For two decades Engen Volkswagen Cup has been Volkswagen’s focus in circuit racing. This changes dramatically from 2016.
Brian Joss – “Volkswagen Motorsport will continue with Engen Volkswagen Cup and the very successful relationship with Engen that has existed since the start of the series,” says Mike Rowe, head of Volkswagen Motorsport. “This year we celebrate 20 years of Engen Volkswagen Cup with Engen and our other motorsport partners in the series. Now we add the GTC (Global Touring Cars) championship to our circuit racing involvement – supporting four entries in this series, but there is much more to the programme going forward.”
Gugu Zulu and Graeme Nathan will compete for Volkswagen Motorsport in the Volkswagen Jetta GTC cars while Mathew Hodges and Mandla Mdakane will pilot the Volkswagen Golf GTIs. Both the Jetta and Golf GTI will make use of Volkswagen’s 2.0 turbocharged engine for competition in the series.
Each of the racers have a history with Volkswagen Motorsport, with Zulu most recently competing in national rallies, Nathan being a national championship winner and a regular in the Volkswagen GTI for circuit racing, Hodges a national Engen Volkswagen Cup champion and Mdakane also a previous Engen Volkswagen Cup racer.
For the first time, Engen Volkswagen Cup racing will have a Volkswagen Motorsport-backed entry. Here Kuda Vazhure will compete with both VW Motorsport backing and support from the FIA (Federation Internationale de l’Automobile).
“With our increased focus on circuit racing this year, a number of drivers will compete under the Volkswagen Motorsport banner,” says Rowe. “Getting support from the FIA for our talent development and transformation plan attracts more international focus to the series this year. Continued attention from the rest of the world for our local racers can only be good for our motorsport initiatives.”
“The seat that Mathew has in the GTC Volkswagen Golf GTI this year is reserved for the Engen Volkswagen Cup champion going forward,” says Rowe. “Since 2015 champion Sheldon van der Linde competes in the 2016 Audi Sport TT Cup in Europe this season, Mathew drives this year and the 2016 champion will take over next season.”
With decades of motorsport involvement in South Africa, Volkswagen Motorsport could fill an entire starting grid with talented racers, capable of fighting for a championship title.
“Our selection process for drivers has been difficult,” says Rowe. “Volkswagen has built up a relationship with many of the best drivers in South Africa over decades and, in some instances Volkswagen was an integral part of their racing careers. Selecting just four drivers for GTC and one for Engen Volkswagen Cup, was a real challenge.”
“We have managed to blend a combination that we believe creates the perfect mix of talent, skill and experience which will see our Volkswagen entries regularly amongst the leaders,” says Rowe. “The GTC championship promises to be an exciting new chapter in South Africa’s rich motorsport history. The Volkswagen Jetta and Volkswagen Golf GTI will be part of that history. This new series will provide a real challenge as competitors try to stamp their authority on the series as quickly as possible.”
Nathan has built up a formidable reputation as a Volkswagen GTI driver in the Production Car Championship. Zulu has won national rally championship titles with Volkswagen Motorsport – but also has a strong background in circuit racing. Hodges is one of the few Engen Volkswagen Cup racers to win consecutive titles in the series and Mdakane is a promising young motorsport talent that has shown a great deal of growth and has competed both locally and in Asia.
The Engen Volkswagen Cup championship starts at Zwartkops Raceway on Saturday March 19, and the GTC championship will get underway at Scribante on Saturday June 4.