Some days at the races are better than others, and Round 8 of the 2017 Sasol GTC series was a particularly good one for Volkswagen Motorsport.
Brian Joss – Mathew Hodges claimed the overall win on the day following two close battles at the front of the GTC field while teammate Daniel Rowe fought his way through to join Hodges on the winner’s podium for the second race. To top it all off, youngster Keagan Masters was crowned the GTC2 champion after taking yet another race win at the iconic Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit.
The result was just reward for the team’s hard work and dedication on a weekend that didn’t start well at all. The Volkswagen Jetta of Mathew Hodges developed a technical issue in the very first practice session on Friday, relegating him to the sidelines for the rest of the session. It was a big blow for Hodges who still had an opportunity to climb a few positions on the overall points table, but Daniel Rowe gladly handed his Jetta over to his teammate for the rest of the weekend. “I have to thank Daniel for being such a good teammate and sportsman. The team also did a fantastic job to make things fit so I could get back on track,” said Hodges on the Friday of the event. The team of technicians then went on to replace the engine under the bonnet of the Hodges Jetta in time for Rowe to still make the Friday qualifying session. “To miss out on a few sessions and to swop cars was far from ideal and a tough start to our weekend,” commented Rowe. “Under those circumstances 4th and 6th for Mathew and I was a fairly good result in qualifying.”
The team continued to get both cars as ready as they could for Saturday’s races, and when the lights turned green, it was clear that the hard work was going to pay off. Hodges quickly carved his way through the field and moved up into second position behind pole sitter Johan Fourie. What followed was one of the best fights in recent months with both Hodges and Fourie using every bit of skill and race craft in an effort to outwit each other. They managed to keep it clean and when the flag was waved, Hodges missed out on the race victory by a mere three tenths of a second. “Both Johan and myself were out fighting for our first wins of the season. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy as neither of us were willing to give an inch,” said a happy Hodges from the second step of the podium.
With race 1 done and dusted, it was time to shift the focus to race two. The grid for the second race in the GTC series is a reversal of the race one finishing order, which meant that Hodges had to start near the back. Rowe on the other hand played it perfectly and assisted his teammate to work his way to the front of the pack. Within the first few laps, Hodges had carved his way through the field and up into second position, hot on the heels of championship points leader Michael Stephen. What followed was a repeat of race one with the leading duo doing battle on every corner. This time, Hodges lost out by just two tenths of a second with Daniel Rowe crossing the line in third position. When the times were added, it was the name of Mathew Hodges that emerged as the overall winner on the day with teammate Rowe claiming third. “This is exactly where we want to be, and that is fighting for victories,” said an elated Hodges from the winner’s podium. “We had great battles in both races and coming out on top for the day is exactly what the team deserved. The Jetta was excellent and I have to thank Daniel and the team for making it possible.”
“To end the weekend with a podium finish and third overall was a good result for us,” added Daniel Rowe after spraying some champagne. “We now have to get ready for the final round in a few weeks where we will once again be fighting for race wins.”
Volkswagen Motorsport’s successes however didn’t end with the name of Hodges topping the sheets. Behind the GTC Jettas, it was business as usual for the Golf GTi brigade in the GTC2 category. Championship leader Keagan Masters and teammate Mandla Mdakane placed their two Golfs in first and second on the grid after Friday’s qualifying. Masters then went on to take a comfortable race victory. The points that came with pole position, fastest lap and winning the race were good enough to clinch the championship. “We had a very good year that included many race wins, and taking the championship with a race victory was just the cherry on top,” said Masters after earning the title of GTC2 champion.
“I am very proud of what the entire Volkswagen team achieved here at Kyalami,” added Mr. Mike Rowe, head of Volkswagen Motorsport. “It was a tough start to the weekend with our early setbacks, but the team turned the tables to emerge as winners showing their true colours in the process. Their hard work paid off by winning the day overall and having both our Jettas on the podium. And seeing Keagan take the GTC title was the perfect way to end a good weekend for Volkswagen,” concluded Rowe.
The entire Volkswagen Motorsport squad will want to repeat this performance when the Sasol GTC series comes to an end at the Zwartkops Raceway on Saturday November 25.