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Date: 11 Jul 2018 Author Type: Press Release
Author: Audi South Africa
Source: Audi South Africa
Engen Audi driver Michael Stephen claimed overall victory in Round Four of the Sasol GTC Africa Championship at the East London Grand Prix circuit on Saturday, sending a timely reminder to the field that he will not give up his title without a fight.

Despite not taking the chequered flag in either of the two races on the day, two-time defending Sasol GTC Africa champion Stephen powered his Engen Audi to second and third respectively for overall race day honours.

Heading onto the weekend, Engen Audi team principal, Terry Moss and his engineers were wary about their chances on a track that is considered the fastest in the country. This was because both car’s top-end speed was not clocking as expected. Friday was therefore dedicated to finding the right balance between the long straight and the twisty infield section of the 3,9km circuit.

While all the teams focused on individual set-ups, Engen Audi invested their energy in collaboration and teamwork to fully prepare for the two races ahead.

Gusty wind on the Saturday morning ahead of qualifying was concerning for all of the GTC competitors. Stephen’s teammate Simon Moss was however undeterred and duly scorched his way into pole position in a record lap time of 1:22,773 (171 km/h) early in qualifying.

Unaware of the marker he had set, the championship leading Moss pushed even harder. Flat out in sixth gear through the most daring corner in the country was a bridge too far. A major shunt followed and the team was forced into overdrive to repair Moss’ car ahead of the opening race.

While all this was happening, Stephen drew on his experience to claim second position on the starting grid, making it the third full front row lock-down for Engen Audi this season.

In a march against time, the Engen Audi engineers managed to complete repairs to Moss’ car with just minutes to spare ahead of Race One.

When the action finally got underway, Moss took the lead while Stephen was pushed wide in the first corner and dropped back to fourth. And just as Moss was about to take total control of the race, his engine misfired. This forced him to drop back and allowed Sasol BMW GTC driver, Gennaro Bonafede to sneak in for the win ahead of Stephen by the drop of the finish flag.

A fuel pump problem on Moss’ car appeared to be the culprit in the opening race. After a fresh repair and other precautionary tweaks, Moss was ready for Race Two. The reverse grid gifted Moss another pole position, with Stephen starting from P6.

In the opening lap, Moss’ engine gremlins resurfaced with another misfire forcing him to drop to the back of the field. Stephen however was his usual methodical self, navigating his way through the field to challenge for second. Unfortunately, Stephen’s good fight was in vain as he settled for third place; his disappointment offset by claiming overall victory in Round Four.

“The grapes are sour when you’re the fastest around the track and leading both races,” reflected a disappointed Terry Moss afterwards. “We arrived with a sense of being ‘under-dogs’, yet still managed to make our mark. It is sad to see that Simon has dropped to third in the championship, but he is still in very close contention for the title. Michael raced excellently and is up to second in the championship.”

Round Five of the GTC Africa championship takes place in four weeks’ time in Port Elizabeth at Engen Audi’s home track, Aldo Scribante.
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