Tuesday, February 24, 2015

NPCC: Engen Xtreme’s Stephen finishes tops at Zwartkops

Engen Motorsport Press Release

Engen Xtreme’s Michael Stephen, driving an Audi S4 Quattro, kicked off his bid to reclaim the National Production Car Championship by coming out tops in Round One of the 2015 season at Zwartkops Raceway on Saturday.

The three-time former champion, who was beaten to the title by Johan Fourie in 2014, qualified on pole in Race One on Saturday and was hoping to turn it on from the get-go.

“I was just not able to beat the Chev (Michael van Rooyen) across the line in Race One, so finished second. In Race Two it was a strategic decision to finish in a position to provide a good grid start for the final race of the day, rather than simply focusing on a higher placing in the second race,” said Stephen afterwards.

Starting Race Three on the front of the grid, Stephen soon had the rest of the field in his rear-view mirror. “I managed to overtake Hennie (Groenwald) in the first lap and then just had to defend against Gennaro (Bonafede) until the finish to take the win in the third race – and first overall for the day.”

New rules for the 2015 season have seen the production car field equalised as far as possible to keep competition between the various teams as close as possible, which sees the Audi S4 Quattro competitors of the Engen Xtreme team relying on their Quattro system to give them an edge in the corners while they lose in terms of straight line power to the front wheel drive cars.

“It can't get any better as a start to the season,” added Stephen. “The racing was very good, I had a hard tussle in each of the races and the series had three different winners on the day.”

For Stephen’s Engen Xtreme teammate Simon Moss (38), the first round of the season proved a mixed bag of results.

“I was on pace this weekend, I finished fifth, fourth and sixth in each of the races today,” says Moss. “In the last lap of Race Three I had to make an all-or-nothing decision to fight off Gary (Formato). I decided to risk it and went around the outside, hit something in the outfield and launched the car. It didn't work out.”

Unfortunately for Moss a fairly consistent race weekend saw the final race result push him down the order, potentially costing him one or two places in the overall standings. “I remain upbeat, however, with good pace at the start of the season and having completed three demanding races in the first round.”

The Engen Xtreme team will return to Zwartkops Raceway during the 2015 season, making the experience and race data collected during Round One a valuable asset which will come into play later this year. For Stephen and Moss the plan is continued pressure on the production car field while amassing as many points as possible to ensure they are in a commanding position in the standings come the crucial final rounds of the year.

Round Two of the National Production Car Championship will see the Engen Xtreme team in competition at Killarney in Cape Town on Saturday, 11 April. This will be the first of three coastal rounds of the championship that will have the team racing in both Port Elizabeth and East London before returning inland.

Photo credit: MotorPress.co.za