third overall in the final championship standings.

Hennie Groenewald claimed a podium place in race one, cementing the team’s status as the fastest Audi pairing in the field.

It was a bruising day’s racing with both Audi S4 quattro racers sporting heavily bent body panels after the two races and 25 laps of high-speed action that had the large crowd on the edge of their seats.

Practice and Qualifying:

The Sasolracing team showed good pace during the three Friday sessions and translated that into third and fourth on the grid.  Hennie found that bolting a new set of tyres to his Audi actually dropped his times by 0.3 of a second which left him in a disappointed third place starting slot.

Gennaro also suffered from the tyre anomaly and found himself half a second off Hennie’s pace in fourth place.

Race 1:

The tightly bunched field scraped bumpers and body panels pouring into the tight, turn 2 hairpin.  Side-by-side, three abreast around the sweeping back straight, Hennie, Gennaro and Michael Stephen (Audi) braked for turn four, only to have Simon Moss (Audi) try and pass all of them up the inside line of the fast corner.

The move was never going to work and he hit Hennie’s car who went sideways into bumped Gennaro and Michael Stephen.  Although heavily damaged, the Sasolracing cars survived to finish third and fourth, Hennie ahead of Gennaro.

Race 2:

From his front row starting position, Hennie took off into the lead but the race was red-flagged as the starting light gantry malfunctioned.  At the restart, Moss got the jump on Hennie, who fought back at the end of the first lap.  Hennie dived down the inside of Moss and took the lead as they emerged onto the start/finish straight.  Moss collided with Hennie, the Sasolracing Audi spinning off the track and into retirement with damaged ABS and tweaked suspension.

As the remaining pack avoided the melee, Gennaro slotted his Audi through the carnage and emerged in the lead.  Resisting pressure from the BMW’s of Johan Fourie and Gavin Cronje as well as the Audi of Michael Stephen, Gennaro held on to his lead in the frenetic opening laps to build a comfortable 6.7 second lead by the chequered flag.  Such was the 24-year-old’s pace, he claimed the overall first place on the day.

From the pitwall:

#32 Gennaro Bonafede: “Practice was tough but I knew we had the pace to challenge for wins today.  I came out of the first race incident in 4th place but the engine temperature was uncomfortably high as I was running close behind Hennie so I had to back off to cool things down a bit.

In race two, I somehow avoided the mess between Simon and Hennie and found myself in front.  I put in several qualifying-type laps, driving hard and neat and then just concentrated on my lines and keeping everything neat and tidy.

The season was very up-and-down.  We were always there or thereabout but I often found myself in the wrong place at the wrong time.  It’s been a fantastic year with Sasol and third in the championship is a step forward for me.”

#8 Hennie Groenewald: “Simon really messed up my first race.  I thought the car was damaged as the impact was heavy and in the right spot to damage the chassis, but it was good enough to claim third.

In race two I made a great start but unfortunately the race was stopped.  On the re-start, Simon got ahead of me and on the run into the final corner, I passed him down the inside.  I got the car slowed and turned and made the move stick but he came back at me and hit me.  The car turned around and I was forced to retire with suspension damage.

The season started well, but we had niggly issues in many races, especially the double-points feature race which I hardly ever finished and that hurt my championship challenge.  The team provided us with great cars which are well developed and superbly prepared”.

Vic Maharaj, Team Manager:  “We expected to do well at Zwartkops; it’s a great way to close off the year.  The cars have been quick all year. East London was my low-point.  The partnership with Sasol and Audi is a marriage between two great brands that complement each other.  The Sasol race day was amazing and is the benchmark for every race meeting.

We have learned lessons this year and will be back in 2015 stronger and wiser”.

Photo credit: David Ledbitter