The second season of what has become South Africa’s premier circuit racing formula starts on Friday, March 24th when Volkswagen Motorsport’s top drivers line up to take on the competition in the Sasol GTC or Global Touring Car series. Last year, 2016 saw the introduction of the brand new formula for 2-litre turbo cars with rear wheel-drive, and after a successful start, the formula will now enter a full season with no less than nine events planned for the 2017 calendar.
“Volkswagen Motorsport was a major role player from the inception of the series. But the sport, as well as all the teams competing in it, had to find their feet first. The foundations are now firmly in place which means we are all ready to go racing,” says Head of Volkswagen Motorsport, Mike Rowe.
30-year old Mathew Hodges from Boksburg will spearhead the Volkswagen Motorsport assault for GTC honours in 2017. Mathew has won consecutive Volkswagen Cup titles in the past. In 2016 he managed to make the transition to the much more powerful and rear wheel-drive Jetta in the GTC series. It was a successful transition too, as he was immediately on the pace. “Everyone needs a bit of luck in motorsport. Mathew didn’t have much luck in 2016, but his speed behind the wheel of our Jetta was very encouraging and we are very confident that he has what it takes to take it to the competition this year.”
For 2017, Hodges will be partnered by 23-year old Daniel Rowe. The Port Elizabeth-based driver has been a Volkswagen stalwart in his short but already successful racing career, and the youngster is looking forward to stepping up to SA’s premier series. “As a racing driver, it is your aim to compete at the highest level against the best drivers out there, and in the Jetta in the GTC series, I will get the opportunity to do exactly that,” says young Rowe. Besides tasting success in the very competitive Volkswagen Cup series for a number of years, Rowe impressed by dominating the first ever season of the GTC 2 class during 2016 behind the wheel of his rapid Golf GTi.
“The only way to really measure yourself is to measure yourself against your own teammate. We have completed pre-season testing and during that testing there was nothing to separate Mathew and Daniel from each other. This is a very good sign, as we are confident that we have two very fast and talented young drivers behind the wheels of our two Jettas, and that is exactly what you need if you want to challenge for championships,” says Rowe snr.
Volkswagen Motorsport’s presence in the country’s premier racing series will be expanded to include a total of four GTC 2 Golf GTi’s in addition to the two Jettas in the top class. The seat in the GTC Production GTi left vacant by Daniel Rowe’s departure will be ably filled by youngster Keagan Masters. At only 16-years old, the schoolboy from Hartbeespoort might be the youngest driver in the GTC series, but he has already proven himself as a very talented driver as he progressed through the ranks. Masters will join Mandla Mdakane who will compete in his second season behind the wheel of the GTC Production GTi. Mdakane used 2016 to gain valuable experience and will be a force to be reckoned with in 2017.
The two 2016 Golf GTi’s were sold to Trevor Bland and Charl Smalberger. All eyes will be on the latter who will be in the championship winning car campaigned by Daniel Rowe during 2016, while the experienced Trevor Bland will now also make the step form Volkswagen Cup to GTC 2.
“With a full spread of both talent and experience across all the classes in the GTC series, Volkswagen Motorsport will be at the pinnacle of South African circuit racing. Everyone in motorsport competes to win, and we will be going flat out to fight for the championship in each of the classes of the GTC series,” concludes Rowe.