Brian Joss – Round 4 of the 2019 Global Touring Cars (GTC) championship took place in Port Elizabeth on Saturday 15 June, and saw Toyota Gazoo Racing SA’s Michael van Rooyen record good results in both races. The Toyota Corolla driver finished third in Race 1, and followed up with a fifth place in Race 2, despite an off-track excursion after tangling with Audi driver Tschops Sipuka.
“We ran well during practise, and the times from second to seventh place were really tight,” said the Rustenburg-based driver after the event. “The car was clearly sorted, and we had none of the issues that hampered our progress in Round 3.”
Next up was qualifying, and even though Van Rooyen’s time was highly competitive, it placed him 5th on the starting grid. But that quickly improved when the lights went green: “I was up into fourth by Turn 1, and then moved into third on Lap 3.”
Moments later, BMW driver Robert Wolk, who was running in second place at that stage, had a problem with his car, and Van Rooyen moved up a spot, with just Johan Fourie (BMW) ahead of him.
“Unfortunately, we missed a gear turning onto the pit straight on the final lap, which allowed Keagan Masters, in the Jetta, to come past right at the end,” said Van Rooyen. “Even so, we were very happy do have made it onto the podium, especially after starting in fifth place.”
Race two followed, sporting the traditional reverse grid. This again saw Van Rooyen start in 5th place, and the Toyota Gazoo Racing SA man again made up one spot by Turn 1.
“Next target was Sipuka in the Audi, but he made his car extra-wide throughout the next lap-and-a-half,” explained Van Rooyen. “But then I got a much better exit at the hairpin, and lined up for a pass into Chevy.”
Sipuka moved across – possibly for a better entry into the next corner – squeezing the Toyota Corolla off the track, costing Van Rooyen three places in the process.
“I re-joined in P6, and quickly caught up with Daniel Rowe in the Jetta,” said the Toyota Gazoo Racing SA driver. “But he used the push-to-pass system to his advantage, and I only managed to pass him five laps later. This meant that the leading pack had built up a buffer, and I couldn’t catch them fast enough to challenge for position before the end of the race.”
This saw Van Rooyen record a fifth-place finish in Race 2, handing him a total of 24 points for the weekend. The Rustenburger finds himself in fourth place in the championship, just two points behind third place, and nine adrift from Keagan Masters (Volkswagen) in second. Audi’s Simon Moss currently leads the championship.
“Next up is Zwartkops, which is pretty much our home circuit,” concluded Van Rooyen. “We’re in much better shape now that during our last race there in April, and I’m confident that we’ll be able to challenge not only for the podium, but for a win as well.”
Round 5 is scheduled for 27 July.
CAPTION: Good day for Van Rooyen at Aldo Scribante