Toyota Gazoo Racing team leader takes overall win in East London

The Extreme Festival's fifth round races saw a day of action-packed rivalry.

Toyota Gazoo Racing team leader Michael van Rooyen’s reverse grid second race victory habit earned him the overall win in Saturday’s Extreme Festival fifth round races at the epic East London Grand Prix circuit. It was, however, race 1 winner Robert Wolk who came home with the biggest smile.

Wolk and his Chemical Logistics Corolla scored a valuable bag of championship points, while his closest rival Saood Variawa had a tough day and incurred penalties to let the blue Toyota off the championship hook with four races left to run in the 2022 championship chase.

It was none of them who topped qualifying, however. There was just 0.3 seconds separating pole-sitter and 1st race winner Bradley Liebenburg’s Hype Energy Drinks Sparco Golf GTC from Variawa’s Gazoo Racing Toyota Corolla GTC, setting things up for an interesting dash into Rifle on the opening lap of the race itself.

Wolk out in front.

Row 2 was an all-Toyota affair with Wolk’s Corolla GTC just pipping Van Rooyen and Mandla Mdakane’s similar Gazoo cars. Julian van der Watt’s Chemical Logistics Ford Focus GTC and Andrew Rackstraw in the RDSA Investchem Audi S3 were next up after both being penalised five places for turbo overboost issues.

The fact there was little overtaking belied the ferocity of the fight up front, a fight Liebenberg relished as he grabbed the early lead from Wolk, Variawa and Mdakane. Variawa upped his challenge by passing Wolk into Potters Pass on lap three before things settled into a rhythm with the order unchanged for the next few laps.

Wolk later took advantage of an exuberant Variawa move going awry in the complex, leaving Wolk inching ever closer to Liebenberg. Into lap 9, Wolk made his move and Variawa followed, demoting Liebenberg to third. Van Rooyen also made a move on Mdakane for fourth with Van der Watt and Rackstraw ever present in their mirrors.


Reverse grid race 2 started with a bang. Well, a couple of them, actually. Pole man Rackstraw got tagged out of Cocobana on the opening lap, as did Liebenberg, with two of them getting together on the grass infield. That left the way clear for Van der Watt to lead the field across the line, closely followed by Van Rooyen, Variawa and Wolk.

Van Rooyen’s pressure paid off and he soon took over the lead on lap two, while Variawa had his sights set on Van der Watt for second. Something that did not quite come off as planned when he went well off track and up an embankment.

Van Rooyen settled into the lead with the main chase now from Wolk who had worked his way into second, demoting teammate Van der Watt and Mdakane. That situation remained unchanged for the next several laps, until on the final tour, when Mdakane found a way past Van der Watt for third.

The walking wounded followed amongst the SupaCup front runners. as Liebenberg, Variawa and Rackstraw all limped home. Only for rookie young gun Variawa to take a three-place penalty for his lap 1 antics on Liebenberg and lose even more vital championship points as he gained a first warning.

Van Rooyen.

So, Michael van Rooyen took the day to play himself back into the long-odds title contention, from a happy championship leader Wolk, Mdkane, Liebenberg, Van der Watt, Variawa and Rackstraw overall. Champion Wolk, meanwhile, consolidated his title lead over Variawa, with Van Rooyen and Liebenberg close for third.

Four races remain, two of them at Killarney’s sixth round in Cape Town on September 17. Will Wolk put it to bed there, or will his pursuers close the gap back down to set up an epic Zwartkops finale? Time will tell!

Source: MotorsportMedia

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